THE 17th Earl of Lauderdale, Patrick Francis Maitland, who died on 2 December, aged 97, was Conservative MP for Lanark from 1951 to 1959. But he was best known in the Church of England as a lay leader of the Catholic movement, with a passion for ecumenism in the tradition of the 2nd Viscount Halifax.
He was born in March 1911, and was the younger son of the Revd the Hon. Sydney Maitland, a greatly loved Rector of Ingestre, Stafford. He was educated at Lancing and at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he formed a lasting relationship with Prince Paul of Yugoslavia. He left Oxford a devout Anglican, but still experimental in his views on politics. For a time he came under the forceful influence of the Yugoslav Mitrinovich, and did a great deal of unpaid work for the movement known as New Britain.
Throughout his life, in fact, Yugoslavia exerted a fascination for him, and he never abandoned his belief that the countries loyal to the Orthodox Church formed an integral part of Europe. In July 1936, he married Stanka Losanitch, whose mother was lady-in-waiting to Princess Olga of Yugoslavia.
At the time, he was quite without fortune, and, since he was the younger son of a younger son, the Earldom of Lauderdale, to which he succeeded in 1968, seemed a remote inheritance. Hard work was essential, and Patrick Maitland made two resolutions: one was to spend 20 years making himself an expert on foreign affairs, and the other was not to speak on politics until he had reached the age of 40, and had gained a mastery of international affairs.
He was not, perhaps, a gifted writer, and his masterly news sense was a hard-won possession. He was frequently disappointed in his early career as a journalist in Fleet Street, where he began as an office boy to a foreign correspondent in Vienna in the 1930s. He was on most London newspapers after that. In Rome, as special correspondent for the Daily Express, he met Mussolini many times.
In some ways he was a lone worker, and at the time of Munich he launched his “Fleet Street Letter”, a service of diplomatic and political news, and strove to give his readers the “news behind the news”.
Soon afterwards, he became the Times correspondent in the Balkans, but the forcefulness of his views was not always pleasing to his editor, Geoffrey Dawson. He roamed Eastern Europe from Berlin and Warsaw to Ankara and Athens.
When the Italians invaded Albania in April 1939, he filed eye-witness reports; and he was in Rumania when the Germans occupied it. He was trapped by the Italians while he was trying to escape from capture in an open boat during the invasion of Yugoslavia. He was released in time to become the first British correspondent to be accredited to the United States Forces. In six years of travel, he covered more than 200,000 miles.
But he was happier when, in 1943, he joined the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office. Later he was with the US marines at their Guadalcanal landings in the Pacific.
At the end of the war he returned to London and resumed his editorship of the “Fleet Street Letter”. Few of these newsletters survived the war, but the “Fleet Street Letter” flourished because Maitland had mastered the technique of making his readers anxious to see the next issue — his was the journalistic “discovery” that Russia possessed the atomic bomb — and because he had superb fits as negotiator and business manager.
He was the hard-headed Scot who knew how to be generous to his friends. At the same time, he did some excellent work for The Scotsman, and for some years he was a valued contributor to the weekly news summary that used to appear on page 3 of the Church Times.
His promise not to speak on politics until he reached the age of 40 was faithfully kept. He was no sooner 40, however, than he stood as the Conservative candidate in a by-election at Lanark; and he won the seat with a small majority. In 1953, the Earldom of Lauderdale passed from a cousin to his older brother, the Revd Alfred Maitland, later Vicar of Catsfield, near Battle, an early member of the Anglo-Catholic Congresses held between the two world wars.
As a priest, Fr Maitland did not wish to concern himself unduly with the family honours. He chose not to live in Lauderdale Castle, and Patrick Maitland assumed the title of Master of Lauderdale. As such, he carried the Standard of Scotland and led the procession from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to St Giles’s Cathedral when the Queen visited Edinburgh in state shortly after her Coronation. No horseman, he was glad that his mount was a docile beast taken from a milk van for the day.
Influence and prestige came to him when he most needed them, and he used his new opportunities shrewdly. He held strong views about the future of what was then called the British Commonwealth; and long before the British troops retired from the Suez Canal zone, he argued that Suez was the hinge of the Commonwealth. Neither Suez nor Cyprus, he believed, could be forfeited without disaster.
He argued that the Commonwealth should be not static, but expanding. Other countries should be free to join it. The one way of solving the problem of Cyprus, as he saw it, was to persuade Greece to enter the Commonwealth. Other countries that he wished to include were Sudan, Burma, and Norway. He wrote a book on this topic: Task for Giants.
