HL Deb 03 February 1975 vol 356 cc651-7

2.44 p.m.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, during the weekend we have been mourning the death of the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, who, as your Lordships will have heard, died in his sleep on Friday morning. I could not allow this occasion to pass without saying a few words in tribute to the memory of this great and popular man who figured prominently on all State occasions for nearly fifty years.

Bernard Norfolk was premier Duke and hereditary Earl Marshal. It is now 58 years since we paid tribute to the previous Earl Marshal, his father, who died in 1917 when his son was nine years of age. During Bernard Norfolk's minority, the Earl Marshal's duties were carried out by his uncle, the noble Lord, Lord Fitzalan. Then in 1929 he came of age and began his long life of public service. His career embodied all the traditional values of old English families and we should be grateful for the memory of a man who was a strenuous advocate of these virtues. The whole nation reconised him as its acknowledged master of ceremonies. I believe that he was not too bright at school and that it surprised many that he became such a skilled administrator. He presided over two Coronations, the first when he was only 27 years old, three State funerals, a Royal Jubilee, a Royal Wedding and the Investiture of the Prince of Wales. For all this he was entitled to an annual salary—which he never drew—of £20, which has not been increased since 1483.

My Lords, the most moving of recent ceremonies which he organised was probably the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill and it is a matter of good fortune that such an important ceremony in the nation's history should have been conducted with such understanding. Whatever the occasion, he attended to every detail with military precision and scrupulous care. He would walk the route of processions with his own stop watch; he insisted on perfection in ceremonial, no matter how late in the day any faults had to be put right; and nobody at a State occasion was permitted to falter, not even the Earl Marshal as he walked backwards before his Sovereign. He was quite unflappable. I remember the rehearsal of the Opening of Parliament in 1964. When he asked me if I was sure I knew what to do, I commented that I did, but what about the rest—it seemed to me that the rehearsal was a complete shambles. "It's no worse than usual," was his reply. His confidence was proved justified by the dignity of the Opening on the following day.

My Lords, he was not a frequent attender at this House in recent years, though he held Office during the war as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Agriculture in the all-Party Government under Churchill. Nevertheless, he took part in many public activities. He was a leading Catholic, like many of his forebears, and was President of the Catholic Union of Great Britain. His cricketing ability lead him to arrange an annual fixture for touring teams each season on his private ground at Arundel. It was not often that the noble Duke participated in such introduction ceremonies as we have seen today; but my mind goes back to when he graced the introduction of Leary Constantine, the great West Indian cricketer—a tribute both to the Caribbean and to cricket. Apart from being a past president of the MCC he also managed an MCC tour to the West Indies and Australia in 1962; and this year it must have been a source of great regret to him that his dying weeks saw the dying hopes of winning the Ashes in Australia. Perhaps racing was his best-known sport and, as the Queen's Representative at Royal Ascot, he virtually ran the Berkshire course until he gave up the post in 1972.

He was Head of the College of Heralds and the unfailing arbiter of questions of precedence and protocol, and he also had the distinction of being the first Earl Marshal since 1737 to convene his own court, the High Court of Chivalry, to hear a case in 1954. Another sphere in which he was known to several of your Lordships was as chairman of the Association of Lieutenants of Counties, a duty which he fulfilled with welcome authority. He was a senior Knight of the Garter.

Born to privilege, he was ceaseless in his service to the country and community. He led a full life. I feel sure that the whole House would wish to join me in sending our condolences to his widow and daughters, and to assure them that we remember him most affectionately and will miss his dry humour, his delicate control and his devoted service to those in every walk of life with whom he came into contact. We shall miss him greatly.


My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the House has paid a most eloquent tribute to the late Duke of Norfolk, with which those of us who sit on these Benches should like to associate ourselves. The Duke of Norfolk's life covered such a wide range of interests that he will be remembered for many different reasons by many different people. In this Chamber his figure was perhaps most familiar, as the noble Lord recollected, walking backwards into the Chamber with great solemnity at many State Openings of Parliament. This was really only the tip of the iceberg. Below there lay genius—and I really mean "genius"—for the organisation of great State occasions: the funerals of King George V and Sir Winston Churchill; the Coronations of King George VI and the present Queen; and most of all in Wales will he be remembered for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarvon—a magnificent ceremony, one which he largely had to devise himself with little precedent to guide him and only a short half-day for a full rehearsal.

He did not often speak in this House, but some of your Lordships may well remember him in 1966 when he spoke up to his own Motion in defence of the Territorial Association, in which he played so large a part. He spoke without a note in his hand and gave a most impressive performance. Some will remember him as the leading layman in the Roman Catholic Church in this country; others as an enthusiastic sports-man, both at cricket—where he, with surprising success, managed the 1962-63 Australian tour and made many lifelong friends in Australia—and on the turf. It was certainly a very happy moment for him last year when he saw his sky blue and scarlet colours come first past the post on Ragstone in the Ascot Gold Cup.

