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Betty Maxwell

Widow of Robert Maxwell:

Born: March 11 1921; Died August 7, 2013 .

Betty Maxwell, who has died aged 92, was the widow of the disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell and provided stability and sound common-sense in the Maxwell household.

When he committed suicide in 1991, it emerged he had plundered his company's assets. Mrs Maxwell remained aloof from the mounting turmoil and preserved some dignity and reserve. She further nurtured her reputation by becoming a genealogist and Holocaust scholar promoting Jewish-Christian relations. She was a lady of much grace and style who preferred to remain out of the spotlight.

Elisabeth Jenny Jeanne Meynard was the daughter of a successful silk manufacturer in Lyon and read philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. She met her husband soon after Paris was liberated in 1944. He had served, with distinction, in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army. They got married the following year when he was also awarded the Military Cross.

For 45 years (although in his last years they lived apart) Mrs Maxwell tended and cared for the family home, Headington Hill Hall outside Oxford, and accompanied him on business trips - roles she filled with much charm. She also brought up their nine children (two died young) providing a domestic security their erratic father never could. Mrs Maxwell was a strong personality - although she was invariably overshadowed by her husband - and colleagues remember her energy and kindness.

Robert Maxwell's connections with Scotland date from 1970 when he offered funds to keep the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh afloat. He became chairman of the committee and gave £250,000 (having promised, allegedly, £2m). In 1984, Mr Maxwell acquired the Scottish Daily Record when he bought the Daily Mirror. It gave him - and the Labour Party, an important voice in Scotland. Four years later, Maxwell bought Aberdeen University Press, which became enmeshed with the collapse of his publishing empire.

Mrs Maxwell was a loyal wife on visits to Scotland and strongly supported her husband as Labour MP for Buckingham (1964-70). She worked tirelessly as a constituency wife and helped many local charities - notably working mothers and setting up the Bletchley Pre-school Playgroup.

When she was 50, Mrs Maxwell decided to read for a BA in modern languages at St Hugh's College. She got up early and studied then attended lectures before returning home for lunch and family duties. On graduating, she continued her studies and was awarded a doctorate based on the Art of Letter Writing during the French Revolution. It was a considerable achievement and established Mrs Maxwell as an independent and resourceful individual.

She also supported much research into the origins and consequences of the Holocaust. She was an ardent promoter of good relations between Christians and Jews and established the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies in 1987. The following year, Mrs Maxwell received the Sir Sigmund Sternberg award from Cardinal Hume for furthering Christian-Jewish relations. She lectured widely in America on the Holocaust and was given a given a celebratory dinner to honour her, "outstanding contribution" in the field.

After her husband's death Mrs Maxwell was at first praised for her dignified manner but when the news broke of his embezzlement of £450 million from his company's pension scheme, she found herself hounded by the press. Questions were asked regarding her own financial situation. She fled to her château in France and stridently denied all knowledge of her husband's illegal actions. "What inkling would I have had that there was something wrong?" she pleaded.

Betty Maxwell is survived by three sons and four daughters.

Alasdair Steven

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