Born on June 6th, 1910 in North Cerney near Cirencester, Gloucestershire
. Her family was dedicated to the Crown, and the profession of arms, and her grandfather was an eminent botanist belonging to the first scientific expedition to Tibet.
At the age of ten she became an orphan, after the disappearance of her father Sir Frederic Carrington in 1913, and her mother Susanna, in 1920. Also a General, her father had participated in African campaigns, which would result in the creation of the British Colony of Rhodesia.
In accordance with her mother’s testamentary wishes, she was sent to a girls boarding school, which also enabled her to free herself from the demanding tutelage of her uncles and aunts.
In 1928, she was admitted to the University of Oxford (Lady Margaret Hall), and out of the three hundred candidates, thirty were received – she ranked seventh, with ‘highly commended’. She chose a literary pathway, but in 1931 renounced preparing a doctorate on the English novel in the XVI century – this is the beginning of what she would call ‘the romantic part of her life’.
She marries a penniless Austrian aristocrat, and will decide to live in Paris, Vienna, Hungary and even Southern Rhodesia. The marriage will not resist the rise of the Hitlerian peril and the Anschluss. She divorces, and returns to London.
The family heritage having literally melted away, she must now work – she becomes a journalist and art critic, with chronicles on social life in general.
During the war, ‘she does her duty’, performs secretarial duties in various services, and becomes a volunteer nurse.
In 1942, she marries an already well-known artist, the baronet Francis Rose – who had worked with Picabia and Fernand Léger in their studio in Antibes, and who in 1929, also drew the decorations and costumes for the Russian ballets of Diaghilev, exhibited in 1930 in Paris with Salvador Dali, in the Marie Cuttoli Gallery.
Her first literary work would be published in 1947: The Traveler’s Eye (under her maiden name). This was a look at stories of British travellers throughout the centuries and continents. It was then, that yet another change in the course of destiny would take place.
It was through a friend, Jean Césari ex-combatant of free France, that Sir Francis and Lady Rose discovered Corsica – during four successive voyages, from 1948 – 1954. Literally captivated, Dorothy decides to settle down permanently in Ajaccio, and through mutual agreement, the couple accept a separation without breaking-up completely. Sir Francis needed a very different social environment from that which Dorothy Carrington had now proposed to explore. They continued to write and see each other until his death, in 1979.
The beginnings of the Corsican adventure are not easy. Dorothy Carrington makes a living as she can – writing articles for local and international press, and becoming a simultaneous translator for congresses in Ajaccio and Bastia, along with being a tourist guide for foreign visitors. “All this,” she confided to her old friend Georges Coanet, “allowed me to live, not sumptuously but, freely”.
During continuous hiking, Dorothy Carrington physically discovers Corsica. She familiarises herself with traditional life, and refines her conceptual tools through her innumerable conversations with shepherds, farmers and fishermen.
She acquires a solid knowledge of the history of Corsica, thanks to the ties she establishes with the historians, archivists and scholars of the island, and also through the academics from the continent. They played a significant role in the development of the methodological and scientific approach, based on rigorous analysis of documents and archives. Here, we must evoke the deep friendship uniting Albert Soboul and herself. The work of Dorothy Carrington developed simultaneously in three different but, complementary directions.
Very early, she found herself attracted by the archeology, art and ethnology of the island, and until the very end of her life, she was never indifferent.
Pioneer of Corsican archeology, she relates in Granite Island her discovery of Filitosa in 1948, which was almost unknown at that time.
With Geneviève Moracchini in 1959, she co-writes a book on the Forgotten Treasures of the Corsican Churches, with valuable notes on paintings, frescoes, sculptures and furniture belonging to these old churches.
And, it was in 1971 her major book Granite Island was published.
No journey has been more atypical than that of this British aristocrat, who became a Corsican historian at the age of forty, and who would meet her friends in the summer, (fleeing the Ajaccian heat wave), in the mountain villages of Vizzavona, Ocana and especially Soccia, at the U Paese Hotel.
She passed away on Friday, January 25th, 2002 at her home in Ajaccio, and now resides in the Sanguinaires Marine Cemetery.
Lady Rose would say: “Corsican culture does not mean Corsican ethnicity, it is a mingling of ethnicities that has contributed to the culture of the island – which has always been a crossroads, and a place of welcome“
Source: Emile Ducoudray via Augustin Chiodetti
Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London