Lady Margaret Douglas-Home; born July 4, 1906, died May 26, 1996

ALEXANDRA Margaret Spencer was born into one of England's great families. Her father was the 6th Earl Spencer; her mother, Margaret Baring, was the daughter of the 1st Lord Revelstoke. Queen Alexandra was her godmother. In a more contemporary role, Lady Margaret was the great aunt of the Princess of Wales.

Childhood was divided between Althorp, in Northamptonshire, and Spencer House, in London. Educated by a governess at home, with occasional trips to Northampton Secondary School for Girls, she was taken on Sunday afternoons to concerts at the Albert Hall. From these outings she developed an interest in music, and it soon became apparent she had inherited the outstanding talent of her violinist mother and grandmother.

Even in her 90th year, Lady Margaret could be heard playing Shostakovich on the piano.

In 1922 her father died and her brother became 7th Earl Spencer. Aged 16, Lady Margaret was dispatched to Paris to study French and music before being sent on a trip to South Africa as lady-in-waiting to Princess Alice of Athlone. On her return, she resumed her music studies in Vienna, then at the Royal College of Music in London, of which she was later to become a trustee.

In 1931 she married the Honourable Henry Douglas-Home, second son of the 13th Earl of Home. The Homes were a talented family with their roots firmly entrenched in the Scottish Borders; Alec, the eldest brother, became Prime Minister in 1963; William, the youngest, penned several successful plays, including The Reluctant Debutante and the Chiltern Hundreds, and Henry, the middle-brother, as a leading ornithologist and broadcaster, became widely known as the BBC Birdman.

Lady Margaret and Henry had two sons and one daughter, but the marriage was dissolved in 1947, and sadly both sons were to pre-decease her. In 1968, Robin, her eldest son, an immensely talented author and pianist, died at the age of 36. Charles, her younger son, rose to become editor of The Times in 1982, but was struck down by illness in 1985.

In common with many women of her generation born into a privileged class and background, she was never content to sit at home and do nothing. In 1941, she found herself a job in the publications wing on the National Gallery. In the 1950s she became a lady-in-waiting to Princess Alexandra. And having moved to live in Norfolk, she acquired a shop in Burnham Market and ran a successful antiques business. In 1994, she published her biography, A Spencer Childhood.

However, it will be for the Burnham Market Festival, which she founded in 1974, that she will be best remembered. Originally conceived as a series of concerts, poetry readings and theatrical productions held in August to raise funds for Burnham's five churches and school, it provided a platform for a host of talented individuals who have gone on to greater things.

Among those who participated were Richard Rodney Bennett and Sir Neville Marriner, but the programme would regularly range from Mozart to Cole Porter. The festival continues under the directorship of Jenni Wake-Walker, and the Lady Margaret Douglas-Home Trust has been set up to assist young musicians.

Lady Margaret is survived by her daughter, Lady Fraser, wife of Sir Ian Fraser, former Chairman of Lazard Brothers.