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2 corrections, most recently by aleon - Show corrections

ENTERTAIN ROYALTY,

ON £1500 A YEAR  

BORN the heir to a fortune of nearly $1,000,000, Lord Grantley has been a wage-earner most of his life. For if there was ever a silver spoon in Lord Grantley's mouth, he certainly had difficulty keeping

it there.

Lord Grantley has never lost his greatest inheritance—a lively sense of the     ludicrous. Whether his target is royalty, the eccentricities of his remarkable father,   or his own youthful follies, Lord Grantley   writes with zest and humour.  

My private income after    

World War I was   about £750 a year;      

my wife, Jean, had only a small private allow-

ance.

Counting in my salary, our combined income must have been well under £1,500 a year.

Yet, though we often had to scrape for money, we never thought of ourselves as hard up, and I certainly did not run up

any big debts.

The size of our house in Rad- nor Place would surprise the young couples of to-day.

It had eight bedrooms, three large reception rooms, and even a ballroom; yet the rent of it was only a tenth of my income, then the conventional proportion.

We managed to live the same sort of life as our friends, and normally had five servants—a butler, a nurse after the babies  

came, a cook, a scullery maid,

and a housemaid. (When we gave a dinner-party we had to get in extra help.)

   

AT this time the Prince of

Wales was, of course, the leading figure in London life.

I had known him slightly at Oxford, and when I was running cadet battalions at the War Office he was kind in twice inspecting their parades.

He borrowed our house once or twice for private parties, so that he could entertain people, without going to restaurants where everybody stared at him.

The thing he was really keen on was light music; he would get someone like Jerry Kern or Gershwin along, and ask his friends to listen to them play.

On these occasions, knowing my poor taste in wine and mean nature, he would be careful to send along his own choice of vintages beforehand, a procedure which led to an incident featuring my irrepressible butler Rosslyn.

The Prince had given a party at our house one night when Jean and I were away.

After we came back, he was having dinner with us when he suddenly turned to Rosslyn, who was waiting at table, and asked: "What happened to all that Krug '16 that was left over the other night?"

Rosslyn replied, with the ut- most promptitude and cheerful- ness: "Snitched it, your Royal 'ighness."

Jean and I sat rigid. The Prince

was not amused.

"See that it's returned to-mor- row," he told Rosslyn.

ROSSLYN really surpassed

himself another time.

It was a very pompous occa- sion, I think to do with some charity: a luncheon party with Queen Mary as one of the guests.

In spite of our financial state, at that time acute, nothing was spared in the way of prepara- tions.

About halfway through lunch Rosslyn came in and said most audibly to Jean: "Excuse me ma'am, but a parcel's arrived from Selfridge's. There's three and a penny to pay."

Jean waved him aside. "Yes, all right, Rosslyn. See to it, will you?"

Rosslyn persisted: "But it's C.O.D., ma'am."

Jean, more and more embar- rassed: "Very well, Rosslyn, very well. Just pay the man."

But Rosslyn doggedly stood his ground.

As was his custom in such domestic discussions with my wife, he had been speaking more and more loudly.

In the complete silence that had fallen all round the table, he exploded with: "Me! I haven't got any money, what with me always paying all the dibs and dabs in the 'ouse." .

The story was told and retold round London, the phrase "dibs and dabs" becoming quite the thing for a time.

   

ONE of my close friends was

the celebrated practical joker, Horace de Vere Cole.

He was always known for some reason as Molar Cole.

His exploits included dressing

But beware of the butler who "steals" the Prince of

Wales's wine . . . and lets you down for three

shillings in front of Queen Mary . . .

up as the Sultan of Zanzibar to receive a civic welcome at Cam- bridge, and securing naval hon- ours from thc C.-in-C. Ports- mouth for a visit by a bogus Abyssinian prince.

More amusing, in a modest way, was the revenge he took on a certain gentleman in London who had offended him.

He went to every piano dealer in the country, ordering a grand piano in this gentleman's name, to be delivered to his house at exactly 11 o'clock on a specified morning.

When the morning arrived the square was blocked by scores of grand pianos converging from

all directions.

I had a small share in another of Molar Cole's adventures, which became famous—roping off Piccadilly and taking up the wooden blocks in order to create a traffic chaos, which it certainly

did.

We all took rooms at the Ritz to see the fun from the windows.

A lot of people had to be bribed to get it done, and I my- self put up £100 towards it; it was a very expensive operation.

In writing of such times (be- fore 1914) it all seems frivolous and trifling.

