"For the last 30 years I have been the most low-profile Duke in the land. I'll bet you that 95 per cent of those living in Fife have no idea that a Duke of Fife exists!"
Nor, I confess, did I until one morning in 2006 I picked up my phone and heard a kindly voice say, "I am the Duke of Fife and I would like to give you a present." Somewhat astonished, I was overcome by curiosity. "That's very nice of you. What kind of present?" He replied, "A squadron of your regiment, the Royal Scots Greys." A week later, there arrived at the National Trust House of the Binns, where I live, an exquisite set of cavalry figurines – commanding officer, drum major, trumpeters and all – which give great pleasure to National Trust visitors.
As I wanted to ensure the correct formation of the Regiment on display, and to thank him, I invited the Duke to a party to meet former officers, warrant officers and sergeants of the Scots Greys. Colonel Aidan Sprot, former commanding officer of the Greys, brought his sister Celia, Viscountess Whitelaw – wife of Willie – to represent the Scots Guards, with whom the Duke of Fife had served as a Guardsman in 1948-50 during the Malayan Emergency: "Serving in the ranks gave me an unusual perspective on military history for a Duke!" he whispered to me.
If he was low-profile for the last decades of his life, it had not always been thus. As Lord Carnegie and the Earl of Southesk, this great-grandson of Edward VII – the others are his friend and third cousin, the King of Norway, along with the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent – entranced the tabloids: marriage to the Dewar whisky heiress Caroline, a glamorous beauty once linked to the then Prince Juan Carlos of Spain; a honeymoon on a French nudist island; rumours of a romance with Prince Margaret; a long-standing romance with the British skiing champion Divina Galica, and other amorous adventures, were a gift to the tabloids.
But as his butler – an ex-professional stand-up comedian, who accompanied him at all times in his later years, and was the most skilful carver of a joint I ever saw – told me, "You know, he wasn't just a playboy. He drove a Ford Zephyr 6, with three-cylinder carburettors, and took part in the Monte Carlo rally as a member of the Ford works team." To drive for Ford in those days was quite something. In his later years, living at Kinnaird Castle, Angus, the Duke was a respected estate owner and a highly regarded breeder of Aberdeen Angus.
James George Alexander Bannerman Carnegie, Lord Carnegie of Kinnaird and Leuchars, Earl of Southesk, Lord Balinhard, Earl of Macduff and third Duke of Fife, landowner: born 23 September 1929; married 1956 Caroline Dewar (divorced 1966; one daughter, one son); died Kinnaird Castle 22 June 2015.Reuse content