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Judith de Márffy-Mantuano was born on the family estate at Kapasvár, Hungary, on July 12 1903, the daughter of Raoul de Márffy-Mantuano. In 1926, Judith de Márffy-Mantuano secured a scholarship at the London School of Economics, where she read economic history. It was while at the LSE that she met Billy Hare (1906-97), the future 5th Earl of Listowel, whom she married in 1933 and divorced in 1945.
Lady Listowel was an author and journalist who had a long-standing interest in African affairs. Visits to a relation in Rhodesia are said to have sparked that interest and her travels led to The Making of Tanganyika (1965) and The Other Livingstone (1974).