Anthony Marreco

Junior Counsel at Nuremberg
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The Independent Online

Anthony Marreco was a barrister who served as Junior Counsel at the Nuremberg Trials. He went on to be Director of Governmental Structure, Control Commission for Germany, and a founding director of Amnesty International. He was also a famous ladies' man, and broke many hearts.

The only son of Geoffrey Freire Marreco of St Mawes, Cornwall, he was born in 1915. The Freire Marrecos descended from Bernardo José dos Santos in Portugal at the end of the 17th century, Anthony's great-grandfather becoming a naturalised British subject and director of the Stanhope and Tyne, and Durham Junction railways.

Educated at Westminster, Marreco went on to Rada, but was expelled for absconding to attend the Derby. He enjoyed a brief career as an actor and from 1940 to 1946 served as lieutenant-commander RNVR in the Fleet Air Arm, first on the staff of the C-in-C Home Fleet, and later on HMS Formidable in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific. Meanwhile he was called to the Bar in 1941.

In 1946 he was invited by Sir Hartley Shawcross to serve as Junior Counsel on the British Delegation, International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg. There he witnessed the trials of figures such as Rudolf Hess, who paced up and down, giving the impression of a madman, and Hermann Goering, whom Marreco considered "totally compelling". Marreco was present in November 1946 on the day the sentences were passed. In later life he thought the whole process more concerned with "hot-blooded vengeance".

As Chief Staff Officer to the Political Adviser to the British Military Government of Germany, and as British Member of the Directorate of International Affairs and Communications, Allied Control Authority, Berlin, from 1946 to 1949, he was concerned with the creation of new institutions for law and democracy in Germany.

Accounts of Marreco's life have ignored his great attraction to women. He had first married, in 1943, Lady Ursula Manners (now d'Abo), one of the most beautiful of Queen Elizabeth's Maids of Honour at the Coronation in 1937, the elder daughter of the ninth Duke of Rutland. They were divorced in 1948.

While in Berlin, he became the lover of Lali Horstmann, 66-year-old widow of Alfred (Freddy) Horstmann, who had died in a Russian concentration camp in 1947, having refused to leave Germany on account of his fabulous collection of art and porcelain. Lali later wrote a moving account of her search for him, Nothing for Tears (1953), which has been described as "one of the most remarkable personal documents to come out of Germany at the end of the war".

Then Marreco met Louise de Vilmorin. Running true to form (she had prised two husbands from Etti Wurmbrandt), the legendary French poet, writer and femme fatale succeeded in seducing Marreco away from Lali Horstmann - as a result of which Horstmann made an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

Duff Cooper, writing in his diary, was amused that Loel Guinness and Anthony Marreco, who had both been married to his wife's nieces, were now absorbed with two of his own lovers, Gloria Rubio (later Guinness), and de Vilmorin. Marreco remained de Vilmorin's lover through the late 1940s and into 1951.

Louise de Vilmorin invariably dubbed this Anglo-Saxon diplomat and dilettante as "le Maréchal de Marecco". This nickname she explained in a poem written to him while they lived at Sélestat, in Alsace, loaned to them as a love-nest by Paul-Louis Weiller, the millionaire industrialist:

J'ai bu l'eau de la mare écho

Où se mirait, pâle d'amour,

Le Maréchal de Marecco

En traversant le Luxembourg.

De Vilmorin was never wholly sure of Marreco's devotion. She suffered in Venice in July 1950 when he went in successful pursuit of the somewhat unstable Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, who fell madly in love with him and took an overdose when de Vilmorin removed him to Sélestat at the end of the holiday.

De Vilmorin's diaries are peppered with references to him. She was much taken by his style of dress - on one occasion a shirt with narrow blue and white stripes, a black silk tie with white spots, a black jacket and waistcoat, and spongebag trousers, black leather ankle boots. When he went out, he perched his bowler hat at a rakish angle, and carried a furled umbrella.

Above all she was impressed by Marreco's Adonis-like looks, impressed that he could return from a fashionable ball at six in the morning, neither drunk nor tired, but invigorated with life, talking of beautiful women, fortune, society and success. "Beauty likes to shine, to dazzle," wrote de Vilmorin, "and above all to be recognised!" She was deeply saddened when he left in the New Year of 1951 - conscious that she was 13 years his senior and that his career might place demands on him that would take him from her.

One of his concerns at this time was political. Marreco contested Wells in Somerset as a Liberal candidate in 1950 (obtaining 9,771 votes), and Goole in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1951 (obtaining 17,063 votes). He was never elected to Parliament.

De Vilmorin's fears were realised while she was staying with Paul-Louis Weiller at his villa, La Reine Jeanne, with Marreco in tow. She awoke one morning and found him gone. He had set off to Brazil in quest of Lali Horstmann, whose book had recently been published to great acclaim. They lived there as man and wife until she died in Sao Paolo in August 1954 in what de Vilmorin's biographer described as "somewhat mysterious circumstances".

Marreco inherited part of her substantial fortune, derived from her ownership of real estate in Berlin and her late husband's family interest in the Frankfurter General-Anzeiger. As a result of this Marreco bought Port Hall in Lifford, Co Donegal, built on the River Froyle for the Vaughan family by Michael Priestley in 1746, living there until the money ran out.

He was subsequently the lover of Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, whose private diaries were likewise filled with anxious questions as to his love and loyalty. She encouraged him to invest in Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and for some years in the 1950s he was a financial supporter of George Weidenfeld.

In later life, through Peter Benenson, the son of Flora Solomon (another of Weidenfeld's supporters), he became involved in the establishment of Amnesty International, serving as its Honorary Treasurer from 1968.

In 1955 he married Regina, daughter of Dr Roberto de Souza Coelho, of Rio de Janeiro. She divorced him in 1961. He then married Anne Wignall, daughter of Major Herbert Acland-Troyte. She had been married to the fifth Lord Ebury, Rennie Hoare, and Lt-Col Frederick Wignall, Life Guards, and was the biographer of Constance Markievicz - The Rebel Countess (1967). After she died in 1982, he eventually resumed life with his second wife, Gina, remarrying her in 2004.

Tony Marreco lived in London in his tiny flat in Shepherd's Market for half a century and in a cottage at Aldbourne, Wiltshire. He was a convivial host, a considerable raconteur and a familiar figure at the Beefsteak Club. There the late Alastair Forbes paid him a backhanded compliment. "Everything still working famously well - below the Plimsoll line?" he boomed across the club table.

James Parsons