They wrote it this week: Why the Prince of Wales’s arm nearly ...

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They wrote it this week: Why the Prince of Wales’s arm nearly fell off

Extracts from diaries and letters written between August 17 and August 23

Journalist
Michael Palin and his son, Will.
he made the grade Michael Palin and his son, Will.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

August 17

1989, London

To William Ellis to pick up Will’s A Level results. I park in the grounds while Helen goes in. A boy, white-faced and in shock, wanders trance-like from the school. He sits nearby and buries his head in his hands. A girl comforts him. I’ve never seen more intense and desperate grief on a face and long to tell him it’s not worth it.

  • Michael Palin, British actor, comedian and television personality, b. 1943.

Travelling to Work: Diaries 1988-98 by Michael Palin, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2014

Adolf Hitler in 1933. As a Jew, Victor Klemperer was understandably eager to underestimate the Fuhrer's appeal to the German masses.
arms and the man Adolf Hitler in 1933. As a Jew, Victor Klemperer was understandably eager to underestimate the Fuhrer's appeal to the German masses.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

August 19

1933, Dresden, Germany

I simply cannot believe that the mood of the masses is really still behind Hitler. Too many signs of the opposite. But everyone, literally everyone cringes with fear. No letter, no telephone conversation, no word on the street is safe any more. Everyone fears the next person may be an informer. Frau Krappmann warns against the all too National Socialist Frau Lehmann – and Frau Lehmann tells us with great bitterness that her brother has been sentenced to one year in prison because he lent a “real Communist” a copy of the Rote Fahne, but the “real Communist” had been an informer.

  • Victor Klemperer, German-Jewish academic and Holocaust survivor, 1881-1960.

I Shall Bear Witness: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1933-1941 edited by Martin Chalmers, Phoenix, 1999

In the opinion of English aristocrats like Nancy Mitford, if you had to be an American, rather go the whole hog and be an oil baron. 'Refined' East-Coasters like media mogul Katharine Graham got short shrift.
post toast In the opinion of English aristocrats like Nancy Mitford, if you had to be an American, rather go the whole hog and be an oil baron. 'Refined' East-Coasters like media mogul Katharine Graham got short shrift.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

1967, Versailles

[To her sister, Jessica, who was a journalist in the US] I saw a friend of yours, one of those wourm Americans I can’t care for (I only like the [Charles] Wrightsman [an oil baron] type of tough brute really). She is called perhaps Lindsay or Kinloss or Graham, one of those Scotch names, & says she owns Newsweek. A man having failed, I sat next to her at dinner. She loves you but she’s so wourm I guess she kinda loves the whole human race.

  • Nancy Mitford, British writer, 1904-1973 (The woman Nancy, never a fan of Americans or their accents, so loftily dismissed was Katharine Graham. Graham also owned The Washington Post, and was soon to gain fame and acclaim for her leadership when it exposed the Watergate scandal. Jessica replied to this letter: “Yr letter made me shriek as usual; esp Kay Graham being wourm. She is actually noted for being a freezing terrifier by the people who work for her.”)

The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosley, Harper Perennial, 2008

August 20

1918, the Western Front, Belgium

Duff Cooper in his World War 1 uniform.
cap that Duff Cooper in his World War 1 uniform.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

[Cooper had at dawn led his men “over the top” into a nightmare of fog, confusion and death.] Suddenly we noticed an enemy machine gun shooting through the hedge in front of us. We had almost walked into it. We hurried back and on the way were fired at by machine guns from the other side of the railway. Fryer told me to take a Lewis gun and a couple of sections and capture or knock out the machine gun. It was rather an alarming thing to be told to do. However I got my Lewis gun up to within about 80 yards of it creeping along the hedge. The Lewis gun fired away. When it stopped I rushed forward. Looking back I saw that I was not being followed. I learnt afterwards that the first two men behind me had been wounded and the third killed. The rest had not come on. One or two machine guns from the other side of the railway were firing at us. I dropped a few yards away from the gun I was looking for and crawled up to it. At first I saw no one there. Looking down I saw one man running away up the other side of the cutting. I had a shot at him with my revolver. Presently I saw two men moving cautiously below me. I called to them in what German I could at the moment remember to surrender and throw up their hands. They did so immediately. They obviously did not realise that I was alone. They came up the cutting with their hands up – followed to my surprise by others. There were 18 or 19 in all. If they had rushed me they would have been perfectly safe for I never can hit a haystack with a revolver and my own men were 80 yards away. However they came back with me like lambs. Two of them who were Red Cross men proceeded to bind up my wounded.