But it must he remembered   that no ripple of war, dictator- ships, or world revolution then disturbed the even tenor of the spending classes.

If one had money, or the pros- pects of it, it was assumed that one's position entitled one to spend it on whatever trivial or grave enterprise seemed inviting.

[On the outbreak of World War 1 Lord Grantley joined the

Third Battalion Scots Guards as an ensign (second-lieutenant).

   

ONE fine day I was appointed

to what is known as "Buck house Guard"—that is to say, the officer in charge of the Buck- ingham Palace Detachment of the King's Guard.

I committed a glaring error which reverberated for months afterwards in professional circles. How it happened was as much a mystery to me as to everyone else.

In those days the changing of the Guard took place in the courtyard in front of Buckingham

Palace.

The usual appreciative audi- ence saw my Guard marching up and down, towards the railings and back again, controlled by my repeated command, at the appro- priate moments, of "About turn."

As they approached the rail- ings, expectant of the renewed command, the silence was broken only by the gay music of the

band.

I can dimly remember that the band was playing one of my fav- ourite musical comedy tunes.

The astonished sightseers saw the front line of four Guardsmen touch the railings; the second line piled up on the men in front; those behind still pressed un- happily on; confused and hap-   hazard marking-time became the order of the day.

"About turn!"  

Who had said the magic

words?

My colour sergeant had taken it upon himself pluckily, if uniquely and without precedent, sparing me complete ignominy.

There followed a most painful interview and lecture from the adjutant, and subsequently an even more painful visit to 'The Old Friend," as the commanding officer was called.

He said that when first in- formed of the incident by the Captain of the King's Guard he had not believed it possible, even of myself. Only of myself could he believe it now.

He suggested, with terrifying politeness, that there was no punishment fitting so unprece- dented a crime, but that two months' picquet duty might serve

as a memento.

   

ONE of my closest friends was

the late Hugo Rumbold, younger brother of Sir Horace Rumbold, subsequently our Am- bassador in Berlin.

He had an uncanny gift for mimicry—in later years Chaplin told me that he had never known anyone like him—and he used to carry off glorious hoaxes.

Once, without knowing a single word of Russian, he successfully posed, as the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy, and enter- tained visiting Balkan Royalty to lunch at White's.

But his most brilliant perform- ance was a female impersonation.

It began when he fell desper- ately in love with a visiting   Italian princess, and his love was reciprocated.

Unhappily, however, the prin- cess had an aging husband to whom she had to return.

So Hugo followed her to Italy, and obtained a position in her palace as her middle-aged lady's maid.

Hugo was about 26 at the time, and of a most masculine appearance and character—he served with the Yeomanry

in the Boer War, and with the Grenadiers in 1914.

He and the princess had a blissful six weeks together, with the elderly Roman husband never suspecting a thing.  

After a while the affair must have fizzled out, as Hugo even- tually returned to London to the congratulations of one or two intimate friends who had been in the secret.

   

I was in Charlie Chaplin's

party for the premiere of one

of his films in London and the crowds made it almost impos- sible to get inside.

I had my evening coat almost wrenched off, and my trousers torn the whole way up at the side.

Charlie decided some days later to screen his famous silent picture "The Gold Rush" for some of his friends—he invited the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Kent, the Mountbattens, and about 20 others.

One of Chaplin's most curious foibles, which he shares with many others of the rich and the great, is an aversion to throw- ing his money about.

On this occasion he first of all came to see Murray Silverstone (head, of the London branch of United Artists) and myself and arranged to have the showing —cost, Nil—at the private pro- jection room in our Wardour Street office.

I was then given the high ambassadorial duty of arranging the music for the film and a supper party afterwards at the Savoy.

Our projection room was too small for more than a four-piece orchestra; but when I gave Charlie an estimate of the cost of even this small band, he said that it seemed very high.

Next day, Kono, his Japanese secretary and man of all work, phoned me to say Chaplin had remembered that H.M.V. had

made records of the "Gold Rush" music; and they agreed to press special copies from the master matrix as a favour to Chaplin, at a nominal fee of four guineas.

I was proceeding to arrange a private room at the Savoy when Kono phoned again to say that the Mountbattens had invited all the guests to supper, and the room could be cancelled.

The pleasant evening duly

ended up with supper at Brook House—cost Nil, except to the

Mountbatten.

That only left the bill from H.M.V. for four guineas.

Murray Silverstone, who knew

the form better than I did, said   it was not worth submitting it , to Charlie, and the film com-

pany paid it.  

TO-MORROW: Life With  

Father.

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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