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Obituary: Belinda, Lady Montagu – artist, embroiderer and former New Forest Show president





BELINDA, Lady Montagu, the first wife of Beaulieu’s National Motor Museum founder the late Lord Montagu, has died at the age of 90.

Well known through her longstanding presidency of the New Forest Association, Lady Montagu was a highly skilled embroiderer who was once commissioned by the Queen.

Belinda was active in local life and served as president of the New Forest Association from 1983-1995 and then as its patron until 2021.

In 1991 Edward commissioned Belinda to produce seven wall hangings showing Beaulieu Abbey from 1204 to 1538
In 1991 Edward commissioned Belinda to produce seven wall hangings showing Beaulieu Abbey from 1204 to 1538

She was president of the New Forest Show in 1995, a role she loved.

Her son, Lord Montagu, said: “Being an emphatically down-to-earth character, it was practical people, willing to get their hands dirty, to whom she gravitated naturally.”

Belinda, Lady Montagu was born in 1932 and spent her early years on her grandfather’s estate at Cadland near Fawley.

Her father died from TB when she was three, prompting her mother to relocate to the Darkwater River near Lepe. Childhood memories included watching the gathering of troops and the landing craft on Lepe Beach.

She was a keen gardener and president of the Southampton Horticultural Society
She was a keen gardener and president of the Southampton Horticultural Society

A talented artist, at 15 Belinda enrolled at Byam Shaw School of Art in London and later attended the Heatherley School of Fine Art.

She worked as a commercial artist for the BBC and lived in Fulham, where her friends included Antony Armstrong-Jones who later married Princess Margaret.

In 1959 she married Edward, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and joined him in running the family home, Palace House. Together they opened the Montagu Motor Museum.

They enjoyed hosting Beaulieu Jazz Festivals and entertained guests such as John Dankworth, Cleo Laine and Big Band leader Vic Lewis who wrote a song specially for Belinda.

At 15 Belinda enrolled at Byam Shaw School of Art in London
At 15 Belinda enrolled at Byam Shaw School of Art in London

A few months after their union, the newly-weds sailed to southern Africa for a travelling motor exhibition for which Belinda created embroideries depicting early motoring costumes.

In 1961, she gave birth to Ralph, now 4th Baron Montagu of Beaulieu and, in 1964, Mary.

Despite a busy diary of social engagements, Lady Montagu always made time for her animals, including her Arab stallion Allah and various bantams, Forest ponies, cattle, Jacob sheep and house pets such as whippets, cats and even a parrot.

Through the 1960s, Belinda designed posters, souvenir tea towels, menus and displays for the motor museum, Beaulieu and Buckler’s Hard. She also created incredible costumes for Medieval banquets and wrote a family recipe book titled To the Manor Born.

Lady Montagu always made time for her animals
Lady Montagu always made time for her animals

In 1972, Belinda enrolled at Southampton College of Art to study embroidery.

In the same year she left Edward, who in 2007 came out as bisexual, returning to live on the Cadland Estate and then later at Longdown. The pair remained firm friends until his death in 2015.

Embracing her new-found independence, she became a member of the Embroiderers’ Guild and a founder member of the Sarum Embroidery Group.

Her first large work, telling the story of the New Forest, was commissioned to mark its ninth centenary and took two years to complete with help from 60 volunteers. It was viewed by the Queen when she visited the New Forest in 1979.

Lady Montagu spent her early years on her grandfather’s estate at Cadland near Fawley
Lady Montagu spent her early years on her grandfather’s estate at Cadland near Fawley

She later worked on a project to teach Balinese women embroidery skills; published her second book, Group Work in Embroidery; and created a double cushion which was presented to the Queen Mother during a visit to Winchester Cathedral.

In 1991 Edward commissioned Belinda to produce seven wall hangings showing Beaulieu Abbey from 1204-1538. It took seven years to complete and featured canvas-work appliqué, patchwork and quilting.

In 1997, Belinda made a new altar frontal and kneelers to mark the wedding of her daughter Mary to Rupert Scott.

A royal commission followed in 1999 when the Queen asked her to make the kneelers for the wedding of Prince Edward to Sophie Rhys-Jones.

Lady Belinda died at her home in Longdown
Lady Belinda died at her home in Longdown

Belinda did not remarry but had a circle of devoted friends and enjoyed many adventures such as walking across the Simpson Desert in South Australia and pony trekking over the Chilean Andes.

She was a keen gardener and president of the Southampton Horticultural Society and an enthusiastic member of Beaulieu Hautvillers Twinning Society.

Lady Belinda died at her home in Longdown and is survived by Ralph and Mary and her grandchildren Benjamin and Emilia.

Her creativity lives on at Beaulieu with an exhibition the Art of Lady Belinda on display in Palace House.

Following a private family cremation the date of a thanksgiving service will be announced later.



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