Husband Patrick Balfour, Partner Derek Jackson

Queer Places:
Chisholme House, Hawick TD9 7PH, UK

Angela Mary Culme-Seymour (August 3, 1912 - January 22, 2012) was a dazzling feature of smart society before and after the Second World War, changing husbands and lovers with bewildering regularity; they included, but were not limited to, Churchill's nephew, an English peer, a French count, an Army major and a professor of atomic physics who was married to her half-sister. At a party in 1935 at Richard Wyndham's house, the Tickerage (Wyndham was a soldier, writer, and photographer who was killed covering the Arab-Israeli was in 1948), the guests were Dwight Ripley and Jean Connolly, Patrick Balfour (later Lord Kinross), Constant Lambert (the composer), Angela Culme-Seymour (who was to marry Balfour), Tom Driberg (the columnist "William Hickey" at the Daily Express and later member of Parliament), Cyril Connolly, Stephen Spender, Tony Hyndman (Spender's boyfriend), Mamaine Paget (later the second wife of Arthur Koestler), John Rayner (also of the Daily Express), and Joan Eyres-Monsell (later Leigh-Fermor).

Angela Culme-Seymour was disarmingly frank in admitting that she preferred promiscuity to monogamy. Interviewed in her eighties, she said: "I've never been married long enough to know for how long monogamy is realistic. I imagine about seven years." But she never waited that long.

Her maternal grandmother, Trix Ruthven, was said to have been the model for Nancy Mitford's "Bolter" hence the title of Angela's memoir, Bolter's Grand-daughter (2001). When it came to skipping out on romantic attachments, however, she put her grandmother in the shade. Despite this apparently selfish lifestyle she continued to charm those who met her until the end of her life. Angela, her brother and her younger half-sister were to have 12 spouses between them — a restlessness reminiscent of their maternal grandmother, Beatrice Hore-Ruthven (sister of Lord Gowrie, VC), who set off in 1894 from London for Scotland with her two children and their nurse.

As the diarist James Lees-Milne noted, Angela Culme-Seymour had camellia-like skin, large glowing dark eyes and long bewitching lashes which gave her an air of complete innocence. But "commonplace codes of behaviour simply did not apply to her. Loyalty to one partner even at the start of a love affair appeared not to concern her.

"And yet she could not be accounted scheming, because her amours seldom brought her particular happiness and never material gain. She was like a ravishing cat with sheathed claws, a cat which happily settles on whatever cosy cushion presents itself."

Angela Mary Culme-Seymour was born in Farnham, Surrey, on August 3, 1912. Her father, Captain George Culme-Seymour of the Rifle Brigade, was killed at Ypres in 1915. At the end of the war her mother, Janet Beatrix Orr-Ewing, married his friend Geoffrey Woolley, VC, who took Holy Orders and went to Rugby school as assistant master, then to Harrow as chaplain. Angela enjoyed a liberal education at Bedales and Dartington Hall, both coeducational and the most progressive schools in the country.

Her introduction to affairs of the heart began at the age of 15, when she received a letter from her reverend stepfather announcing that he was in love with her. She then went to southern Spain where she became friendly with the writer and Hispanophile Gerald Brenan, who would sometimes take her hand and put it into his trouser pocket, and once crept into bed with her.

JJohnny Churchill, artist nephew of Winston Churchill, was her first husband. They married in Portofino in 1934, and a daughter was born the following year, after which they went briefly to stay with the future prime minister at Chartwell. They then took a house in Spain, near the Brenans, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. But Angela soon broke out of that marriage to pursue a French count, René de Chatellus, to Paris. She did not marry him for another 12 years, and in the meantime her life continued on its eclectic path.

In 1937 she took up with Patrick Balfour, a bisexual author and journalist, and they were soon married. Angela entered a more racy, intellectual world, giving weekly parties in London which were attended by, among others, Evelyn Waugh, Cyril Connolly, Tom Driberg and Robert Byron. Weekends might be spent with Nancy Mitford, or Maurice Bowra at Oxford.

And she was soon taking lovers again. "I can no longer remember when I started being unfaithful to Patrick," she wrote in her book. But it was before Balfour became Lord Kinross on the death of his father in 1939. The new Lady Kinross recalled travelling by the night train to Edinburgh to attend her father-in-law's funeral and sharing a sleeper with "a painter called David something".

She went to art school in Suffolk, where she met Lucian Freud, but did not become one of his many muses or lovers. Angela exhibited her work in London and would continue to paint for many years.

When war came, she had a brief affair with a man at the Italian embassy, until Italy entered the war against the Allies and he had to leave. She joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and when Kinross joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and was posted to Cairo, the marriage came to an end. After the war he wrote a novel, The Ruthless Innocent, inspired by her.

A meeting in 1940 with Major Robert Hewer-Hewitt of the Royal Army Service Corps led to a five-year relationship which Angela often found unsatisfactory. No marriage took place, but two sons were born and given her maiden name. Hewer-Hewitt lost most of their dwindling funds at the end of the war in a business venture, and bankruptcy followed. They were living in Devon and Angela kept them going for a while by making and selling plaster figures.

Having escaped with the two boys, she was contacted by the Comte de Chatellus, who urged her to go to Paris and marry him. This she did, but the revival of their youthful love affair was short-lived. Angela amused herself by painting, playing the guitar, going to the Crillon Bar to meet Sam White and other journalists, and writing a column on life in Paris for Woman's Own. She was reunited with her daughter for the first time in 10 years.

IIt was almost inevitable that this marriage would not last. What was surprising, indeed shocking to her friends, was that she ran off with the man who was married to her half-sister Janetta Kee.

Derek Jackson was a brilliant atomic physicist in the field of spectroscopy, who had been previously married to Augustus John's daughter Poppet and to Pamela Mitford, one of the Mitford sisters. He was initially attracted to Angela at the Travellers Club's summer ball in Paris, which they attended together at Janetta's suggestion because she was seven-months' pregnant.

Two months later, having taken Angela to Brittany, Jackson went to London (where his wife had just given birth), and told her he was leaving her for Angela. They lived together outside Paris, where their friends included another Mitford, Diana (then Diana Mosley). After three years, Jackson left her.

When writing her memoir years later, Angela was so ashamed of her behaviour with Jackson that she refers to the episode only in a short paragraph, omitting to mention either him or her half-sister. But she admits, with endearing and unvarnished honesty: "I was vache, ungrateful, promiscuous". On her return to London, Angela was shunned by many of her acquaintances, though not by her lifelong friend Anne Hill, wife of Heywood Hill (of the eponymous bookshop). She never saw Jackson again, and it was 27 years before she met again and was reconciled with Janetta.

Angela Culme-Seymour continued her peripatetic existence, spending two years in Australia and holidays in Greece, until she embarked on the most rewarding years of her life. These came when she met and, aged 65, married a Turkish aristocrat, Ali Bulent Rauf. They lived mostly in Turkey and together translated some of the writings of the 12th-century Andalusian spiritual teacher Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, which led Rauf to co-found the Beshara School of Esoteric Education, at Chisholme House, Hawick, in the Scottish borders.

The school, which promotes self-knowledge and "the realisation of love as the prime motive in existence", gave Angela some spiritual contentment. After Rauf's death in 1987, she became honorary life president of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society. In her nineties she went to live at Chisholme and was looked after there until she died.

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