Scots author leaves fortune to family and friends

Stewart began her writing career in 1954, after having been a teacher. Picture: TSPL

Stewart began her writing career in 1954, after having been a teacher. Picture: TSPL

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A BEST-SELLING author whose books were loved by fans around the world left a £9.3 million fortune to her family and friends, it has been revealed.

Lady Mary Stewart, 97, was born in Sunderland but moved to Edinburgh with her husband Frederick after they married.

In a successful and sustained writing career that began in 1954, she wrote a string of best-selling romantic novels including Madam, Will You Talk?, Touch Not The Cat and The Crystal Cave and sold more than 30 million books in the US alone.

It has emerged that as a result, she had built up a £9,344,578 fortune by the time of her death in May.

Lady Stewart left instructions that it was to be split equally between seven nieces and nephews, who are set to receive £1.3m each.

She had £1,265,174 held in four Royal Bank of Scotland bank accounts and had built up a stocks and shares portfolio worth £6,373,995.60.

She also ordered all her manuscripts and paperwork be handed over to the National Library of Scotland.

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Darryl Mead, deputy national librarian, said: “Mary Stewart was a talented and popular writer whose books regularly featured in best-selling lists in the 1960s and 70s.

“She was known for diligent research and enjoyed a loyal following in the United States as well as Britain.

“We are delighted to have been left her manuscripts in her will and they will be added to our collections, which already include the papers of many Scots writers including Sir Walter Scott, Muriel Spark and Alasdair Gray.”

Lady Stewart lived on her £625,000 House of Letterawe estate in Argyll and rarely gave interviews or appeared at public events.

Born in 1916, she was able to read rom the age of three and was writing stories about her toys by the age of seven.

She attended Durham University, after turning down places at both Oxford and Cambridge because they were too costly.

She left university with a first in English and began teaching in a Middlesbrough elementary school, but the outbreak of war made teaching difficult and lessons were carried out in pupils’ homes rather than in classrooms.

In 1941, she returned to Durham where she taught at the university before meeting her future husband at a fancy dress ball to celebrate the end of the war.

Frederick Stewart was a distinguished geology professor and was knighted in 1974 for his services to his field.

In 1953, she submitted the first of her 24 novels to a publisher who immediately snapped it up.

And when it eventually hit the shelves in 1954, she continued to release a new novel once a year until the late 1980s.

In an interview before she died, Mary spoke about the lifestyle of a writer.

She said: “I’m a loner, it’s a very lonely life and a very hard one.

“You have to forget about social life while you’re writing a book, but of course when you’re not writing social life has forgotten about you so you write another book in self-defence.”

Her husband died in 2001 and she spent the rest of her life at her home in Argyll, where one of her nieces, Jennifer Ogden, lived alongside her.

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