A WORCESTERSHIRE aristocrat whose family is thought to have inspired Evelyn Waugh's most famous work, Brideshead Revisited, has died at the age of 89.

Lady Dorothy Heber-Percy, formerly Lygon, was planning her 90th birthday when she died following a short illness.

She had recently been on a holiday to the Western Isles in Scotland.

Lady Dorothy's family seat was Madresfield Court near Malvern. Her niece, Lady Rosalind Morrison, said today that Lady Dorothy led a full life.

"She was a remarkable woman," said Lady Morrison.

"She had great spirit. She'd think nothing of driving from her home in Oxford to London for dinner, and then home again.

"She had a host of friends in every walk of life and interest and she'd make no concessions to her age.

"It was always a pleasure for me to have her stay here."

Lady Dorothy's father was the 7th Earl Beauchamp, who - after what were described as "acts unpardonable" - was obliged to leave the country and live on the Continent.

Brideshead Revisited, Waugh's 1945 novel about the Marchmain family, which was made into a successful television series in the early 1980s, owed much to the Lygons, although he told Lady Dorothy they were only partly the inspiration.

She always maintained the only similarity between Brideshead and Madresfield was the art nouveau chapel.

Lady Dorothy, known as "Coote", was born on February 22, 1912, the fourth daughter of the family.

One of her sisters, Lady Mary, a good friend of Waugh's, married Prince Vsevelode of Russia, becoming Princess Romanovsky Pavlovsky.

It is believed the Brideshead character of Sebastian Flyte was based on the sisters' second brother, the Hon Hugh Lygon, who died after fracturing his skull in a fall in Bavaria.

Lady Dorothy married late in life to Robert Heber-Percy, who was described as an English eccentric in the grand tradition.

Known as "the Mad Boy", he was devoted to books, paintings and the beautification of his estate in Berkshire.

During his life he built follies, acted as an extra in Hollywood, worked in a Lyons Corner House and owned an undertaker's business.

The couple split a year after they married in 1985.