GENTLE GENTILES AND GRACIOUS LADIES by Donal Kennedy

In “BALLIOL OLD BOYS AND OTHER DISTINGUISHED GENTS” (March 26) I mentioned Sir Norman Kendall, Assistant Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, who, days before Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, wrote how sorry he was to cancel an official visit to Germany, and so missed meeting his friends, one of whom, Reinhard  Heydrich was to have briefed him on policing methods and conducted him on a tour of the Dachau facilities.

I got that snippet of information from “AN ENGLISH AFFAIR” – “Sex, Class and Power in the Age Of Profumo” by Richard Davenport Hines, which I picked up for £2 in a Red Cross bookshop.

Never  have I picked up anything more enjoyable at such a discount!

Kendall was an Old Boy of Oxford’s Oriel College,  and a member of the English Bar.

In 1943 a London-based syndicate bought a Scottish Highland estate covering 50,000 acres for £120,000 (a rate of £2 and 4 Shillings per acre. Following questions in Parliament, the Secretary of State for Scotland asked Scotland Yard for a confidential investigation of the syndicate’s leading member, whom he described as “this land speculator.” Sir Norman Kendall apparently had nothing definitely criminal to report on the man, Charles Clore but described him as “an unscrupulous Jew upon whose word  no reliance whatever can be placed’ , and reported a hotchpotch of hearsay, before concluding, ‘anyone having any dealings with him must keep both eyes wide open.’

In 1944 anonymous letters about Clore went to Scotland Yard and the Director of Public Prosecutions. No prosecutions followed but Kendall claimed-

“Clore  is a Jew of the worst type who flagrantly flouts the laws and traffics generally in black market business.”

Had Heydrich conducted the Assistant Commissioner around “the Dachau facilities” would Kendall have arranged similar  provision for Britain’s Jews?

“Show me your companions,” my mother used say, “and I’ll tell you what you are.”

For little more than I paid for “AN ENGLISH AFFAIR” I simultaneously picked up  “PALIMSEST” – Memoir by Gore Vidal.  No, that wasn’t a mis-spelling.

What’s more, it’s an autographed copy.

It’s also a treasure trove. It gives wonderful glimpses of polite society over many decades, and the decadence, criminality and hypocrisy of persons and institutions. Learned, worldly, proudly pagan, an openly gay man who was never in a closet, Vidal is a witness to trust.

He shared a grandmother with Jacqueline Kennedy and Lee  Radziwill. . When President Kennedy and Jackie had been on a State Visit to President de Gaulle in Paris, they dropped over to London to see Lee.The British Government decided that Queen Elizabeth should give a dinner to the President and his wife. The Palace wanted to know whom they would like to invite. Jackie proposed her host and hostess, Prince and Princess Radziwill, while the President would like to see Princess Marina of Kent, whom he’s known when his father was Ambassador in London.The Palace politely intimated that“Mr & Mrs Radziwill”, as divorced people, were not invitable.

President Kennedy asked the Palace not to bother as he was in London unofficially. The Palace then backed down. after a fashion, but no member of the Royal Family other than the Queen and her Consort were to attend. But the Queen invited every Commonwealth Minister of Agriculture that could be found.

If the Monarch had stuck to her principles she’d have to dine alone these days!

Those were the days of Profumo, a serial adulterer, but a rather less busy one than the American President.

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