Archive for ‘Lady Asta de Lacy’


I was born in a tent in the desert of southern Libya on 10th November 1985. Pregnancy had not stood in the way of my mother, Countess Catherine de Lacy, (an American anthropologist), and my father Cedric, the 11th Earl of Westwood, (an eminent portrait painter), completing their study of the Tuareg people.

They completed the study when I was six months old, at which point, according to my mother’s journal, we travelled up to the capital Tripoli as my father had received a letter from an old friend asking for his help. He mysteriously insisted on going alone, and when he returned several days later to the friend’s house where we were staying, he was carrying a small boy of about three years of age in his arms. He introduced the boy as Marcel and said that we would be caring for him from now on, but there was no time for explanations as my father urged that we pack and prepare for the long car journey to Tunis Carthage airport immediately. My parents must have discussed the situation at length, but there is no mention of this in the journal. Marcel just begins to feature with no explanation.

My earliest memory is of myself and Marcel playing in the grounds of Goldington Hall, our family home, and our nanny Mary calling us over for a picnic by the river. The estate consists of seventy acres of meadowland, woodland and water meadows, roughly divided by the chalk stream of the river Itchen. We used to own vast tracts of farmland, but as my parents had had no inclination to farm, they had sold it off in order to pursue their ambitions abroad. The house, built between 1680 and 1684 and considered to be one of the finest examples of Carolean architecture, is surrounded by formal gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll, and the broad flight of steps at the back of the house leads to a swimming pool and a grass tennis court.

Up until their death in a plane crash in 1996, we often travelled with my parents to far -flung places, a habit that has never deserted me. However, the feeling of lying on the grassy riverbank in summer watching the trout meandering on the spot, riding through the parkland studded with great oaks and waking up in my four poster bed to the sound of familiar bird song, are just a few of the things that always draw me back from the point of no return.

And of course most importantly, Mary and Marcel are still there. Mary is always there. She never had a family herself, and if she ever had any thoughts of moving on, she gave them up after the death of my parents. She loves us like her own children, and if it weren’t for her kindness and gentleness, the world would have been a much harder place to inhabit.

Marcel is an enigma. My parents told him very little about his family background other than that his mother was English and an old friend of my fathers. She had fallen in love with and married a wealthy and powerful Algerian businessman. For reasons that she refused to relate to my father, probably in the hope of protecting Marcel, she began to fear for her life and the life of her son. Her family, disapproving of the marriage she had made, had disowned her, so she begged my father to come and take Marcel to safety.

Tall, well built, but lean with thick glossy black hair that hangs round his ears, intense, soulful brown eyes, and flawless olive skin, Marcel never fails to make men and women alike turn as he walks down the street. He is blissfully unaware of this and it causes him to flush if I make a joke of it. He is exceptionally intelligent and well read, and although he is quiet, he is at ease with himself in a way that positively affects people around him.

It was my mother that ignited the flame in Marcel for nomadic peoples, and he honed this passion at Oxford where he studied archaeology and anthropology. He has just returned from spending six months living with Mongolian nomads, and apart from when he goes to Portsmouth to practice mixed marshal arts, he is holed up at Goldington working on his new book. He allows me to distract him from time to time, but I can be quite insistent! I missed him terribly while he was away.

People say that I am the spitting image of my mother. I can see it in that I am quite tall and slim like her and we both have the same long dark blond hair, full lips and ski-slope nose. I like to think I can identify with the look of quiet determination that she seems to be involuntarily exhibiting in most photos.

Large green eyes though are definitely a legacy from my father, and along with these, he gave me a love of art. When we travelled, I would spend hours sketching alongside him and he would gently advise me on how to bring out the life of the subjects. It was from this that I developed a lifelong fascination with the human body, but I felt driven to express myself in a more tangible format than paint. I’ll never forget being given my first lump of clay and experiencing the sensation that flesh was moulding to the will of my hands.

Now I have a studio at Goldington in the form of a designed for purpose barn conversion with expansive white walls and a glass roof. The light is divine and the space is sacred to me. I often spend days absorbed in my work, only seeing Mary late at night when I come in for bed, usually at her request.

Sometimes people sit for me, but mostly I sculpt from memory; visual, sensual and tactile, and much of my inspiration comes from sexual experience, which I believe to be an art form in itself. Whether I am travelling abroad, staying at our Belgravia house, (I do love London), or entertaining at Goldington, opportunities to express myself in this way often seem to present themselves……