Born in 1934 The Hon Lady Hastings (or Lizzie Anne as she was affectionately known) was one of the most popular and admired people I had been privileged to meet. The kindness and support she gave to people from all different walks of life will be remembered for very many years. She showed a great sense of care and wellbeing to all her staff at Milton as well as the other Family Estates, at Wentworth, Malton and Strines. The loyalty and high esteem that she was held in was plain to see.
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Lizzie Anne was a devout Roman and came to live at Milton soon after Lord Fitzwilliam’s death in 1980. It was with her husband Sir Stephen Hastings, previously Conservative MP for mid Bedfordshire that she was to take on the Mastership of the family pack. Although Lizzie Anne never hunted on a horse the Fitzwilliam Hounds were an integral part of the Estate and the surrounding area. Lizzie Anne never forgot the responsibilities that went with that position, particularly to the farmers and their families up and down the country. She had a particular fascination in the breeding of the Fitzwilliam Hounds and it was with sound advice from the Late Duke of Beaufort and Sir Peter Farquhar that she bred a pack ideally suited to the Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire ploughs. Indeed I was more than honoured when Lizzie Anne handed on this responsibility to me in the early 90’s .
During the next ten years we all gained a huge amount of pleasure from our Mastership, then suddenly in the early Summer of 1996 Lizzie Anne told me the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with the dreaded cancer. Despite putting up one hell of a fight, sadly it beat her in the March 1997. We had all had lost someone who we adored. Not long before she died she asked if I would go and see her early one evening. As always she was interested in the hounds and we talked about everything from how they had been hunting to what we were breeding from. Two hours flew by but fascinatingly one of Lizzie Anne’s main concerns was that we did not draw the West End, a good covert which is nearest the House, for the remainder of the season. There was no reason for it except that she felt the vixen who we all knew for being a bit smaller than most was due to have cubs somewhere nearby. She thought the old girl ought to be left quietly to get on with what all good vixens do in March and April.
Lizzie Anne died peacefully on Thursday 16th March 1997 and people from every walk of life imaginable turned up for her funeral a few days later. After the masses had departed for home, Sir Stephen asked me to go and have a drink with him. This I duly did and as I drove up to the west end of the House with the stable clock striking seven, there was our mutual friend sitting on the doorstep. As I picked her up in the car lights she slowly slipped off through the iron railings across the corner of the Park and back into the covert. On mentioning this to The Reverend William Burke who earlier that day had taken the Funeral Service, told me with absolute confidence “that is James, a sure sign that all is well”.
Nobody would have been more pleased than Lizzie Anne, when on the first morning the following season, from the meet at kennels, West End was as always drawn and held a very strong and healthy litter of cubs.
Sure enough Lizzie Anne had been right and the Vicar’s words rung true, “ All was well” and our greatest friend was now at peace.
And so old friend you have now slipped away
Past the dark covert – where the stream runs grey,
Through mud and mire, heavy plough no more shall you now toil as you toiled before.
Quick as a flash you heard the view holloa.
Answered the call and there old friend you go.
What’s that they say?
“I think she has gone to ground”
Ah no she is upward bound
Yonder she goes where the sun shines high
If we ride straight, perhaps you – too and I –
May cross the final steep – banked awful brook
To find the peace for which we look.
Good Bye for now, but this is not the end.
Just till we meet again, all is well old friend.