She was the first posh-voiced girl on Top Of The Pops, who became more famous still as Mick Jagger’s girlfriend.
He was an impecunious old Etonian peer who tried and failed to rescue her from drugs.
They fell so madly in love that within three days of meeting at a country house party, Marianne Faithfull had all but abandoned Jagger, then the world’s most famous rock star, and announced that she intended to marry the ‘sensitive’ and ‘gentle’ Lord Rossmore, a bachelor who lived with his widowed mother.
Of all the mixed up couplings between the old upper classes and the new aristocracy of rock and pop music that erupted in the 1960s and 1970s, this extraordinary union between the hauntingly beautiful actress and singer — then at the peak of her glamour and fame — and the bookish, spiritual Anglo-Irish peer, who died last week aged 90, was one of the most mystifying of all.
She was the first posh-voiced girl on Top Of The Pops, who became more famous still as Mick Jagger’s girlfriend
To mark their engagement ‘Paddy’ Rossmore bizarrely gave her a bishop’s ring — an episcopal cross on one side and a chalice on the other — only for Marianne to lose it in a seedy Soho drugs den soon after.
When he took her home to meet his mother, the 79-year-old dowager Lady Rossmore — a fan of The Rolling Stones, incidentally — was enchanted.
‘Marianne is one of the loveliest girls I have ever seen,’ she said. ‘I’m delighted about their engagement.’
The betrothal made headlines around the world, provoking both shock and some amusement.
Marianne’s Top Ten hit, As Tears Go By — penned, of course, by Jagger and his bandmate Keith Richards — provided plenty of puns along the lines of ‘As Peers Go By…’.
At 39, Rossmore was 16 years Faithfull’s senior and could not have been more different from Jagger.
Tall and gentle, he was happiest in threadbare tweed jackets and Wellington boots pottering about his estate close to the Ulster border in County Monaghan.
Fellow aesthete, art dealer Christopher Gibbs, who was a friend of both Jagger and Rossmore, said of Paddy: ‘He is very perceptive and tender with people. He was Marianne’s cavalier. I don’t think she had ever met anyone so driven by compassion.’
Marianne’s Top Ten hit, As Tears Go By — penned, of course, by Jagger and his bandmate Keith Richards — provided plenty of puns along the lines of ‘As Peers Go By…’
Rossmore’s only nod to modernity was his career as a photographer, but unlike many of the young cameramen blazing a trail in London, he took portraits not of people but of country houses. Groovy he most certainly wasn’t.
He had also never been married. Whereas Marianne, aged only 23, had already been married once to art gallery director John Dunbar and had a son, Nicholas.
That was before she became Jagger’s live-in girlfriend, of course, and the chaos that resulted from their drug-taking lifestyle saw her making regular appearances on the front pages.
Not long before meeting Rossmore she had been rushed to hospital after a suspected drugs overdose in Australia, where she was due to appear with the Stones’ frontman in his film about the outlaw Ned Kelly.
Jagger, who luxuriated in his status as one of the world’s most desired men, entered unfamiliar territory when he learned that the party girl and on-off love of his life was being wooed by a former theology student who had presented Marianne with an illustrated volume of William Blake’s Songs Of Innocence And Of Experience.
At that point, Jagger’s most high-profile gift to Faithfull had — allegedly — been a Mars bar, which achieved notoriety after the couple were caught in flagrante delicto during a police raid.
It is hard to imagine who was more out of his depth, the Cambridge-educated Rossmore or Jagger — who had quit the London School Of Economics for a life of rock and roll.
Asked what Jagger thought of her relationship with Rossmore, Faithfull told reporters: ‘I really don’t care.’
But Jagger, it seems, certainly did care. He begged her to come back to him, phoning her up and writing her long letters.
One of them, in which he told her that she would ‘always be precious’ and pleaded with her to ‘please drop me a line or telephone’, was sold at auction in 2010 for almost $6,000.
He even turned up at the cottage near Newbury, Berkshire, which she shared with her mother, Eva, an Austrian countess, after photographs emerged of Marianne and Rossmore kissing tenderly.
