Marion Stein

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Marion Stein

Maria Donata Nanetta Paulina Gustava Erwina Wilhelmine Stein

18 October 1926
Vienna, Austria
Died6 March 2014(2014-03-06) (aged 87)
North Devon, United Kingdom
Other namesMarion Harewood
Marion Thorpe
EducationRoyal College of Music
OccupationConcert pianist
(m. 1949; div. 1967)
(m. 1973)

Maria Donata Nanetta Paulina Gustava Erwina Wilhelmine Stein, CBE (18 October 1926 – 6 March 2014), known as Marion Stein, and subsequently by marriage as Marion Lascelles, Countess of Harewood, and later Marion Thorpe, was an Austrian-born British concert pianist.[1]


Born in Vienna, Stein was of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, the daughter of Sophie Bachmann and musician Erwin Stein. She came to the UK just before the Second World War.[2][3] She attended the Royal College of Music and became good friends with composer Benjamin Britten. By 1949, as Countess of Harewood, and with the patronage of her mother-in-law, Princess Mary, Stein was chatelaine of the Palladian Harewood House, north of Leeds, and threw herself into organising events.

In March 1950, she created an opera-inspired fancy dress ball in aid of Britten's English Opera Group, featuring Frederick Ashton and Moira Shearer dancing the tango from the ballet Façade.[4][5] In September 1950, she was reported as being pregnant and, unusually for society women of the time, "planning to attend every night" of the Leeds Triennial Musical Festival which featured a performance by Britten.[6][7] She was the joint founder in 1961 (along with Fanny Waterman) of the Leeds International Piano Competition.[8] She also collaborated with Fanny Waterman on Piano Lessons, a successful piano tutor.

In 1973, she was a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs[9] and she was an occasional panellist on the BBC music quiz Face the Music.

Personal life[edit]

Stein married twice, on both occasions to prominent public figures.

Her first husband was George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood,[2] whom she married on 29 September 1949. The couple met at the Aldeburgh Festival. Lord Harewood, son of Mary, Princess Royal, was the grandson of King George V, the nephew of kings Edward VIII and George VI, and a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. Marion became the countess of Harewood. They had three sons:

By 1959, there were serious problems in the marriage.[10] Harewood began an affair with the violinist Patricia Tuckwell, but Stein rejected the idea of divorce until 1967, by which time Harewood had a son by Tuckwell. His adultery and remarriage made him a social outcast for several years, and it was 10 years before he was invited to any events by the royal family.

Stein married her second husband, Jeremy Thorpe, on 14 March 1973. Thorpe was then a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Liberal Party. His first wife, Caroline, had been killed in a car accident in 1970. Marion Thorpe stood by her husband throughout the scandal of the late 1970s.[11] In the mid-1980s, Jeremy Thorpe was diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson's disease.[12] Towards the end of her life, Marion Thorpe also had mobility problems.

She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours by Elizabeth II for services to music, in particular the Leeds International Piano Competition.[13]

Marion Thorpe died on 6 March 2014 at the age of 87.[1] Her husband survived her by nine months, dying on 4 December.[14]

She was played by Monica Dolan in the television miniseries A Very English Scandal.


  1. ^ a b John Amis (7 March 2014). "Marion Thorpe obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b Reed, Philip; Cooke, Mervyn (2010). Letters from a Life: the Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, 1913–1976; Vol 5. Boydell Press. p. xlv. ISBN 978-1-84383-591-2.
  3. ^ "Obituary: The Earl of Harewood", The Telegraph, 11 July 2011. Accessed 16 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Marion Thorpe – Obituary". The Telegraph. 7 March 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  5. ^ Peter, NDJ (9 March 2014), "Marion Thorpe, wife of former North Devon MP and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, dies at age 87", North Devon Journal (Barnstaple), archived from the original on 9 March 2014 "Marion Thorpe, wife of former North Devon MP and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, dies aged 87 | North Devon Journal". Archived from the original on 9 March 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Hoping for a Boy". Barrier Miner, Broken Hill. 6 September 1950. Retrieved 20 September 2015 – via Trove. ...the Countess plans to attend every night of the Leeds Triennial Musical Festival...
  7. ^ "Discovering Leeds". Leeds City Council UK Gov. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2015. Britten had been taking the final rehearsals of his Spring Symphony which he was due to conduct at the 1950 Triennial Festival...
  8. ^ Cummings, David (2000). International Who's Who in Music: and Musicians' Directory Vol. 1. Routledge. p. 640. ISBN 0-948875-53-4.
  9. ^ BBC – Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, 29 December 1973.
  10. ^ "Adultery, a child, divorce, remarriage = estrangement from the Royal Family", Royal Musings, 12 July 2011. Accessed 16 February 2013.
  11. ^ Leo McKinstry, "The downfall of Jeremy Thorpe", Express, 8 May 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  12. ^ "Jeremy Thorpe – Former Liberal Party Leader in the UK" Archived 6 March 2014 at, BBC News.
  13. ^ "No. 58729". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2008. p. 8.
  14. ^ "The Funeral of the Right Honourable Jeremy Thorpe". Westminster Abbey. Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2015.

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