But as well as a public figure, the Duke was a family man and behind that dignified ducal exterior there beat a warm and simple heart and a great sense of humour. He will be mourned by a host of friends of all sorts and conditions. I should like to echo especially the sympathy expressed to his wife and children, who gave him such loyal support through-out his life and were with him to support him at the end.

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, from these Benches we should like to associate our-selves with the tributes which have just been paid by the two noble Lords. The Duke of Norfolk's career was a remarkable one. The aspect which many of your Lordships saw at fairly close quarters was his superb grasp of the practice of pageantry and ceremonial. Those of us who represented your Lordships' House at the Investiture of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at Caernarvon will never forget the way the Duke took command of the rehearsal the night before. We were all impressed by his attention to minute detail and the improvements which he brought about effortlessly in the space of a few minutes to the great benefit of the ceremony on the following day. In particular, in no uncertain terms he told the Peers that they had better smarten up their performance for the next day and, my goodness, how right he was! On the day we were very good indeed! He had that remarkable ability to pick out the things that were wrong and put them right very quickly indeed. The nation must be extremely grateful to have been so well served for many years by such a loyal servant. From these Benches we also extend sincere condolences to his widow and family.

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, if I may I would join others who have paid such a great tribute to the Duke of Norfolk. He and I were brought up together, and, as one of a family, maybe I am too close to be able to judge all that he stood for, but I shall try, and I know that your Lordships will make allowances, particularly if in one or two respects I have to repeat what has already been said about all he did and all he stood for. He was born a Catholic, and had two ancestors who were Saints—St. Philip Howard and St. Thomas More. Religion was a daily part of his life; it was part of him and he served the Catholic Church well and faithfully.

He was an Englishman, a man of Sussex and Arundel, and was proud of Sussex and its people. All his life he played a full part in the doings of the county. He was a Yorkshireman and hunted the Holderness from his mother's home. He was a border Scot of the Solway with its geese and its wildfowl and he gave them a sanctuary. He was born to high estate but was one of the people—at one with them, simple and true. He was a countryman and he founded the Young Farmers' Clubs which are of great and lasting benefit to the land.

He was not a politician but he could bend Governments, and, as your Lordships will recall, one of his greatest triumphs was to lead the campaign to save Britain's Territorial Association with others of your Lordships and many throughout the country. He was not a man of business—he had no need to be —but he was a great showman, as the noble Leader and others have said. Look, my Lords, at the splendid things he did on State occasions! He was a very good organiser. Look at Ascot, my Lords, which under his guidance be-came the finest race course in the country, or at least the equal of any other.

He believed in tradition, but brought television to its aid and was ready for new ideas—look at the cranes which dipped in honour of Sir Winston Churchill as his coffin travelled down the Thames, the road of London's history. He loved sports, he played them as a game and was rather good: shooting, tennis, golf—he once had a hole-in-one at Littlehampton—and cricket. Above all, cricket on his lovely Arundel ground where many great games were played for charity, and visiting teams from the Commonwealth often played their opening match. Your Lordships have already heard how he took the MCC teams to the West Indies and to Australia. It was hard work but he enjoyed it. His hosts enjoyed it also, and they took him to their hearts.

As for racing, I can well remember the start, because when we were children we studied form and we used to have shilling bets in coded telegrams to bookmakers. From those small beginnings came his great services to the racing world. As an owner in the last year, as we have heard, he had that great success with Ragstone when he routed a foreign challenge and won the Ascot Gold Cup. And in racing, his enthusiasms were shared with his beloved wife, Lavinia. Theirs was the happiest of lives together, and her devotion in the last weeks when he was ill was something never to be forgotten. In addition to his wife's support, he had the support of their sweet daughters. My Lords, when we and countless friends remember him, let us not be sad but grateful for the good that he has done lives after him.


My Lords, I should like to say just a word of sympathy to the Duchess of Norfolk and her daughters because, by a freak of fortune, the paths of the Duke and myself crossed. He was interested in racing and so was I—but from a different social angle. As a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board I saw a great deal of him and had many talks with him regarding the re-erection of the stand at Ascot. From that time onwards we saw a great deal of each other; but we quarrelled, and we quarrelled publicly. He believed he was right—I am quite sure I was; but it is that which makes me say what I want to say.

Here was a man of great honesty of purpose who saw his duty and did it to the best of his ability. He never dissembled, and to such men much may be forgiven. I mentioned the points on which we disagreed, and these will be familiar because they were not private quarrels. But there was another matter on which he and I were entirely at one: that was the Territorial Army, bearing in mind its traditions. I recall with great pleasure that it was from these Cross-Benches I first made a speech on that subject in support of his Motion.

I am sorry that the end has come, but in expressing that sorrow I realise only too well the great contribution this man made to the public life of this country. I repeat what I said at the beginning: my personal sympathy goes out, as I am sure does that of every Member of this House, to his family at this time.