Friday, May 26, 2023

EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Farewell to the glamorous Duchess of Manchester once attacked by a speargun

 For your information: Marion Stoner never used the title to which she was entitled, but which likely left her cold after having experienced a short marriage to Alexander. 

Contrary to popular belief, marrying into the aristocracy has never been a guarantee of cocktails, castles and laughter. But none, surely, can have suffered for it as much as Marion Stoner, who has died aged 72.

I can disclose that, although a 'good Aussie', she was born in Europe. 'Both of her parents were German,' says her granddaughter, April, adding that the family emigrated when Marion was still a toddler.


And it was in Melbourne, in 1984, as a glamorous brunette in her mid-30s, with two young children from a previous relationship, that Marion so nearly signed her own death sentence.

She married Alexander Montagu, 13 years her junior, the powerfully built, charming, 'rather handsome' nephew of the 11th Duke of Manchester.


She was treated like 'a possession'. Months later came 'the speargun incident'. Her husband, Marion recalled, opened fire from just 12 ft with the lethal weapon. 

'I stood there and stared him in the eye. He pointed and fired. It missed me by a foot. It would have ripped me apart.'

Fleeing the marital home, she lived in fear, always, she said, 'looking over my shoulder'. Twelve years later, she was approached by Alexander's mother, who requested a divorce for her son. 

Marion agreed and put it out of her mind — until 2011, when her ex-husband, by then the 13th Duke of Manchester, was exposed as a bigamist.

London's High Court heard that he had married Wendy Buford, an American, in 1993 — three years before his divorce.

Re-examining her divorce papers, Marion saw that Alexander had supposedly signed them in Melbourne. 'But he couldn't have done,' she said. 'He was in America with Wendy.'

So she had, in fact, been the Duchess of Manchester since Alexander succeeded to the title in 2002. But, unable to afford a lawyer and pursue the matter in court, she 'put it all behind her', says April.

Even when diagnosed with inoperable cancer, adds April, who describes Marion as 'the backbone of the family', she took it in her stride. 'She was amazing through it all — so loving and really at peace.'

It's a state of grace which has eluded her ex-husband, the thrice-married duke, who, aside from his exposure for bigamy, was once deported from Canada and, more recently, received a five-year sentence for attempted burglary in his adopted home city of Las Vegas.