Fraternising with Lord Snowdon in the late Sixties, Peter Sellers had become well acquainted with high society. He would experience a lot more of it after his marriage to the “society beauty” Miranda Quarry, the stepdaughter of Lord Mancroft.
The comic actor first set eyes on the sometime model when she was selling flowers from a stall at the Dorchester Hotel in 1968. He was charmed by her hippy chic, dazzling smile and an almost gauche lack of pretension.
His volatile marriage to the Swedish actress Britt Ekland was coming to an unhappy end and his state of mind was not improved by his faltering career. After the success of The Millionairess, Lolita and Dr Strangelove, Sellers was agitated by his waning star. His career would not truly revive until the later Pink Panther movies in the 1970s.
There were other female objects of his affection, but the beautiful young blonde had a kind and empathetic nature that seemed like a salve on a mind ravaged by bipolar disorder. Perhaps the fact that she did not appreciate his zany personas and streams of consciousness, but searched for the human underneath the clown mask, only increased his attraction to her. They married in 1970, when she was 23 and he 44, at Caxton Hall register office in Westminster. Miranda wore a puce gypsy maxi dress and a sombrero. Her Pekinese dogs, Tabitha and Tomasina, acted as her bridesmaids and the reception was held at Tramp.
He was charmed by her hippy chic, dazzling smile and an almost gauche lack of pretension.
Even on their honeymoon Sellers temporarily walked out but they made a go of the marriage. The couple settled in the coach house of an estate in Co Kildare, which suited Sellers for tax reasons. He was popular with his aristocratic in-laws and would play the part to the manner born at shooting parties. The couple made one memorable entrance at Eton, where Miranda was visiting her half-brother Benjamin, emerging from a limousine in matching purple fur coats. Miranda had added a purple tint to her hair. The boys were collectively smitten.
Sellers was often away filming and would work himself up into jealous rages about his wife’s imagined infidelities. They divorced in 1974 but remained friends until his death in 1980, Miranda often counselling him after a row with his fourth wife, Lynne Frederick.
Miranda Elizabeth Louise Quarry was born in Wokingham, Berkshire, in 1947, one of two daughters to Richard Bridges St John Quarry, an officer in the Royal Corps of Signals, and Diana Elizabeth (née Lloyd).
Her parents divorced soon after she was born. In 1951 Diana married Stormont Mancroft, a war hero and Conservative politician who became deputy chairman of Cunard. Miranda adored him and called him “Stormy”, but exasperated him with her naughtiness and tendency to invent outlandish stories. She was sent to Crofton Grange School in Hertfordshire, where other unhappy boarders included the writer Rose Tremain, and later dispatched to a finishing school in Paris but was already too bohemian to pay attention to deportment. Instead she drifted through Spain, Italy and sojourned to New York, before returning to London where she worked for the fashion chain Mr Fish, which specialised in dressing rock stars.
A year after her divorce from Sellers, Miranda married Sir Nicholas Nuttall, 3rd Bt, who had left the army to run the family civil engineering business. He sold it in 1978 and thereon they spent much time in the Bahamas. The couple had three daughters: Gytha, an interior designer; Amber, an environmentalist; and Olympia, a yoga teacher. The marriage ended in divorce in 1983.
Miranda, an arbiter of style and taste, renovated the succession of houses she lived in and was a dedicated, though not slavish, follower of fashion. Her third marriage was to Alexander Macmillan, the Earl of Stockton and grandson of Harold Macmillan, in 1995. After their divorce in 2011, he summed up the failure of their marriage succinctly and without bitterness. “Miranda is too exotic for me.”
Miranda, Countess of Stockton, socialite, was born on May 27, 1947. She died of pancreatic cancer on March 18, 2020, aged 72