Aristocrat; Born May 25, 1916: Died September 16, 2008

Elizabeth Ivy Douglas-Hamilton, who has died aged 92, was the Dowager Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon, and was present during one of the most remarkable domestic events of the Second World War.

In May 1941, Rudolph Hess, Hitler's deputy, crash-landed on Bonnyton Moor near the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton's home at Dungavel House. Captured by a local farmer, Hess asked to see the duke, ostensibly to plot a secret peace treaty between Britain and Germany. Hamilton, otherwise known as Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, immediately alerted Sir Winston Churchill and Hess was held in custody until the Nuremberg trials at the end of the war.

It was an eventful episode for the duchess, who was at Dungavel House when Hess landed, although her interests leaned more towards music and the arts rather than international affairs and quixotic Nazis.

She had met Douglas- Hamilton - then a well-known figure as Scotland's amateur middleweight boxing champion and the first man to fly over Everest - at a social function in the mid-1930s and married him in 1937, the year in which she was train-bearer to the Queen at the coronation of King George VI.

The new Lady Douglas (her husband was Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale before succeeding to the dukedom in 1940) moved from England to Scotland where she spent the rest of her life supporting her husband while pursuing her own varied interests.

Lady Elizabeth Ivy Percy was born at Alnwick Castle on May 25, 1916, the daughter of Alan Percy, 8th Duke of Northumberland and his wife, Helen. She spent her youth between there, Albury House in Surrey and Syon House in Middlesex. Hers was a colourful upbringing. From 1922 her father financed and directed the Patriot, a radical right-wing weekly which promoted a mix of anti-communism and anti-Semitism, and in 1936 her uncle, Lord Eustace Percy, resigned from the cabinet in protest at the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.

The great theme in the Duchess of Hamilton's life was the performing arts, a passion which found an ideal outlet in the Lamp of Lothian Collegiate Trust, of which she became chairman in 1967. Concerned that parish and community life in East Lothian was threatened with decline, Hamilton and her fellow trustees set up home at the Poldrate Mill buildings on the south side of Haddington and began restoring derelict properties to provide accommodation for Collegiate Clubs including the Bridge Centre, Poldrate Arts and Crafts Centre, Haddington Camera Club and the Poldrate Quilters.

Over the next 40 years the trust raised £1.1m for capital projects from more than 100 different donors, including the Alistair Grant Building, named after the Trust's late chairman, and the restoration of St Mary's Parish Church, which hosted an annual summer concert season.

The duchess was instrumental in persuading the violinist Yehudi Menuhin to become the Lamp's highly-supportive patron; he also performed at St Mary's and she reciprocated through her duties as a governor of the Menuhin school in Surrey from 1969-89.

A clever and humorous woman, the duchess lived at Lennoxlove in East Lothian until her husband's death in 1973, after which she built a home on the north side of the estate where she remained for the rest of her life. Preservation of the local community was her driving passion, in recognition of which she was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of East Lothian in 1984 and OBE (Civil) in 1988.

The Dowager Duchess of Hamilton is survived by two sons, Angus, the current Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, and Lord Selkirk of Douglas, as James Douglas-Hamilton a former Conservative MP, minister and MSP.