Lavinia Hankinson, courtier’s daughter and opera singer briefly married to Gavin Maxwell – obituary


During these years Lavinia was a professional singer based in London, taking part in operas, recitals and other events. In her childhood her father had whistled melodies to her, and she trained as a singer, studying both in London (a formative teacher was Helene Isepp) and, in the early 1950s, in Munich.

Her roles on stage ranged from Violetta in La Traviata and the title role in Puccini’s one-act opera Suor Angelica, to a summer season of music hall in Newquay.

Making good use of her networking skills, she formed an occasional touring group, the Peregrine Players, and with musical colleagues such as the pianist Robert Sutherland and the clarinettist Colin Bradbury she gave concerts at stately homes and music clubs.

Other notable performances included a solo recital at Wigmore Hall with Anthony Saunders at the piano in 1971, and in December 1956 a charity performance before the Princess Royal with Robin Harrison and Martin Isepp at Victoria League House.

Four years after acquiring her Devon cottage, she met Commander David Hankinson at a party for a performance of the ballet, Romeo and Juliet, with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing. He was recently divorced. They married in 1969 and in the 1970s they built, with their own hands, a house on the Isle of Harris.

Hankinson had served in the Royal Navy for 25 years, but Lavinia encouraged him to become a professional portrait painter. He became a trendy figure, letting his hair grow and dressing from Carnaby Street. He undertook numerous commissions and exhibited in London and Plymouth, his sitters including the Princess of Wales (in 1992) and Sir Edward Heath.

His portrait work extended abroad and he and Lavinia often spent three-month working holidays in Vienna. David Hankinson died in 2011.


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