The sad loss of the Earl of Stathmore and a celebration of his life
We have just received the sad news that Michael Fergus Bowes-Lyon, 18th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne has passed away. Out thoughts go out to his friends at family at this tragic loss. He was only 58 years old, and died after a long battle with cancer.
Known to those who knew him as ‘Mikey’ Strathmore he led a very colourful life. On one side he was one of the richest men in Scotland, first cousin to the Queen once removed, an Earl and a Lord, then on the other, he was a family man who shunned all the ‘pomp’ because he fell in love and chose the life of running an ironmongers in the market town of Forfar. ‘Mikey’ did not lead a boring life and his 59 years are filled with many stories that will live on forever, a life to be celebrated.
Strathmore and his family lived at Glamis, one of the most beautiful castles in Angus, Scotland. Glamis has a history of Royal relatives staying here, often it was host to the ones who were a little more ‘troublesome’, Strathmore was definitely one of these characters. History would be boring if it wasn’t for people like him.
Born 7th June 1957, Michael Fergus Bowes-Lyon was the only son of Fergus Michael Bowes-Lyon and Mary Pamela McCorquodale. He also had two sisters; Lady Elizabeth Leeming and Lady Diana Godfrey-Faussett. His Mother Mary has the title The Dowager Countess of Strathmore. Mary still moved from Glamis to the Borders, she is well known within the community especially when she spearhead a campaign to stop the closure of Glamis Post Office.
He attended Sunningdale School, Eton, then on to the University of Aberdeen and finally in true Royal tradition, RMA Sandhurst. On finishing at Sandhurst he rose to the rank of Captain in the British Army (serving with the Scots Guards). He was very well liked by the men, especially for his jokes.
Strathmore qualified as a stockbroker in the City of London then joined the Whips Office in The House of Lords. He was styled Lord Glamis between 1972 and 1987 where he was a hereditary peer and politician. His son Simon now holds this title.
He succeeded his father as the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in 1987 after his father died on August 18th – also a young death at just 59 years. It was reported that Fergus died while while out shooting accompanied by his son and a friend when he just collapsed. His death came as a big shock.
Strathmore’s grandfather Fergus Bowes-Lyon was killed during WW1 fighting with The Black Watch at The Battle of Loos. He was known for his heroic acts amongst them leading his men into battle near Hohenzollern Redoubt He was the elder brother of the Queen Mother and doted on his little sister who he called ‘Buffy’.
The Lyons came to Glamis in the 14th Century after they were granted lands when Sir John Lyon married the daughter of King Robert II. Strathmore’s father Fergus inherited Glamis in 1972, along with his Mother they carried out extensive work on the castle in order to make it the family home it is today. It was previously a royal hunting lodge. On the death of his father Strathmore was very active in the management of the estate, Castle and farming enterprises.
Glamis has a dark secret – back in the nineteenth century a Lyon-Bowes baby had been reported to have died but really was hidden away in Glamis because they were deformed. Thomas Lyon-Bowes was the rightful heir to the title and property but due to his deformity he was kept in a secret chamber at Glamis and the story that he was dead was leaked out. Thomas has no gravestone and the chamber was bricked up after his death. There are awful stories, labelling him ‘The Monster of Glamis’ and describing him as half man half frog. It has always been questioned how much of the story is true.
In 1984 Strathmore married Isobel Charlotte Weatherall daughter of Captain Anthony E. Weatherall Michael and Isobel have three sons.
They separated in 2003 and divorced in 2004. His oldest son Simon Patrick Bowes-Lyon is Lord Glamis and heir. His brothers are John Fergus Bowes-Lyon and George Norman Bowes-Lyon.
At the funeral of the Queen Mother Strathmore walked behind Prince Phillip. His sons were also there as the Queen Mother’s great-grandnephews; Simon, John and George.
On November 24, 2005 Michael married again, Dr. Damaris E Stuart-William, a clinical psychologist at Glamis Castle. Michael and Damaris had one son Toby Peter Fergus Bowes-Lyon born that same year. Then came a very hard time in his life where he publicly went ‘off the rails’ at the breakdown of his second marriage which he apologised for and confessed to a drink problem. The more lurid details of this episode I’m sure will be covered elsewhere so theres no need to dwell on them here.
His life then took a turn for the better with the help of Karen Baxter who was a financial manager of Strathmore’s companies and manageress of the Forfar ironmongers David Irons & Sons. This long term friendship blossomed and became more intimate and the two were married in August 2012 at a low key ceremony at Glamis. Karen, Mikey and Karen’s two daughters Chloe and Kristen all lived together as a family at Glamis. He was said to have loved his step daughter dearly.
Strathmore had bought the ironmongers where Karen worked known as ‘Irons’ in 2005, setting up an office on one of the floors. It was an Aladdin’s cave of a shop that he used to visit as a child. But when an Asda opened up near by, Mikey took a leaf from his Mothers book and protested saying it was destroying local stores. The Irons had been running for 174 years, sadly it was forced to close in 2014.
As a final word about the life of Mikey Strathmore I think it’s best to call on the sketch by The Two Ronnies (Mikey was always a big fan of The Two Ronnies). You remember the scene – when the shop customer Ronnie Barker demands the shopkeeper Corbett for ‘Four Candles’ but really wants a ‘fork ‘andles’. A great sketch that always got a laugh and Mikey Strathmore was a man always smiling.