VERONICA Maclean danced with President John F Kennedy and his late brother Joe, became friends with Sir Winston Churchill, visited 27 of the Europe's 32 reigning royal families, and married the man who allegedly was the basis of Ian Fleming's 007 character James Bond.

Born in Inverness-shire the daughter of the chief of the Lovat Frasers, she took as her second husband the diplomat, soldier and politician Sir Fitzroy Maclean, becoming in the process both the daughter and wife of a Knight of the Thistle. Like him, she lived life to every minute of the twentieth century, dealing with Tito, the Bushes and the Astors, enjoying friendships with Hilaire Belloc, John Singer Sargent, Freya Stark and King Edward VIII, and in 1991 she learned to drive a heavy lorry for a mercy mission to the Balkans.

Lady Maclean was a spirited woman whose presence gave a glimpse into a world that has all but vanished. The second daughter and fourth child of Simon Fraser, 14th Lord Lovat and chief of the Lovat Frasers, her rich and varied life also included personal tragedy. She was left widowed with two young children in 1943 after her first husband was killed in action in the Mediterranean.

In 1940 she had met Lt Alan Phipps, great-grandson of the 1st Marquess of Normanby. He swept her off her feet, and three weeks later they married. They were passionately happy, and soon had a daughter and a son.

Three years after their wedding, Phipps was killed in action in the eastern Aegean in a cave on the island of Leros off the Turkish coast. It typified Lady Maclean that when she and Sir Fitzroy visited the cave half-acentury later, she ran her hand along ledges "in case he had left a message for me".

In late 1945 her cousin Col David Stirling, founder of the SAS, introduced her to Fitzroy Maclean, a figure as dashing as Phipps. A second whirlwind courtship followed, and they married in January 1946, together having two further children.

"Fitz", as she called him, was a modern-day Ulysses, epitome of the fearless intrepid hero, - diplomat, soldier, author politician, historian and traveller. Sir Fitzroy, created a baronet in 1957, was held to be Ian Fleming's model for James Bond. Veronica cheerfully insisted that he was nothing of the sort and had "never been a spy". While Maclean loved the story that he had been the Bond template, Veronica insisted that the only item Bond-ish about them was the vodka set they took with them on their travels.

The Macleans first lived in Lancasterwhere Sir Fitzroy was Tory MP for 18 years until 1959, before settling at Strachur, the estate they purchased on the south shore of Loch Fyne when Fitzroy took on the constituency of Bute and North Ayrshire until 1974.

They were profoundly happy together, Fitzroy gaining political advancement and Veronica raising two more children, Charles and James. With Fitzroy, she travelled to China, Persia, Yugoslavia and to the United States. Together they also went on several of his undercover trips during the Cold War, including one to Turkey where his mission was to identify places guerrillas could be landed if the worst came.

Just as Sir Fitzroy wrote a string of books, so did she. She brought biography and travel together for her book, Crowned Heads, on reigning royal families. She produced four books on cookery, and two years ago her autobiography Past Forgetting, was published.

Her memoir vividly tells how she never rated Jack Kennedy as presidential material ("rather lightweight") and never forgave the Duke of Windsor for forgetting to take her on a promised flying trip. She also recounted her meetings with Gorbachev and Mick Jagger.

Maclean, famous for his wartime work in Yugoslavia with Tito's partisans, developed and maintained his Balkan links with Veronica's encouragement.

Together in the late 1960s they bought a home on the Croatian island of Korcula, and from there indulged their love of finding new and interesting places in south-eastern Europe.

When the Balkan wars began, her first care was for the people of Korcula. She helped organise food and medical necessities and, as a 71-year-old, learned to drive a seven-ton lorry as one of the team taking it to Croatia.

An accomplished hostess and cook, she and Fitzroy took on the Creggans Inn at Strachur, genial hosts whose welcome was as warm as it was genuine, and whose guests were enraptured by conversation with her.

When she wanted to enjoy gardening but found she knew little about it, she studied horticulture, and in 40 years at Strachur, turned round the gardens into models of formal, informal and wild areas. At one spot, several paths conjoined in a sunken patch she christened "The Bear Pit", where she installed a slate table and bench for her husband to write at.

From the terrace immediately behind the house she created a walk leading to a large bed of meconopsis and tree peonies that provided colour in early June. With Fitzroy's help, she developed the "Burn Walk" to celebrate spring plants - rhododendrons, azaleas, primulas and bulbs.

An innately contented person from her childhood, loyalty, wit, courage, faith and family were the values that marked Lady Maclean. She cared for her country and the land that comprised it. As a Fraser daughter, she remained true to their devoutly Catholic and High Tory values, dismissing the new Holyrood parliament as "a joke run by urban second-raters". She insisted on accompanying her husband as frequently as possible, one of their final appearances together being as principal guests at an 800strong oil dinner in Glasgow in 1992, where Sir Fitzroy was speaking.

She cared for her children, the two from her first marriage being raised by Sir Fitzroy as his own. When a love-child appeared, fathered by Sir Fitzroy before he met Veronica, she fondly welcomed Annabel into the family circle.

She was predeceased by Sir Fitzroy in 1996, and is survived by her two children of her first marriage, Suki Paravicini and Major-General Jeremy Phipps; by two sons from her second marriage, Charles, who succeeded in the baronetcy, and James; and her grandchildren.

Veronica Nell Fraser, Lady Maclean of Dunconnel; born December 2,1920, died January 7, 2005.