A Girl’s Girl

Marie and Jane Wellesley

Marie and Jane Wellesley in Umbria, Italy, 2009.

I’d say I had three best girlfriends and Marie was one of them. We’ve known each other for years and years, she was a very special person. One of the things I keep saying to everyone, because of the way she died, is that you mustn’t think she was one of those dour foreign correspondents courting death. She loved life, she absolutely loved it. She was such a wonderful combination of combat fatigues and elegance. She used to get very cross with me because I said when I first met her she was wearing camouflage, and she absolutely denied this. Her dress sense was incredible. I bet Marie was wearing the most wonderful underwear when she died.

Marie was a really good cook, despite her wonderful figure. You’d go round for dinner and the food wouldn’t be served til 10 o’clock but it was always absolutely delicious. I remember sailing with her off the coast of Turkey and we pulled in somewhere to spend the night. We agreed to have pasta that night but we needed basil. Being Marie, she said “I’m going to find some basil,” and she set off into the hills. Richard, her boyfriend, and I settled down for a drink in a restaurant, and about half an hour later Marie appeared with two pots of unhealthy looking basil she’d discovered in some village. I said to her “this whole thing is completely ridiculous, because we are sitting at a table in a restaurant surrounded by hedges of basil.” We used to laugh and laugh about it.

Marie had gone off the way she would if she was pursuing a story. It was very Marie and very lovely. She was just an unbelievably fantastic person. The temperature rose when she walked into a room.

As her sister said to me today, she was “the friend of the friendless,” because Marie told the story of the people; she wasn’t someone who was particularly good at the big political oversight, she just wanted to get the words of the people, and that’s what she did wherever she went.

It’s a tragedy and she should have lived to an old age and told her stories for generations and generations.

- Jane Bonham Carter

Marie was quite simply my best friend, and I don’t say that lightly. She was the most important person in my world and we go back over 20 years.

The thing about Marie is that she could segue, and that’s what we did together all the time. One minute we’d be talking about something she felt passionate about at that time, whether it was Afghanistan or Gaza or years ago in East Timor — and, my God, she’d often call me from the compounds there. She’d tell me about these incredibly serious things, but we’d move between subjects in the way you only can with a really good friend.

She was also a very elegant woman and she loved good clothes, so she was great fun to go shopping with. I like cheap shops and she liked expensive ones. I’d show her that she could occasionally buy something cheap and it would work; and, on rare occasions, the other way round too. We went to Cuba together, we had our little adventures, but whether we were in Scotland, Spain, Grenada, Vietnam or some dingy whatever, it didn’t matter, because she was just the best possible company.

She was a very passionate person, about everything. Passionate about her work, passionate about her loyalties and friendships and allegiances. She was just extraordinary.

- Jane Wellesley

We met 25 years ago through a mutual friend, Jane Wellesley. It was such fun and such a privilege being Marie’s friend because she was at once the fearless, committed, globally distinguished war correspondent, and at the same time a total girl’s girl. She really cared about her friends. She was kind. She made time for us, she listened, she cheered us up and let us cheer her up. And she would always laugh — especially at herself.

Marie really liked people and all the detail and muddle of being human and I think that was part of why she did what she did. She risked her life again and again, and lost her life, to tell the truth and stick up for people. I will miss her terribly and am so proud of her.

- Helen Fielding