Countess Longford, the widow of the renowned Catholic social reformer and peer Lord Longford, died today at the age of 96. Lady Elizabeth Longford was a distinguished biographer. She had eight children, several of whom are also established writers. Her death was announced by her daughter, Lady Antonia Fraser, who said she had died 'peacefully at home' in East Sussex. She said: "She was a well respected lady and tremendous person, and I am now having to break the news to her very large family, who she always made feel so special." Elizabeth Longford was in her fifties before she published her first historical work. But she soon won an award for her biography of Queen Victoria and followed it up with the lives of the Queen Mother and the Queen, along with books on Churchill and Byron. One of her most respected biographies, is that of an ancestor, Wellington. Lady Longford's parents were both doctors. She studied at Oxford University in the 1920s, where she became a close friend of Hugh Gaitskell, later leader of the Labour Party. While she was there, Lady Longford also met her future husband, Frank Pakenham. She acted boldly when she saw "this handsome man... a cherub" asleep at a ball. The couple were married in 1931 and came to share many beliefs. They both converted to Catholicism, and shared a staunch belief in socialist principles. Their marriage was famously harmonious, lasting half a century, until Lord Longford's death in August 2001, aged 95. In 1986, when she celebrated her 80th birthday, Lady Longford published a book of memoirs about her life and family, called The Pebbled Shore. Her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren say she never lost her energy, knowledge and wit.
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