Lord Harewood died on Monday, our local link to royalty, resident of a stately pile just outside the City of Leeds, life president of Leeds Utd football club, enthusiastic and generous patron of the arts, music in particular but painted artwork also, he was 6th in line to the throne when he was born but 46th in line when he died – that’s how royalty works.
He has three sons by his first marriage, the eldest of whom becomes the 8th Earl of Harewood and presumably inherits what is left of the family property portfolio, that which hasn’t been transferred to corporate status, but also leaves four children from his second marriage one of whom was born out of wedlock and so would not be entitled to inherit the Earldom or count himself in lineage to the throne – such are the quirks of the British Royal Family inheritance rules and regulations.
Anyway, enough of the obituary, I bumped into Lord Harewood a few years ago, literally bumped into him, I couldn’t have been more surprised to see him attending with his wife at our local hairdressers then if I’d opened the door of a public toilet and found him sitting there reading the newspapers, here’s what happened…
FIRST PUBLISHED MARCH 14TH 2008
I bumped into royalty yesterday, proper real royalty, a cousin of The Queen no less.
There was I stood at the cash machine outside the bank, just round the corner from my office, minding my own business, when the door to the beauty salon next door opened and out stepped a bloke in full morning suit, dark grey pinstripe trousers, black tailcoat, cream waistcoat, white wing collar shirt and white bow tie.
He looked just like every Hollywood producer’s vision of an English butler.
Because thats what he was, a butler.
To those of a non-UK persuasion who may by now be muttering “so what, you all have butlers there don’t you ?”, the truth is that no, we don’t, its just the English people in films that have butlers, the rest of us are butlers in our own houses, we wait on our womenfolk night and day, cleaning, washing, preparing their clothes, cooking…
…oh I see, so its just like that in my, erm, her house is it ?
So anyway, I’m stood waiting for this other chap to finish with the cash machine and there, stood right next to me, not one foot away from me is this other bloke dressed up as a butler and he’s holding the door for someone inside the beauty salon and then he’s helping this old man, this very old man out of the beauty salon, said old man being very shaky on his legs and leaning very heavily on a stick on one side and his butler on the other.
And when the old man’s wife comes out of the salon she holds him up instead of the butler and the butler walks to the kerbside where their Daimler Jag is parked and he opens the door and while he’s doing that the old man is now stood right next to me and its then that I recognise him.
He’s old and stooped and doesn’t look too well to be honest and its a bit of a shock because the last time I saw him on TV he looked old but not stooped and quite fit and healthy but there’s no mistaking that shock of white hair worn over the ears and collar with an artistic gay abandon and the white but now very bushy goatee beard and despite being old and stooped he’s still well over six feet tall and still carries an air of something, aristocracy we’ll call it.
He glances at me and I smile at him and I’d like to say that he smiled back but he didn’t so he can fook off, I’m not paying my annual £30 to visit his house this year then, that’ll learn him.
The butler is holding the car door open and he shuffles painfully across the pavement and ever so slowly lowers himself into the car and I can’t stop staring at the scene even though the bloke in front of me has finished at the cash machine and I can’t quite put my finger on why us English are so in awe of our aristocrats, well we pretend that we arent but when one stands right next to you on the pavement you are, it must be something buried way, way on down in our thousand years worth of serfdom.
And despite the fact that he didn’t return my acknowledgement I’m still in admiration of the bloke, mainly because he is cool enough to have a Picasso sketch in one of the rooms in his house that is open to the public through the summer, its right next to the door and at chest height and easy reach of childrens sticky fingers and there’s no rope to stand behind, you can stand right in front of it and touch it and the coolest thing is that the guide who stands in that room answering questions is instructed to ask every child who enters which of the dozens of paintings in there is the most expensive and then watch their surprise as without fail, when told its the Picasso, they touch it with sticky fingers and exclaim “That one ?” and there’s always one who says that they could draw something better.
And the other cool thing about his art collection is the three paintings of his own stately pile done by a modern painter against a stormy dark sky and using gold leaf to fantastic visual effect, those three letterbox stylee paintings are gorgeous and if Harewood had spoken to me yesterday then I’d have asked him if I could have them when he snuffs it.
FIRST PUBLISHED MARCH 14TH 2008