Lady Doreen Prior-Palmer; born June 17, 1920, died January 22 1997

Born amid the splendid surroundings of Hopetoun House, William Adam's architectural masterpiece at South Queensferry, Lady Doreen Hope, who has died aged 77, was the youngest daughter and fifth child of the 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow. Her mother, also Doreen, was the only daughter of the Rt Hon Sir Frederick Milner, Bt, who represented York City, then Bassetlaw, in Parliament.

Educated by governesses, Lady Doreen, or ''Bunty'' as she was called in the family, was 16 when, in 1936, her father was appointed Viceroy and Governor General of India. By accepting the post he was following a diplomatic fam-ily tradition. His father, the 1st Marquess, had served as the first Governor General of Australia from 1900 to 1902.

It was obviously a major upheaval for the family, who were to spend the following seven years living in Delhi. But, as a daughter of the Viceroy, Bunty was soon enjoying almost royal status, surrounded by servants and accompanying her parents on official visits to such places as Kashmir, Tibet, and China.

Moreover, it was a fascinating time to be an onlooker. The

Indian princes still retained fabulous wealth and lavish lifestyles. At the same time, the Indian independence movement was gaining momentum, and Japan was on the brink of invading South-east Asia.

For the Viceroy's teenage daughter growing into womanhood, it could simply have been a social round of receptions and banquets, but Bunty was to discover Eastern philosophy, a subject which was to interest her for the rest of her life. At the same time, as a keen rider, she became joint-master of the Delhi Foxhounds, which curiously hunted not foxes, but jackal.

In 1943, with the wars in both the Far East and Europe well under way, the family were obliged to return to the UK, running the gauntlet of the Luftwaffe planes sent to intercept them. Arriving in London to discover that their London home had been destroyed during the Blitz, they took up residence in Claridges. Anxious to contribute to the war effort, Bunty and her elder sister, Joan, immediately signed on with the YMCA and, attached to a Polish reconnaissance regiment, soon found themselves driving mobile canteens to the Front in Holland.

It was here that she met Brigadier Erroll Prior-Palmer, CB, DSO of the 7th Lancers, who had commanded the floating tanks on D-Day. Subsequently given the Hanover command, Prior-Palmer accepted with the proviso that Bunty's YMCA unit was also transferred.

Thereafter, the romance developed. They were married in 1948, the same year that her brother, Lord John Hope (Lord Glendevon), by then installed as Member of Parliament for Midlothian, later Edinburgh Pentlands, married Elizabeth, only daughter of the writer William Somerset Maugham.

Having reached the rank of Major General, Erroll Prior-Palmer retired from the Army and in the years that followed played an important role in the development of container shipping in the UK. He and Bunty settled at Appleshaw House near Andover, and had one son, Simon, born 1951, and a daughter, Lucinda, born 1953.

With both parents sharing a love of horses (Erroll was a great polo enthusiast), it is not at all surprising that Lucinda should grow up to embark upon a remarkable eventing career. Strongly supported by her mother, Lucinda was a six-time winner of the Badminton Horse Trials. Twice winner of

the Individual European Championships, she was recruited to the European Championship Team Burghley in 1977, the year of her father's death.

Always preferring to keep out of the public spotlight, Bunty Prior-Palmer did agree to serve as a governor of the Enham Alamein Trust from 1958 to 1992, and she also found time to become involved with the Wessex Rehabilitation Association. As the owner of small Tibetan dogs, she was president of the Lhasa Apso Society.

Following her husband's death, she travelled extensively, in

recent years visiting Madagascar, Botswana, and China. She wrote of these adventures to her friends, displaying the insight into human nature so much valued by those who came to her with their problems from all walks of life. An essentially private person, who in her later life had hearing difficulties, she will be remembered for her kindness, intelligence, and sense of humour.