Aristocrat, former hotelier and son of Highland laird

Born: November 26, 1951;

Died: February 5, 2018.

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PETER Locke King, who has died of lung cancer aged 66, was the 5th and presumed last Earl of Lovelace, the historic title of an aristocratic English family who fell in love with Scotland and created their family seat in the Highlands in the late 19th century.

Peter King sat as a peer in the House of Lords but, since he had no sons, that seat will now be empty and his earldom and two other historic titles are also expected to become extinct. The family's estate around Loch Torridon in Ross-shire had been handed over to the National Trust for Scotland in the 1960s in lieu of huge 1964 death duties for his father, the colourful 4th Earl, Peter Malcolm Locke King. The heart of the estate, including the stunning Torridon House, has been back in private hands since 2015 while the rest remains National Trust property.

The Locke King family and Earls of Lovelace were descended from both the poet Lord Byron and the great 17th century Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, "the Father of Liberalism."

Although he was considerably lower-key than his father, Peter the 5th Earl hit the headlines in Scotland when, in 1980, he married Kirsteen Kennedy, daughter of the well-known Gaelic singer and popular TV music presenter Calum Kennedy. They divorced in 1989 and the Earl married, in 1994, the Australian Kathleen (Kathie) Smolders from Melbourne, who became Countess of Lovelace.

As well as the earldom, his other two historic titles - 12th Lord King and Baron of Ockham in the County of Surrey (first bestowed on his ancestor Peter King by King George 1 in 1725) and 5th Viscount Ockham of Ockham - also now become extinct.

Peter Axel William Locke King was born on November 26, 1951, to Peter Malcolm King, 4th Earl of Lovelace, from a family originally from Exeter and Surrey, and his Danish wife Lis Manon Transö (formerly Baroness von Blixen-Finecke).

The 4th Earl had been known before the Second World War as a big game hunter in East Africa. His hunting estates were visited by aristocracy and celebrities including Baroness von Blixen-Finecke, whom the 4th Earl would later marry and have their son Peter Axel, the future 5th Earl. She was related through marriage to another former Baroness von Blixen-Finecke, who, under the simple name Karen Blixen, wrote the book Out of Africa which became a multi-Oscar-winning film starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

When in 1950 the 4th Earl married Lis Manon Transö, by then no longer a Baroness, he inherited four stepchildren from her previous marriage, and the couple had their own son, Peter Axel William, the following year. The boy was brought up mostly in Sweden and on the stunning Ben Damph estate in Scotland, where he is believed to have been born. Now in private hands, it is a magnet for hikers, climbers and landscape-loving tourists from all over the world. Ben Damph (or Beinn Damh) had been purchased by the Lovelace family in the late 19th century, turning it, rather than Surrey, into their family seat.

In the late 1950s, the 4th Earl, angered by a new public road close to his home, moved from Ben Damph across the loch to the Torridon estate, land once owned by the Lord of the Isles and including one of the best deer forests in the west Highlands.

Young Peter therefore had it all as a child, brought up in Torridon, Sweden, Denmark, the south of France and the Canary Islands. He was 13 in 1964 when, on the death of his father, he took on the title of 5th Earl of Lovelace. He is not believed to have gone to any formal schools but was taught and largely brought up by a personal male governor said to have been a close relative of the author Graham Greene.

A spell in London in the Swinging Sixties opened his eyes to another world. He went into the nightclub business in London, returning to Scotland to open '60s-style boutiques in Inverness. Out of nostalgia, in the late '70s, he bought back the Torridon hotel, which his father had once owned, but sold it gain after his mother died in 1990.

He returned to London to take his seat in the House of Lords, although records show he made only one speech there. He got involved in the London property boom but always returned to what he considered a huge part of his roots around Torridon. He and his wife Kathleen (Kathie), Countess of Lovelace, lived in the 17-bedroom Torridon House until a few years ago, when they moved to Inverness.

Felix von Bracknitz, a German, and his Scottish wife Sarah now run the Victorian-era house as an upmarket B&B amid stunning scenery beneath the ridges of Liathach and Beinn Alligin. The house's furniture, paintings and other works of art owned by the Lovelace family were auctioned off in 2015, fetching more than £800 million in total.

Friends of the 5th Earl of Lovelace said he had lived a difficult life, having been born "with a silver spoon in his mouth" but seeing the family wealth disappear during his father's divorce and as a result of crippling death duties.

"He was a nice guy but faced with an extraordinary legacy," said one friend in the Torridon area who preferred not to be named. "He became influenced by predatory people and his judgement was not always good, perhaps as a result of his protected childhood and lack of normal schools experience. His mother, Lis Manon, was known for her parties at Torridon House, where she enjoyed a large Scotch and a cigar. Peter himself became a heavy smoker and became somewhat reclusive in recent years."

The 5th Earl of Lovelace died at his home in Inverness. He is survived by his wife Kathleen.

PHIL DAVISON