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3 June 2002updated 24 Sep 2015 12:16pm

No royalty in this house

Junk the Jubilee

By Charlotte Fraser

I was born into an aristocratic family and I spent part of my childhood in Warwick Castle. But ours was one great house to which royalty were not admitted.

The castle guides, when not showing tourists around, would patiently teach me the history of the castle and of all the past earls of Warwick. Believing I was the direct descendant of Warwick the Kingmaker (in fact, several noble families before my own, the Grevilles, had held the title), I was sure we should have been hobnobbing with the Windsor clan.

Indeed, my grandfather Warwick loved royalty; an HRH, in his eyes, could do no wrong. But my father, who became the 8th Earl of Warwick, would have none of it. He would say, quoting somebody or other (I never discovered who exactly), that the presence of royalty would “hang like a dark cloud”.

This was the early 1970s, and there were glamorous weekend parties, with dinners in the mediaeval Great Hall, the men wearing dinner jackets and the women in fabulous gowns, a riot of colours and fabrics. The Rajmata of Jaipur, a living goddess to her people, came to stay. But not British royalty.

One of the regular guests was Nicholas Soames, the Conservative MP, a contemporary and close friend of the Prince of Wales. He would beg my father to ask the Prince to stay. “Absolutely not,” he would reply. Soames would be almost weeping. Dominic Elwes the portrait painter sided with him, but still my father would not give in. “We do not need royalty in this house,” he said.

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Was this parliamentarian blood flowing through his veins? The Warwicks had fought with Cromwell in the civil war. Or could it have been Daisy Warwick’s influence? She was the countess who, after a torrid romance with another Prince of Wales, had taken to socialism and fought valiantly for an agricultural trade union and education for rural women. She tried to sell the prince’s love letters to raise money for the cause.

The truth was that my father did not want the inconvenience that encircled royalty; he considered it a great bore. It was his house and he did not want police and security men snooping around the place. What would happen at breakfast? Could we read the tabloids? Would we have to be there before the Prince? Would we have to be dressed? Would we have to wait until he had finished eating?

“No royalty” was not strictly true. Princess Margaret was occasionally allowed a day pass and came to shooting lunches when she was staying with the local lord lieutenant and high sheriff. My grandfather, in fact, was particularly fond of Margaret, who would spend a few days with him every summer at his villa outside Rome. The only time I stayed in the villa with her, she asked my grandfather what they would be doing that morning. He told her to pick up the net lying on the ground beside her. She did so, then he told her to start cleaning the pool. She was busy till lunchtime.

My late husband, Andrew Fraser, adored royalty. He would hover in the shadows waiting to press flesh with our blue-blooded cousins. He called the Queen “a national treasure” and her Christmas speech once brought tears to his eyes. But I would slip out of the room if there were a whisper of the royal presence. He could not understand it.

I see now that there is a tremendous campaign to show us the personal side of the Queen – how she stopped at a pub during a storm and scuttled up the back stairs, for example. This is all very heart-warming, but it is not so long since Prince Charles was telling Jonathan Dimbleby about his unloving childhood.

I do not know if poor Prince Charles and his siblings are bores. But I am not quite ready for President Blair, and so would rather refrain from constitutional reform for the moment. However, yes, checking the guest list, the bowing and the curtseying – all that is most definitely a bore.

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