Marquess of Lothian KCVO, DL, Head of ancient Kerr family

Born: 8 September, 1922, in Roxburghshire.

Died: 11 October, 2004, in Roxburghshire, aged 82.

THE 12th Marquess of Lothian had an impressive list of titles - among the oldest in Scotland - which he inherited from his uncle in 1940. But he never flaunted his position but rather, throughout his career, remained dignified and very much a down-to-earth countryman. Lothian was an impressive and courteous man: invariably charming and polite "He was always concerned about other people," a friend recalled yesterday. "Peter was keen to ask about the consequences of any action and how it would affect others. He was gloriously unselfish."

Lothian was an approachable and capable man who worked in government at senior level and was involved in an influential capacity with organisations such as the United Nations and the European Union. To all, the man brought a definite charm, wit and elegance and a refined ability to ensure meetings were kept on track and speeches were relevant and concise.

As head of the Kerr family, Lothian was a staunch supporter of clan traditions and paid visits to events abroad. He was a great lover of the Borders - its traditions, people and countryside. He worked tirelessly on the area’s behalf both locally and nationally. Lothian came from a devout Catholic family and was himself a firm believer in Christian ethics - he often spoke against the relaxing of the laws on abortion.

Peter Frances Walter Kerr was the son of a naval captain who died in 1929. He was educated at Ampleforth College and Christ Church College, Oxford. By then he had inherited the title from his uncle, the distinguished diplomat and ambassador in America. He joined the Scots Guards in 1943 and saw service in this country and Germany.

In the Fifties, Lothian embarked on a diplomatic career and was appointed to positions abroad. From 1956-57, he was a member of the British Delegation to the United Nations, which necessitated much calm diplomacy and rebuilding of bridges after the UK’s involvement in the Suez fiasco. In 1959, Lothian was sent as a delegate to the Council of Europe but was only there a few months when Harold MacMillan, the Prime Minister, recalled him to London.

Lothian was immediately appointed Principal Private Secretary to Sir Alec Douglas Home at the Foreign Office and also acted as a whip in the House of Lords. It was a challenging time to be at the Foreign Office: the Cold War was at its zenith, the Cuban Crisis created complex diplomatic problems and Nikita Kruschev and Nikolai Bulganin made a high profile but controversial visit to London. Lothian quietly assessed each gathering incident and supported his Foreign Secretary with balanced and reasoned advice.

It is believed he was also involved in the complicated and secret negotiations regarding the various spies that were uncovered at the time. When the Tories returned to power in 1970 he became Parliamentary Under Secretary back at the Foreign Office.

Throughout this hectic career, Lothian and his wife, the broadcaster and journalist, Antonella Kerr (ne Newland), spent much of their time at their home in the Borders near Jedburgh. The couple were keen to spread the name of Kerr abroad and visited clan gatherings in America and Australia. Lothian was active in many aspects of local life and particularly enjoyed the annual Common Riding, which visited his home on its traditional journey. The hospitality laid on by the Lothians was invariably splendid.

Lothian was a keen supporter of the Red Cross and was chairman of the Scottish branch for a decade from 1976. He regularly attended their meetings at their head office in Glasgow or in Edinburgh. One of Lothian’s great personal joys was his membership of the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers. He was a member for over 20 years and gave valuable service to the Royal Company’s Council.

Lothian’s titles date from 1591 when an ancestor was made Lord Newbattle. The Earl of Lothian followed a decade later as did the Earls of Jedburgh and Ancram. He rejoiced in being Warden of the Stannaries (a 13th century guild connected with the Cornish tin mines) and was Keeper of the Privy Seal of the Duke of Cornwall - this resulted in him being a member of the Prince of Wales Council from 1976-83.

Of the many honours that were awarded to Lothian, he particularly cherished being made a KCVO in 1983 and a Knight of the Military Order of Malta.

Lothian was a much-liked man: handsome and carried his positions with dignity, modesty and style. Colleagues remember him as a born enthusiast who was always committed to the project in hand. When he and his wife moved to Ferniehurst Castle, near Jedburgh, they always proudly ran up the family ensign when in residence - a vivid blue background and a resplendent gold sun in the middle. The family motto is "Late but in earnest". As one local friend commented yesterday: "He was seldom late but always full of earnest good thoughts."

Lord Lothian is survived by his wife and their two sons and four daughters. Michael, the Earl of Ancram and Tory front bench spokesman on foreign affairs, succeeds to the title.