Despite her fierce intelligence and strong convictions, Catherine Tennant had a fiery and tender nature. It made her supremely lovable: her heart was as big as her brain. She was kind to the lover and able to coax a smile from the most tearful visitor.
Laughter was never far away. In her latest illness, while discussing a minor difficulty, a visitor casually remarked: “Well, worse things happen at sea.” After a dramatic pause, Catherine said: “THINK how horrible it must be at sea.”
Daughter of the second Lord Glenconner and wife of a baronet, Catherine Tennant was far too unconventional for snobbery. Nevertheless, his aristocratic double nickname sometimes gave pleasure. While meeting with film producers at the Groucho Club in Soho to present them with an idea, one of the executives asked her if she had a title. “Yeah, I actually have two,” she told him.
Catherine Elizabeth Tennant was born on November 10, 1947 and grew up between Glen, Glenconner’s headquarters on the Scottish borders, and her parents’ London home at Swan Walk, overlooking the Chelsea Physic Garden. She read English literature at University College London before finding a job with Vogue.
After marrying Sir Mark Palmer on Midsummer’s Day 1976, the couple set off for Gloucestershire; occasional passages in painted trailers followed. Her children were baptized in the Windrush River, descending to the sunny prairies on horseback and cart.
The Palmers lived first in Sherborne, and later in Coln St Dennis, overlooking the valley in which she said the Romans had built sanctuaries dedicated to Orpheus. She wrote a book, Beauty for Free, on creating face creams and ointments from hedge plants, and immersed herself in Jungian psychology, a system she later refuted.
Her growing interest in the stars led her to publish two books, A Box of Stars and The Lost Zodiac. But she still had a hint of skepticism about her job: “Take it with a pinch of salt,” she said; when she first contributed to The Telegraph in 1995, one profile noted her “slightly upbeat reads and positive advice.”
Catherine Tennant’s short stories and occasional paintings revealed great talent, but her seeking spirit and love of company were best served by the evanescent medium of conversation. Sometimes, late at night, she would start singing; his voice was made to sing the blues, hoarse and soulful. Send me the pillow you dream of and Love is Like a Cigarette were the favorites.
She is survived by her husband and their children.
Catherine Tennant, born November 10, 1947, died June 4, 2021