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Carrington, Dorothy Violet [married name Frederica Rose, Lady Rose] (1910–2002), historian and writer on Corsica, was born on 6 June 1910 at Perrott's Brook, North Cerney, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, the younger daughter of , a veteran of various southern African wars between 1877 and 1902, and his wife, Susan Margaret Elwes (1870/71–1921), daughter of the renowned naturalist . Her mother (who married Ernest Trepplin in 1915) exposed her to London culture and society and a Swiss governess who taught her to speak fluent French and German. Following her mother's death Dorothy Carrington was brought up by relatives in a large country house where, as part of the ‘county set’, she felt a certain isolation. Reading was a sanctuary. After attending Cheltenham Ladies' College she entered Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, in 1929 to read English. She was, though, disappointed with the teaching and, after her stepfather took her on a trip around Europe and North Africa, new possibilities opened up to her. She abandoned her studies in 1931 and eloped to Paris with an impoverished Austrian aristocrat, Franz Waldschutz (b. 1907/8), a technical engineer (and son of Otto von Waldschutz, a general in the Austrian army), whom she met in Majorca. His family had lost its Polish estates after the First World War. Forced by her relatives to marry, on 18 January 1933, they lived for a few years in the wilds of Southern Rhodesia. But the thrill wore off and, with the rise of German militarism (and finding she held a German passport), she returned to London and divorced Waldschutz. A second marriage, on 28 September 1939, to d' Arcy St Clair Sproul Bolton (b. 1891/2), a retired signal corps captain, and son of Ernest St Clair Bolton, writer, was ended by his death soon after.

Carrington had already begun to mix with artists and intellectuals in Paris and Vienna in the 1930s, but it was in London in 1942, when organizing an art exhibition, that she met the surrealist artist Sir Francis Cyril Rose, fourth baronet (1909–1979), of The Boughton, Bickley, Kent. He was the son of Sir Cyril Stanley Rose, third baronet. They married on 22 February 1943 (by which time she had adopted the name Frederica). She modelled his textile designs, was photographed by Cecil Beaton, and moved further into the international art set, meeting Picasso and Gertrude Stein. It was of Francis Rose that Stein famously said ‘Rose is a rose is a rose’. In 1947 Frederica published The Traveller's Eye, an anthology of English travel literature through the ages, with her commentary and illustrations by Rose. This and subsequent books were published under the name Dorothy Carrington.

In 1948 the Roses visited Corsica, still a ‘wild, intransigent land’ (D. Carrington, The Dream Hunters of Corsica, 1995, jacket), at the invitation of Jean Cesari, a young Corsican waiter whom they had met in London. They explored the island thoroughly, she being particularly impressed by the relatively unknown stone statues at Filitosa. Cesari introduced her to this prehistoric site, one of the most important in Europe. The Roses worked on another book together, but it was not published until 1995, as En Corse avec Francis Rose. With differing tastes, and his dissolute, self-destructive streak (he had already lost the large fortune he inherited), their marriage disintegrated. He was also homosexual. They separated, although not divorcing until 1966.

Carrington remained in Corsica, in a small flat purchased in 1953 in the Cours Napoléon in the old part of the capital, Ajaccio, devoting herself to a life of scholarly research: ‘My former role-playing ended, and my vocation began’ (The Guardian, 30 Jan 2002). She began to explore all aspects of the island's history, archaeology, and culture, and the myths entrenched in its pastoral society. In particular she brought to light the prehistoric remains on Corsica, and the text of the world's first written democratic constitution (1755) of Pascal Paoli. She lectured worldwide on this, including in Russia in 1970, and published a seminal paper in 1973. Regarding Corsican culture, ‘the fifties, a period of stagnation, had given me time to study it’ (D. Carrington, Granite Island, 1971, introduction), and she immersed herself fully. This led to the first guide in English to the island, This Corsica (1962), which was both ‘intimate and extensive’ (Geographical Journal, 129, 1963, 109), and a model of its kind.

Although often living on slender means, Carrington worked as a journalist, writing articles on numerous aspects of Corsica and its most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte, for academic journals in several countries, and as an interpreter and press correspondent, including reporting on the war in Algeria. In 1968 and 1970 she was assistant professor of social anthropology at Queen's College, City University of New York. A member of the International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions, she contributed in 1970 to a study of Paoli's constitution at the Thirteenth International Congress of Historic Sciences.

In 1971 Carrington's Granite Island: a Portrait of Corsica was published. Dedicated to Cesari, it received the Heinemann award and achieved classic status as an in-depth study of the evolution of an authentic insular culture. She ‘burrowed deep into its mystifying psyche … The genius of Carrington's thesis lies in making a cogent whole out of Corsica's disparate parts’ (Sunday Times, 4 Aug 2002). Napoleon and his Parents: on the Threshold of History (1988), for the writing of which Prince Napoleon had opened his private archives to her, won Carrington the literary prize of the Napoleonic Society of America. The Dream Hunters of Corsica (1995) recorded unique forms of historical occult practices, in particular the mazzeri, harbingers of death, and the signadori, guardians of life. Like Granite Island it was characterized by thorough research and understanding, laid out with clarity and elegance. Her final book, on the writings of Napoleon's father, Portrait de Charles Bonaparte d'après ses écrits de jeunesse et ses mémoires, was published posthumously in Corsica in 2002.

Carrington was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Royal Society of Literature, where she gave the Wedmore memorial lecture in 1984. In 1986 she was made a chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and the University of Corsica at Corte gave her an honorary doctorate in 1991. She was made an MBE the same year. In 1994 she was awarded by the région corse the prix spécial du jury du livre corse for the totality of her work on Corsica. She was also an honorary president of the Société d'Histoire Corse Méditerranée (A Bandera). She died in Ajaccio on 25 January 2002, and was buried in the mariners' cemetery, reopened for the occasion by the head of the Bonaparte family. She had no children.

Robert Sharp

Sources  

Living France, 83 (Dec 1998–Jan 1999), 48–9 · Daily Telegraph (29 Jan 2002) · The Independent (29 Jan 2002) · The Guardian (30 Jan 2002); (15 Feb 2002) · The Times (4 Feb 2002) · The Scotsman (7 Feb 2002) · WWW, 1897–1915, 1971–80 · Burke, Peerage · b. cert. · m. certs.

Archives  

 

FILM

 

BFINA, documentary footage


Likenesses  

M. Hain, oils, 1990×99, Museum of Corsica, Corte · R. Pomeroy, photograph, 1990×99, repro. in The Independent (29 Jan 2002) · M. Hain, collage, 2001, priv. coll. · obituary photographs

Wealth at death  

£14,762: probate, 29 Oct 2002, CGPLA Eng. & Wales