At the time, Jagger insisted he had merely wanted to wish her well and that he was ‘delighted she wants to get married again’.
But retainers on the Rossmore estate have a different memory.
According to one local, whose son, Tommy Sloane, was Lord Rossmore’s carpenter, Jagger’s jealousy was such that he arrived unannounced at Rossmore Park one night and rammed his car into the ornate iron gates. Unfortunately for the lovelorn rock star, local folklore has it that the gates got the best of the encounter.
The couple (pictured above) spent just two weekends in Ireland and had a holiday in Ibiza, but most of the time they were apart because Faithfull needed to be near her dealer in London. When in Ireland she encountered difficulty getting the supplies she craved
Faithfull first met Rossmore at a weekend party she and Jagger had been invited to in the summer of 1970 at Glin Castle, the ancestral home of the Knights of Glin in County Limerick in the Irish Republic. These days it is the family home of Catherine FitzGerald, daughter of the 29th knight, who is married to the actor Dominic West.
In her memoirs, Marianne said she had been looking for ‘an honourable way out’ of her relationship with Jagger when she fell for Rossmore. ‘I used him but I figured he knew the score,’ she wrote. ‘He was so Anglo-Irish: long legs that curl up in that English aristocratic way. In short the sort of man my mother always wanted me to marry!
‘Under normal circumstances, my interest in Paddy would have been nothing more than a flirtation, but these were not normal circumstances and flirtation became infatuation.
‘I don’t know if I really loved him or merely saw a way out. Mick and I were still together but barely. And here was Paddy Rossmore, who seemed to be in love with me, though he didn’t know I had developed an horrendous barbiturate problem, substituting alcohol and barbs for heroin.
‘Poor Paddy got engaged to a zombie. For the entire year I was comatose on sleeping pills.’
Indeed, it was that drug dependency that was ultimately to destroy the nascent romance between the cigarette-smoking Marianne and the sensitive peer.
The couple spent just two weekends in Ireland and had a holiday in Ibiza, but most of the time they were apart because Faithfull needed to be near her dealer in London. When in Ireland she encountered difficulty getting the supplies she craved.
Henrietta Moraes, the model and muse to the artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, recalled: ‘They did a lot of driving round Ireland banging on chemists’ doors. Poor Paddy didn’t have a clue what it was all about — he didn’t know anything about smack.
But he was mad about her, so what could he do?’ And when he discovered the truth about her addiction, he did everything he could to help.
‘Paddy’s solution was perfectly practical: why don’t you see a doctor?,’ Marianne wrote.
‘So I went to see a specialist in Harley Street, a woman, who — without speaking, we never exchanged a word — would shoot me up with Valium. It was eight quid a pop, what a terrible rip off, and poor Paddy paid.’
In the end, their engagement did not lead to marriage. Having married at 18, Marianne resolved that once was enough.
Nor did she go back to Jagger and, within months, she descended into a drug-ravaged hell, living with derelicts and meth addicts on the streets of London, a state from which she didn’t emerge for several years.
Rossmore, on the other hand, channelled the insight into addiction he gained from the failed relationship into a lifetime mission to help recovering addicts.
Appalled that treatment for users centred around giving them more drugs in a bid to wean them off their dependency, he set up a volunteer-run therapeutic service in Dublin which is still running to this day.
He rarely talked about Faithfull and for a time continued to live on his estate. In the end, however, he was forced to sell the dower house and its contents to meet death duties after he succeeded his father.
One transaction, in particular, led to the unworldly Rossmore being publicly mocked when it emerged that he had sold an 18th century German marquetry table for just £205 — only for it to be sold on for £6,000.
He and his mother moved into the gamekeeper’s cottage but were forced to move when, at the height of the IRA hunger strikes in 1981, it was destroyed by terrorist firebombs.
In 1982 Rossmore finally married and moved to Sussex with his wife, a theatre designer called Valerie Tobin. They went on to have a son and daughter, who survive him, but the marriage ended in divorce.
However, Rossmore never forgot the beautiful rock chick with whom he enjoyed a short-lived love affair. Indeed ten years ago Faithfull was, poignantly, among the guests at his 80th birthday party in London.