Born: July 22, 1942; Died: July 22, 2012.
Michael Abney-Hastings, the 14th Earl of Loudoun, who has died aged 70 in Australia, was thrust into the spotlight when he got caught up in one of the oddest chapters in the long story of the Scottish peerage.
In 2004 a Chanel 4 camera crew headed by Tony Robinson arrived on his doorstep in Jerilderie, New South Wales, and told him he might have a claim on the throne of Britain.
The programme was based on detailed research by Dr Michael Jones, a medieval scholar from Glasgow University who had unearthed documents in Rouen Cathedral proving that at the time of the conception of Edward IV, his supposed parents, Richard Duke of York and Lady Cicely Neville, were far apart.
Richard was fighting the French at Pontoise, while Lady Cicely was in Rouen. Dr Jones argued that Edward was illegitimate and therefore had no claim on the throne of England. Nor did any subsequent monarch from his line.
Dr Jones suggested the throne should have passed to the Duke of Clarence and thereafter, through complex blood lines to the Earls of Loudoun. Dr Jones's theory was highly controversial among genealogists but no-one doubted the ancient title of Loudoun.
It was created in 1633 and named after the town of Loudoun in Ayrshire and the courtesy title of the son is Lord Tarrinzean and Mauchline. The 14th Earl inherited his title from his mother, Lady Maud, the 13th Countess of Loudoun. In former times the family owned Loudoun Castle near Galston, in East Ayrshire.
Michael Abney-Hastings was born and brought up in Sussex. His parents divorced in 1945 and his mother remarried. He adopted the family name of Abney-Hastings.
He was educated at Ampleforth and on leaving school wandered into the Australian High Commission in London. They had a promotion, called Big Brother, where an individual could sign up for two years as a hired hand. He signed up and was known in Australia as plain Michael Hastings. He did casual work as a jackeroo and orange picker for some years and in 1969 married Noelene McCormick.
They set up home in Jerilderie, bought a farm and he became involved with local affairs. He served as a local councillor, chairman of the local historical society and became a life member of the Jerilderie Football Club.
The title was known about locally but as a staunch republican and naturalised Australian he never referred to it. "It's bad enough being a Pom over here," he quipped, "let alone being a bloody titled one."
In 1997 he visited the UK and saw his mother – who was a regular speaker in the House of Lords. She hoped that her son and heir might return to the UK and take his seat in the Lords. But he was not impressed. He said: "I was in the Lords for half an hour, that was enough."
In the television programme Robinson told the earl of Dr Jones's theory. Clearly astonished, he said straight to camera with a pronounced Australian accent, "Strewth!" But he had no intention of rushing back to claim either the crown jewels or the family estates.
After the documentary he was jokingly referred to in Jerilderie as King Mike I and when he attended a friend's Christmas dinner he recalled: "They all stood up and sang God Save The King as I walked in."
He enjoyed the fun of the Channel 4 programme and admitted it rather boosted him after the death of his wife. The 14th Earl is survived by three daughters and two sons. His elder son, Simon Abney-Hastings, Lord Mauchline, inherits the Loudoun titles.
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