Elizabeth Pakenham, Countess of Longford

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Elizabeth Pakenham, Countess of Longford, CBE, better known as Elizabeth Longford (30 August 1906 – 23 October 2002) was a British author.



Born Elizabeth Harman and a daughter of eye specialist Nathaniel Bishop Harman, she was educated at the Francis Holland School, and later took her Master's degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. "Able, articulate and beautiful", in the words of The New York Times, she was "the Zuleika Dobson of her day, with undergraduates and even dons tumbling over one another to fall in love with her".[1] On 3 November 1931, she married Francis Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford, who died in August 2001. Her obituary by the BBC said the marriage was "famously harmonious." The New York Times, in its review of The Pebbled Shore, called Lady Longford "easily the best writer in what is predominantly a literary family".[1]

She and her husband were both devout Roman Catholic converts, Lady Longford having been raised a Unitarian, and avid social reformers. The Longfords had eight children, among them the writers Lady Antonia Fraser, Lady Rachel Billington, and Thomas Pakenham.

She lived to the age of 96, dying in October 2002, 14 months after her husband.[2]

Political career

A lifelong socialist, she made several attempts to win election to the House of Commons as a Labour MP but was unsuccessful,[3] unlike her niece Harriet Harman, a minister in both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's governments.


Her brother, John B. Harman, was a doctor and expert witness for the defence in the 1957 trial of suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams. He was also Harriet Harman's father.

Lady Longford was a great-niece of the Tory radical Joseph Chamberlain and a first cousin once removed of the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain.[1]

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