Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Major Bruce Shand, father of the Duchess of Cornwall, who died at the weekend, was a man of great charm.

He had a very attractive combination of enough confidence to put you at your ease and enough diffidence not to seem arrogant. In old age he had a lovely, interesting, funny face - creased, like a more military, bucolic version of W.H. Auden.

Although he did not seem in the least bitter, it hurt him a great deal that the press persecuted his daughter - bringing grief also to his wife - for so long. But he stuck to the old principle, which he referred to as 'FHB' ('Family Hold Back'), and never said anything in public. If you have won medals and nearly been killed fighting for your country (Shand won the MC in France in 1940 and was wounded and captured in North Africa in 1942), it must give you a curious perspective on how people behave in times of peace. Many years after the war, Shand visited Spangenburg Castle, where he had been incarcerated in Germany. It had become a hotel, and Shand joined the guided tour of guests being shown round. There was much talk of great exploits in the Middle Ages, but no mention of the war. 'Look here, ' Shand called out from the back of the party, 'I was a prisoner here, you know.' I used to see him at the Sussex Club, an admirably pointless institution which drinks 'prosperity to the county of Sussex'. As we parted, he would grin and wave his stick and shout 'Vive la chasse!' He wrote to me last November wondering if I could send a copy of the Telegraph for Camilla's wedding to Prince Charles ('Sadly, I have mislaid what I squirreled away . . . '). It was the time of the opening meets after the hunting ban: 'An enormous display of fox-hunting on Saturday, ' wrote the former Master of the Southdown, 'which was immensely heartening.' When I sent him the newspapers, he wrote, 'I can die with a clear conscience, as regards family archives.' His conscience surely deserved to be clear on every count.

According to Barbara Leaming's new book, Jack Kennedy: The Making of a President (Weidenfeld), JFK's formative political experience was his association with young British aristocrats at the end of the 1930s. He came to admire Churchill, though originally an appeaser in his father's image, through the prism of their changed lives. An interesting sub-point, though, is psychological.

Jack was a member of what Andrew Devonshire, who was also a member, called the Second Sons' Club. A third member was David Ormsby-Gore, who, as Lord Harlech, was British ambassador in Washington when Kennedy was President. All three became the eldest son through the death of their brothers (in Devonshire's case, his elder brother was married to Kennedy's sister).

Has anyone ever done a study of the effect of second sons on the history of the world?

The Conservative party wants to get rid of its dreary torch, and seeks a new logo.

Wouldn't the boldest thing be to have no logo at all? Logos are so late-20th-century.

An interesting row is brewing in Spain.

The Valle de los Caidos there is the main monument to the dead of the Spanish Civil War. A church is hewn in the rock and a huge cross rises above it, dominating the landscape. Dead from both sides are buried in the valley, supposedly in roughly equal numbers. …

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