Filler by Proxy XXV: Who to turn to when you’ve run out of Mitfords

Thursday 17 November 2005

If anything’s better reading than the London Review of Books’ personals column, it’s the Telegraph’s obituaries. Lady Sibell Rowley has died, aged 98. Being England, the death notices tend to get clogged with a lot of ancestral ruins such as these, perhaps out of a sense of heritage more than of aristocratic fealty.
In this case, however, the passing of poor old Lady Rowley is treated as an occasion to trot out gossip about her family. She was a daughter of the 7th Earl Beauchamp, KG, “and thus a member of the family that inspired Evelyn Waugh to write his celebrated Roman Catholic novel Brideshead Revisited.”
It’s good enough that the Telegraph feels obliged to employ the epithet ‘Roman Catholic’ as an advisory to its less stout-hearted subscription base, but things get better still:

…the youngest daughter, Dorothy (Coote), endured an unfortunate late-life marriage to Robert Heber Percy, known as “Mad Boy”, the eccentric squire of Faringdon and former boyfriend of Lord Berners.

Actually, the whole article should be imagined as it would be read by Vivian Stanshall:
The daughters, aware of their father’s nocturnal prowlings, would sometimes advise their boyfriends to lock their bedroom doors. Lord Beauchamp once complained at breakfast: “He’s very nice that friend of yours, but he’s damned uncivil!” Unfortunately, the problems proved more serious, concerning incidents with footmen, and as a result of a campaign instigated by his brother-in-law, Bendor, Duke of Westminster, Lord Beauchamp was forced into exile in Europe. The Duke tried to explain the circumstances to his sister, Lady Beauchamp, who failed to grasp the essentials. “Bendor says that Beauchamp is a bugler,” she announced.