Socialite Elizabeth Harris Aitken has died aged 85

Socialite Elizabeth Harris Aitken, who was married four times including to Tory cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken, his cousin Peter and acting legends Richard Harris and Sir Rex Harrison, has died aged 85

  • Elizabeth Aitken Harris, nee Rees-Williams, passed away at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital at 11.10pm on Good Friday after a long illness, her son said
  • She was the daughter of the first Baron Ogmore, a Labour Cabinet minister in the 1945-51 Attlee Government, was married to former minister Jonathan Aitken
  • Also married to Jonathan’s cousin Peter Aitken, and  Oscar winner Rex Harrison 
  • Her first husband was acting legend Richard Harris, who she had three kids with

A socialite who was married four times including to a former Conservative Cabinet minister, his cousin, and two acting legends has died aged 85.

Elizabeth Aitken Harris, nee Rees-Williams, passed away at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital at 11.10pm on Good Friday after a long illness, her son Jared Harris has revealed. 

The daughter of the first Baron Ogmore, a Labour Cabinet minister in the 1945-51 Attlee Government, was married to former Tory minister Jonathan Aitken, his cousin Peter Aitken, Irish acting legend Richard Harris and Oscar-winner Sir Rex Harrison. 

While she was best known for her many marriages, she ran a highly successful PR firm and often graced the society pages.

Elizabeth Harris Aitken (pictured) passed away at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital at 11.10pm on Good Friday after a long illness aged 85

The socialite was married four times. First to Irish acting legend Richard Harris. The pair are pictured here on their wedding day in 1957

She married her first husband Richard– best known for playing King Arthur in Camelot and Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films – in 1957, aged just 22. 

Their wedding reception was at the House of Lords and they lived in a one-bedroom flat in Paddington. She had studied at RADA, where she met many future stars, including Peter O’Toole, Alan Bates and Albert Finney.

Before this, she attended convent school in Switzerland she was one of the last debutantes to be presented to the Queen at Court in 1954. 

With Richard she had three sons Damian, Jared and Jamie, who followed in their fathers footsteps to work in Hollywood as actors and directors.

Elizabeth proposed to Richard – something considered very progressive at the time  – and they were married 11 years, but Richard’s wild lifestyle and constant travelling due to work led to infidelity and eventually a divorce in 1969.   

The actor died aged 72 in 2002 after suffering from Hodgkin’s disease. 

In 1971, she remarried another actor – Sir Rex Harrison – who won an Oscar for his eponymous role in Doctor Dolittle and was himself married six times.

Her son Jared, who is known for his role in Mad Men and Chernobyl, later described meals at the dinner table with his step-father, who died in 1990, as ‘excruciating’. 

In 1971, she remarried another actor – Sir Rex Harrison (pictured) – who won an Oscar for his eponymous role in Doctor Dolittle and was himself married six times

Here Elizabeth and Rex are pictured at Heathrow airport awaiting a flight to Nice with her son Jamie Harris in 1972

Elizabeth is pictured here with her third husband stockbroker Peter Aitken who she married in the 1980s

Her memoir Love, Honour And Dismay published in 1976, when she 40.  She cheekily dedicated the book ‘to RH’, the initials shared by both of her movie-star husbands.

Her second marriage also didn’t last, and in the 1980s she married stockbroker Peter Aitken, the cousin of cabinet minister Jonathan, with whom she had a steamy affair with in the 1980s.

After the the five-year unsuccessful marriage she went on to marry her third husband’s cousin – Jonathan Aitken after a chance encounter in 2001, after just nine months of romance.

The former Tory Cabinet Minister, who was famously jailed for 18 months after being convicted of perjury in 1999, proposed with a diamond and aquamarine ring to over dinner in 2002.

They had met years prior when Elizabeth was single again after her 1975 divorce from Rex Harrison.

In those days, Jonathan was a devastatingly handsome politician with a wandering eye, a ruthless streak and ambitions to be prime minister.