At first there was a tendency to regard Patrick Maitland as a political lightweight. Sir Anthony Eden did not take his views seriously. Opinions changed, however, after the ceasefire in Egypt, and it was an unhappy day for the Conservative Party in the House of Commons when Patrick Maitland, together with seven other Conservatives, declined to accept the party whip. “It is one thing”, Maitland declared, “to be a ‘true blue’ Conservative. It is another to be a party hack.”
He was proud of his office as President of the Church Union, then a larger and more influential organisation than now. At no time was he a militant Anglican. In his secular activities, he worked happily with members of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. He was, none the less, anxious to know whether those destined to work in partnership with him believed, as he did, that “something happened in history which altered all our lives.” On the answer to that question everything depended.
From his deep religious convictions flowed his courage when times were difficult, and his boyish humour. He had been writing for the Church Times for about six months when the Editor of the day, the late Revd Dr G. L. Prestige, said impatiently: “Your trouble, Maitland, is that you know absolutely nothing about the Church.” Back flashed a typical remark: “My dear sir, has it taken you all this time to find that out?”
In 1968, his brother was found dead, after a drowning accident, in the sea at Angmering in Sussex, and Patrick Maitland succeeded to the title. He entered the House of Lords, where he gained a reputation for hard work, and served as a knowledgable member of the energy select committee. He was the Director of the UK Division of the French oil company, Elf Petroleum.
He was now in a position to fulfil a task that had been entrusted to him by Fr Hope Patten, restorer of the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, of which he had become a Guardian in 1955. At about that time, Patten had said to him: “One day you must restore the Shrine of Our Lady of Haddington.”
Until then, Maitland had had little notion of its history. The Lauderdale Aisle had been overlooked in the details of the Maitland/Lauderdale inheritance, and his recent predecessors had cared little about it.
Detailed research convinced him of its importance. Our Lady of Haddington had been a focus of medieval devotion, with a shrine at Whitekirk, in the old county of Haddingtonshire. But English invasions had left the shrine desecrated and Whitekirk in ruins. Subsequently, the Forrest family had endowed “an Altarage of the Blessed Virgin and the Three Kings of Cologne” in the north-west corner of St Mary’s, Haddington, and this was presumed to be a revival of Whitekirk’s shrine.
St Mary’s had subsequently suffered severe damage during the Siege of Haddington, and details of the precise position and appearance of the shrine had been lost. The only clue to its likely appearance was a medieval carved panel of the Adoration of the Magi in the crypt of St Nicholas East Church, Aberdeen. This depicted the Kings running in haste to bring their gifts to the Christ-child, and clad in toga-like plaid kilts.
Lauderdale learned of a seal of the former nunnery of Haddington, deposited in the British Museum, with the inscription “House of Our Lady at Haddington”. Thus, equipped with two images, and stimulated by a surge of interest in restoring St Mary’s, he commissioned a wood-carver from Oberammergau, living in Norfolk, to carve figures of the Magi and of Christ in his mother’s arms. The result was a “wonderfully tranquil”, as Lauderdale described it, portrayal of Christ’s mother.
Once converted back to its original use as the private chapel of the Lauderdales, the Aisle was consecrated for public worship by Bishop Alastair Haggart. An ecumenical service — never before seen in Scotland — followed. The Primus presided; Dr Roy Sanderson, then a former Moderator, also participated and offered prayers; then the Polish Orthodox priest in Edinburgh offered a prayer; and the Abbot of Nunraw blessed the figures that had been newly instated.
The Aisle became the focus of an annual ecumenical pilgrimage, described by Maitland as a “demo for God”. The first pilgrimage was attended by only 30 people. Thirty years later, some 2000 were coming to the various services. Intercessions were requested by people from all around the world. Many people wrote back in thanks for prayers answered. The pilgrimage was very dear to his heart, and even when quite frail he would visit the Church Times office in person to deliver photographs of the event.
As well as rendering long service to the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, of which he became a Guardian Emeritus in 1982, Lord Lauderdale was a staunch and well-loved member of the congregation of St Mary’s, Bourne Street, in London, where a requiem mass was celebrated for him last Saturday. His funeral was due to take place at St Mary’s, Haddington, on Wednesday.
His wife predeceased him in 2003. He had two sons and two daughters. One, Lady Olga Maitland, is the former journalist and Conservative MP. His elder son Ian, Viscount Maitland, Master of Lauderdale, succeeds to the Earldom.