Obituary: Alexander Guthrie, clan chief who wore highland dress around his home in Rome

Alexander Guthrie of Guthrie, 22nd of Guthrie, clan chief. Born: 3 October 1967, in Italy. Died: 23 March, 2020, in London, age 52

Alexander Guthrie of Guthrie

Alexander Guthrie of Guthrie, chief of Clan Guthrie, died from coronavirus after two weeks of self-isolation in London.

Alexander Guthrie’s claim to chiefship came by a circuitous route. The 20th chief was the distinguished soldier Lt Col Ivan Guthrie of Guthrie, Alexander’s great-grandfather. Col Guthrie’s twice-married elder daughter Moyra resumed her maiden name in 1968, and was recognised as 21st chief. Loetitia Philips, her daughter from her first marriage, married Leonardo Bedini-Jacobini, son of a Roman count, with Alexander the son of that union.

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Moyra, 21st chief, died in 1984, after which Alexander Guthrie petitioned then Lord Lyon Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight, ultimately being given recognition as 22nd chief of Guthrie in 2000.

Alexander Ivan Bedini-Jacobini Guthrie (motto: “I stand for truth”) received his education in Italy and England, latterly attending University College London. He went into business as a professional landlord, living in Rome with a toehold in London.

He grew up in a thoroughly Italian world, rapidly making his mark as someone who was both colourful and hospitable. Away from Rome at his villa in Tuscany, he entertained widely, friends and acquaintances from worlds as far apart as banking and the church, minor royalty and simple travellers.

Always an innovator, Guthrie early on saw how IT would change the way people booked accommodation, with one of his ventures developed as an upmarket city accommodation booking system.

Alexander Guthrie savoured his role as chief of a clan, attending gatherings of clan Guthrie – principally in the USA, where there is a flourishing Clan Guthrie association. At home in Rome, he had an engaging penchant for wearing full Highland dress to formal social occasions. On his way to one event, he was stopped by the carabinieri, and asked to explain why he was carrying a sword.

The chief came of a distinguished line stretching back to 1457, when an Alexander Guthrie is mentioned in a charter. Clan lore, however, claims earlier foundation, that a “laird of Guthrie” went to France in 1299 to invite William Wallace to return to Scotland. The mission was successful and Guthrie apparently landed back with Wallace at Montrose.

Certainly, the line of Guthrie played its part in Scotland’s history. Sir Alexander Guthrie, 2nd chief, was killed at the battle of Flodden in 1513. In 1567 Alexander, 5th of Guthrie, signed a bond upholding the authority of the infant James VI against that of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots.

The spread of the family can be judged by the fact that Patrick Guthrie, 10th laird, was succeeded by his fourth cousin once removed, the Rt Rev John Guthrie. Nor were women excluded, for the 12th chief was Bethia Guthrie, John’s daughter.

Col Ivan Guthrie, 20th of Guthrie, was the last Guthrie chief to live in the ancestral home of Guthrie Castle, near Forfar. Born in 1886, he commanded the 4th Battalion, Black Watch, and during the First World War gained the Military Cross for valour. The castle is now a venue for weddings, business meetings, and golf.

Alexander, 22nd of Guthrie, never married, but is survived by his long-term girlfriend Tal, a lawyer, and his brother Christian.

Memorial services for the late chief are due to be held later this year in London and Rome.

GORDON CASELY

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