Footing the bill

Jonathan Parry

  • Aspects of Aristocracy: Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain by David Cannadine
    Yale, 321 pp, £19.50, April 1994, ISBN 0 300 05981 7

The eighth Duke of Marlborough was ‘rude, erratic, profligate, irresponsible and lacking in self-control’, his son was ‘a paranoid and anti-semitic reactionary’. Randolph Churchill was ‘rude, spoiled, unstable, headstrong, irresponsible and argumentative’. Ivor Guest was ‘an incorrigible snob and social climber’; his son Freddie was ‘a snob, a playboy and a lightweight’. Winston Churchill was ‘a shameless cadger and incorrigible scrounger’ who ‘ate, drank, gambled and spent to excess’. F.E. Smith was ‘a drunk, a gambler and a spendthrift ... rude ... and ruthless’. The second Baron Sackville was ‘lonely, unmarried, taciturn, disappointed and embittered’; the fifth Baron was ‘self-centred, ineffectual, delicate, neurotic, lonely and melancholy’. Gerald Strickland was ‘too aggressive, too intemperate, too belligerent, too quarrelsome ... too ambitious, too intolerant, too vindictive’. Harold Nicolson’s brother died ‘a lonely, miserable, embittered failure’; Harold and his wife were ‘marginal people’; Lord Curzon’s political career was ‘an ultimate failure’.

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