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Lady Diana Cooper, “The Vital Spirit of a Vanished Age,” Dies

June 17, 1986

LONDON (AP) _ Lady Diana Cooper, whose stunning beauty and sparkling eccentricity inspired poetry, comedy and the affection of her country, is dead at 93.

Lady Diana, the Dowager Viscountess Norwich, died Monday at the London home where she had lived as a widow, her family announced. Her son, John Julius Norwich, said she had died ″simply of old age.″

Raised in a castle by a nobleman father and a mother who worked for Queen Victoria’s household, Lady Diana was celebrated by the poet and author Hilaire Belloc as the woman with ″a perfected face immutable.″ Designer Cecil Beaton likened her to Helen of Troy and Cleopatra, while novelist Evelyn Waugh immortalized her as the zany socialite Julia Stitch.

To the Times of London, in its obituary, she was ″the vital spirit of a vanished age.″

Lady Diana’s quintessentially English eccentricity endeared her to her country. She was apt to arrive at a friend’s house with a gaggle of ducks in tow or dodge traffic by driving along the sidewalk. This habit inspired the scene in Waugh’s novel ″Scoop″ in which Julia Stitch drives her car down the steps of a public toilet.

She was born Diana Olivia Winifred Maud Manners on Aug.29, 1892, and mesmerized London high society with her deep blue eyes, fragile features and flawless eggshell complexion.

She was friendly with the royal family, but in 1919, to her family’s annoyance, she married Duff Cooper, an obscure Foreign Office clerk. Cooper became a war hero, lord and accomplished diplomat. The marriage survived happily until his death in 1954.

She had a brief but spectacular stage and screen career in the 1920s, appearing in New York in a pageant called ″The Miracle.″

A private family funeral is to be held Saturday at Belvoir Castle, the family seat in central England where she grew up.

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