Pamela, Countess of Mansfield

Born: November 23, 1934

Died: October 2, 2022

Pamela, Countess of Mansfield, who has died aged 87, was a charismatic figure whose interests varied widely: but her over-riding passion was the promotion of the family’s ancestral home, Scone Palace. Today, thanks to her ingenious marketing policies the palace and grounds are amongst the most visited stately homes in Scotland. The Palace is closely involved with the history of Scotland as it was, from the 9th century the crowning-place of the King of The Scots in its abbey and where the famous Stone of Scone – or the Stone of Destiny – resided.

Mansfield married her husband, William, who became the 8th Earl of Mansfield in 1955. He was a member of one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Scotland. But Scone Palace was run-down and in a sorry state: it had barely recovered from being used as school for girls during the war. And there were considerable death duties to be paid. Although it was then open to the public Scone was in need of much reappraisal.

When her husband inherited the title in 1971 other properties had to be sold and the Duchess threw herself into the challenge of updating and improving Scone as a home and as a visitors’ centre. It was not an easy task. The magnificent and somewhat mysterious picture of Dido Belle was brought out of a backroom and hung prominently in a major room. French furniture was polished and tapestries cleaned and rehung.

Nothing confirms Mansfield’s ability to make Scone Palace better known than the visit by the BBC’s Fake or Fortune programme in 2018. Mansfield asked the team to authenticate Dido Belle, a portrait an ancestor Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, long assumed to be by the German master Johann Zoffany and had been owned by the family for centuries. Fiona Bruce and art expert Philip Mould scrupulously researched the painting’s provenance and history. In fact, Fake or Fortune did not confirm the Zoffany origins but credited it to the Anstruther artist David Martin.

With typical enthusiasm Lady Mansfield hosted an exclusive Dido Belle evening at Scone and said: “The Dido painting, which hangs in our Ambassador’s Room is always a favourite with visitors and still fascinates me. It was a treat to work with Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould, I have always wanted to know who actually painted the picture.”

Pamela Joan Foster was the daughter of an oil executive, Wilfred Foster whose family had founded Duckham’s Oil. She herself was born in Port of Spain and she and her older brother Neil returned to Britain in the late 1930s. They were evacuated to Canada but her mother, a fluent French speaker, stayed in Britain and served at Bletchley Park.

After the war, Mansfield attended Sherborne School and holidayed with her grandparents in France. The holidays gave her a life-long interest in the country especially its literature and cuisine. Her parents divorced and Mansfield spent holidays at Crawford Priory in Fife, owned by her stepfather, Lord Cochrane.

She then pursued a successful career working in art galleries in London. She married William in 1955 and he continued his career as a barrister until he inherited the title and was appointed as a government spokesman in the House of Lords. On moving to Scone, they both concentrated on refurbishing the Palace and she was particularly keen to enhance the splendid and spacious gardens. As a couple they were much involved with preserving the Perthshire countryside. Other interests included bee-keeping and both were enthusiastic supporters of the Scottish Game Fair held annually at Scone.

Mansfield was much involved with many charities and events in Perthshire, notably Capability Scotland’s Upper Springland Service in Perth. She also served on various committees such as the National Trust of Scotland, the Scottish Churches Architectural Trust. She was president of the Perth branch of the Order of St John.

Her enthusiasm to bring high profile events to Scone resulted in many TV programmes being made in the Palace. These included: the Antiques Road Show, The Great British Bake Off, Michael Portillo's Great British Railway Journeys and Sally Lindsay's Posh Sleepover.

“My mother had a good eye for pictures, but she also knew what would work for visitors,” her daughter Georgina told The Herald. “She had an ability to identify opportunities. She was one of the founding organisers of The Grand Tour of Scotland, which saw some of the stately homes outside Edinburgh band together to encourage tourists north.”

Mansfield’s husband predeceased her and she is survived by their three children. The oldest, Mungo, is now the 9th Earl.

Alasdair Steven