Obituary: Lady Caroline Malitza Maitland, adventurer and therapist

Lady Caroline Malitza Maitland, adventurer and therapist. Born: 18 November, 1946. Died: 9 August, 2010, in London, aged 63.

The death at only 63 of the admired Edinburgh adventurer and society therapist Lady Militza Maitland has been much mourned in both Scotland and her more recent home in London, particularly so given the rapidity of the cancer which claimed her life within two months of diagnosis.

A vibrant, positive person with a much rejoiced in - though perhaps sometimes all too vibrant - laugh Mitzi Maitland was, as they say, something of a caution, having led a colourful early life during which she worked abroad in a number of exciting jobs, few of which were traditional among those of her background and training.

But at least she gave those who had had duller lives something to talk about.

Born the daughter of the late Patrick Earl of Lauderdale and Stanka Losanitch of Belgrade, she was initially called Caroline, but changed her name to Malitza.

Mitzi was educated at London's Lycee Francise Charles de Gaulle with her sister Lady Olga Maitland, who later went on to become a respected politician and columnist and chair of the right-wing pressure group Families for Defence. She and Mitzi had their differences on political matters.

After school Mitzi studied in Oxford and then acquired a teaching qualification in Edinburgh, where she taught briefly and with some success.

Young, carefree and beautiful, she became known as an ever-cheerful, laughing character and was often to be seen playing her guitar at New Town parties. She had many bohemian friends and she relished argument and debate.

It was during this period that she became engaged to the famously elegant food and wine buff Barnaby Hawkes, who was to remain a close friend for the rest of her days. They became a popular and lively couple, with the vivacious and musical Mitzi enjoying a number of jobs, including dancing.

She was energetic, curious and sometimes ill at ease with her background (her father would trace his title back to 1624) and the next part of her journey took her to India and Japan, where she studied a number of alternative religions and exotic lifestyles, and for a time adopted the name "Samira" in line with the wishes of a guru whom she had found particularly fascinating.

Further courageous adventures included an unsuccessful trip with a boyfriend to New Caledonia, where she was virtually imprisoned at one point before being released through the kindness and cunning of some local women.

She was never going to die wondering.Later she returned to Edinburgh, where she soon established an elegant home in the St Vincent area of Edinburgh's New Town and settled down to a more traditional way of life, though her flat became something of a salon for those interested in serious talk about the fast changing social mores of the day.

Friends included the leading Green politician Robin Harper and the internationally renowned story teller Duncan Williamson, who once remarked: "When they made Mitzi they threw away the mould."

Still slightly restless, she baked delicious cakes commercially, taught well, rented out rooms, started (bizarrely, with the assistance of the well known poet Ivor Cutler) a labelling business and became increasingly drawn to a more academic evaluation of the great issues of self-realisation that she had struggled with for so long.

It was in the early 1990s that she finally found herself through her work as a therapist.

Initially she worked as a grief counsellor with the charity Cruise and finding, to her own delight and indeed surprise, that she excelled in this kind of work, set about more formal and indeed demanding study that she had perhaps missed in her early years.

This was a very rewarding part of her life and she was thrilled to discover the value that so many placed on her skill, experience and genuine compassion for the lost and lonely. As her private patient list grew she became involved in training other counsellors and was soon being held in high regard and grateful affection by many.

Mitzi's final few years were spent in London with her family, who included her sister Lady Olga, and her contribution to their lives, and in her final days theirs to hers, was a source of great joy to all.

Her last wish was to own a house with a garden and although this was never to come true there were many people who she nurtured and helped blossom.

Perhaps the greatest sadness of her professional career was that she never fulfilled her ambition of writing about her extraordinary life and the lessons it had taught her.

Her brother Iain, the present Earl of Lauderdale and the chief of the clan Maitland, will be leading mourners at a formal memorial service in Haddington on 30 October.