Paul Johnson

A noble lady who showed that virtue is its own reward

A noble lady who showed that virtue is its own reward

Truly good people have always been rarities, and ours is not an age which nourishes them by attention and respect. When a good person dies, it is not headline news but, rather, a private tragedy for friends, who thereby lose a beacon in their own confused and muddled lives, someone they could regard as a mentor and who could be relied on to tell them gently but truthfully where they had lost direction.

That was how I, and I think many others, saw Christian, Lady Hesketh, always known as Kisty: someone to turn to in time of trouble, for counsel and comfort. Her death earlier this month, swift and peaceful, was not unexpected, for she had long been ill and bore the signs of increasing frailty. Nevertheless, we heard of it with that leaden sinking of the heart which signals that someone irreplaceable and salient has gone from our lives, leaving us impoverished. The first words that came to my mind, when I got the news, were Milton’s, from the noble poem he wrote on the death of his wife: ‘Love, sweetness, goodness in her person shined’. That is exactly how I thought of Kisty. There was something shining about her, and I have never known anyone whose entire person lit up so brightly and intensely when she greeted you. Oh, how she loved her friends, and how they loved her!

Kisty came from the north, the only daughter of Captain Sir John Hellas F. McEwen Bt., of Marchmont. The McEwens have been an extraordinary clan, corresponding to no archetype, various and manifold, impelled by adventurous energy to do countless different things. Kisty was like that: it was impossible to catalogue her interests and enthusiasms. As a child her life must have seemed charmed.

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