After five unsuccessful years of marriage to Peter, Elizabeth had a steamy affair with his cousin former Tory Cabinet Minister, Jonathan Aitken, whom she is pictured with here 

Elizabeth picture at The Royal Court Ball in London, in 1984. Her memoir Love, Honour And Dismay published in 1976, when she 40

They lived together for two years, but she knew that in the end he’d break her heart. He was too driven, too vain and too selfish. ‘I had three children, two divorces behind me, and I was older than Jonathan. I wasn’t exactly ideal wife material for an up-and-coming young politician. I knew we hadn’t a future, so I got out,’ she previously said. 

He married Lolicia Azucki and they had two daughters and a son. He later discovered that he had a third daughter, Petrina, by his affair with Soraya Khashoggi.

Jonathan became a glittering political star but in the late Nineties scandal brought him down. In 1999 he was made bankrupt and sent to prison for 18 months for perjury over an unpaid bill at the Ritz in Paris.

He was released in 2000 and went to Oxford for two years to study theology.

Elizabeth and Jonathan Aitken pictured in 2003 at The New Saatchi Gallery Opening Night party in London

After the the five-year unsuccessful marriage she went on to marry her third husband’s cousin – Jonathan Aitken after a chance encounter in 2001, after just nine months of romance. They are pictured together in 2003

Meanwhile Elizabeth had also been through traumatic times. She went to live in America and married Jonathan’s cousin, Peter Aitken, on the rebound. Four years later, they had an acrimonious divorce.

During this time, she lost almost all her money in badly advised investments. She returned to London knowing that she had to get a job.

Ultimately, she began her own successful PR company. 

On the morning of the wedding, Elizabeth had lunch at the Ritz with her three sons, where they gave her a pearl necklace before walking her down the aisle.

‘It was so important to me that all our children felt part of the wedding and that nobody was losing anybody. The family was getting bigger. Nobody was going out; everybody was coming in,’ she told the Daily Mail in 2002. 

The couple spent two nights at the Ritz on their honeymoon before flying off to Paradise Island, Nassau, and the house where Richard Harris lived for 30 years. Elizabeth and her sons invariably spent Christmas there, and in his will Richard left the house to the four of them. They are pictured in 2003

Welsh socialite Elizabeth is pictured in 1972  – while harried to Rex Harrison – with her two dogs

The wedding invitations were written from their couple’s six combined children –  Alexandra, Damian, Jamie, Jared, Petrina, Victoria and William,’ said the engraved card, ‘invite you to the marriage of Elizabeth Harris and Jonathan Aitken.

The reception was held at Carlton House Terrace and the guests included an eclectic mix of ex-lovers of both bride and groom. Jonathan’s three most famous mistresses, Soraya Khashoggi, Carol Thatcher and Lady Antonia Fraser, were all invited but only Antonia accepted. However, many eminent politicians were there, including Michael Howard, Norman Tebbit, Malcolm Rifkind and Nicholas Soames.

There were also a few ex-cons who’d done time with the bridegroom in Belmarsh Prison.

 They spent two nights at the Ritz before flying off to Paradise Island, Nassau, and the house where Richard Harris lived for 30 years. Elizabeth and her sons invariably spent Christmas there, and in his will Richard left the house to the four of them.

While in prison, Jonathan became a born again Christian and after leaving studied theology at Oxford for two years, during which time he rekindled his romance with Elizabeth.  

While in prison, Jonathan became a born again Christian and after leaving studied theology at Oxford for two years, during which time he rekindled his romance with Elizabeth. The couple are pictured at Emilia Fox’s wedding in 2005

Mr Aitken, now a prison chaplain, lead the Easter Sunday service at HMP Pentonville in accordance with his late wife’s wishes. The couple are pictured together in 2003

‘I’d committed myself to not having any new relationships. I wasn’t ready for one.

‘Also, I was at Wycliffe Theology College in Oxford, which was full of very keen future Anglican vicars and monks training for the Ministry.

‘Having a girlfriend wouldn’t exactly have been frowned upon, but it wouldn’t have fitted my mood,’ he previously said. 

Writing on social media about his mother’s passing this weekend, son Jared wrote: ‘She woke up singing, she went quietly in the night, we should all be so lucky for the life lived in between, for the life nurtured, for the families championed, for us it was you, always you, you were always there for us.’

Mr Aitken, now a prison chaplain, lead the Easter Sunday service at HMP Pentonville in accordance with his late wife’s wishes.

Her funeral will be held on a date to be announced at St Matthew’s, Westminster.  

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