  • Duff Cooper, British politician, diplomat, writer and World War 1 volunteer, 1890-1954.

The Duff Cooper Diaries edited by John Julius Norwich, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005

1940, Mells, Somerset

[To Lady Diana Cooper. Russell had been to dinner with the officers of the Grenadier Guards, who were on manoeuvres near his farm.] The whole evening was a Wow. I was next to the second-in-command (Major Llewellin). We sat a long, long time and I listened breathless while the Major fought his battles o’er again: “This is Govt’s HQ (the salt cellar) – Belgian HQ was here (a mustard pot) – this is the Meuse where those buggers let ’em through (an empty bottle of port)”, etc. etc. I sat spellbound. I enjoyed every minute of it. The air raid warning went before we left and about thirty bombs fell round about. We never heard one. I suppose they were drowned by the rattle and roar of one’s motor. There were more bombs about 3am and these too never woke me.

  • Conrad Russell, farmer and nephew of the Duke of Bedford, 1878-1947.

Letters of Conrad Russell 1897-1947 edited by Georgiana Blakiston, John Murray, 1987

August 21

1982, New York

Stopped at Schrafft’s on 58th and Madison and the waitresses there were all saying, “Is it him?” “It’s him.” “It isn’t him.” And so when I went out I said, “It’s me,” and they were thrilled.

  • Andy Warhol, US artist, 1928-1987.

The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett, Pan Books, 1989

The uncompromising modernism of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral did not find a fan with Nancy Mitford ... or indeed many others.
god help us The uncompromising modernism of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral did not find a fan with Nancy Mitford ... or indeed many others.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

August 22

1960, Paris

[To her friend Violet Hammersley, whose son-in-law was the modernist architect David Stokes.] I saw a picture of David S. sponsoring an object, apparently for hatching out or perhaps I mean brooding over young chickens, which, said the caption, is a model for Liverpool Cathedral. Ay di me. A broiler cathedral, just the thing for nowadays. Pray read him this paragraph.

  • Nancy Mitford, British writer, 1904-1973.

Love from Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford edited by Charlotte Mosley, Sceptre, 1993

The Prince of Wales braces himself for yet another hand-shake during his 1919 Canadian tour. His right hand got so damaged by the ritual that he was forced to switch to his left.
no wrist for the wicked The Prince of Wales braces himself for yet another hand-shake during his 1919 Canadian tour. His right hand got so damaged by the ritual that he was forced to switch to his left.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

August 23

1919, Quebec City

[To his mistress, Freda Dudley Ward. The prince was on a royal tour of Canada.] I don’t think there’s the least chance of my returning to you with both my arms, darling; these Canadians will shake my right hand right off. I get so fed up after 1,000 at a stretch though it’s always over the 1,000 for the day!

  • Edward, Prince of Wales, later British King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor, 1894-1972.

Letters from a Prince: Edward, Prince of Wales, to Mrs Freda Dudley Ward March 1918-January 1921 edited by Rupert Godfrey, Warner Books, 1998

John Lennon with his son Julian.
owl be seeing you John Lennon with his son Julian.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

1965, Beverly Hills

[To his first wife, Cynthia. The Beatles were taking a break in the middle of their relentless US tour that marked the high point of Beatlemania.] I really miss him [his son Julian, then aged two] as a person now – do you know what I mean, he’s not so much “The Baby” or “my baby” any more, he’s a real living part of me now, you know he’s Julian and everything and I can’t wait to see him, I miss him more than I’ve ever done before – I think it’s been a slow process my feeling like a real father! I hope all this is clear and understandable. I spend hours in dressing rooms and things thinking about the times I’ve wasted not being with him – and playing with him – you know I keep thinking of those stupid bastard times when I keep reading bloody newspapers and other shit whilst he’s in the room with me and I’ve decided it’s ALL WRONG! He doesn’t see enough of me as it is and I really want him to know and love me, and miss me like I seem to be missing both of you so much.

  • John Lennon, British pop star, 1940-1980.

The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012

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