Saturday, 23 December 2006

In Memoriam Charles Stourton, 26th Lord Mowbray

Charles Edward Stourton, (1923- 2006)
Baron Mowbray, Segrave and Stourton - Premier baron of England


Quotes from the Obituary at the Daily Telegraph:
«Lord Mowbray's popularity was attested in 1999 when his fellow peers elected him one of the 90 hereditaries to survive the Labour Government's cull. The vote was also a fitting tribute to his assiduous attendance record over more than three decades, during which he served as a Tory Whip for 13 years and as a Government spokesman on the Environment in both the Heath and Thatcher administrations. Perhaps his most notable achievement in this capacity was to guide the National Heritage Act of 1980 through all its stages in the Upper House.
Lord Mowbray was a passionate believer in historic institutions and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of British history — especially that of his own family. He was particularly proud of his Stourton title which has descended through an unbroken male line since it was established in 1448. As the sole direct descendant of one of the 25 signatories of the Magna Carta, he was a member of the British parliamentary delegation which travelled to Washington in 1976 to present one of the four copies of the document held in the British Museum to the American Congress.
In the House of Lords, Lord Mowbray sat on the Committee of Privileges, which determines the succession of hereditary titles, and remained a stout defender of the hereditary principle: "Perhaps one of the best things to be said in defence of the aristocracy, if it needs defending," he declared in 1966, "is that aristocrats have a real detachment from things. They are not 'yes' men — they have nothing to gain.
In fact, though, Lord Mowbray was a Tory loyalist who seldom deviated from the party line. A rare exception occurred in 1986 when he teased the government for its backing for the centenary celebrations of the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, when James II was ousted from the throne in favour of William of Orange. In announcing his intention to "boycott" the event, Lord Mowbray said: "I have no intention of celebrating Dutch William's accession to the throne. I think the whole thing should be called off." The so-called Glorious Revolution, he pointed out, had deprived his family, as Roman Catholics, of their right to sit in Parliament, a right which was restored only with Catholic emancipation in 1829….
Stourton's early married life was overshadowed by the messy break-up of his parents' marriage. His father was a difficult and domineering man who had, according to Mr Justice Marshall in a distressing divorce case heard in 1961, shown "the badge of an egocentric and reduced his wife to a nervous wreck". During the case, in which Lady Mowbray was granted a decree of judicial separation on the ground of her husband's cruelty, Lord Mowbray alleged that his wife had entered into a conspiracy with other members of the family, particularly his son (who had taken his mother's side), to ruin him…..
Following the case, Charles Stourton brought an action against his father concerning the administration of the family estates. The following year it was announced that an "amicable" settlement had been reached, on terms that were not disclosed…..
When Lord Mowbray died in 1965, it emerged that he had made no provision for his wife in his will and had left the bulk of the estate to his eldest grandson, Edward Stourton, then aged 12, to be held in trust until he was 30. Until then the family estate, Allerton Park, was run by trustees and the castle itself was sold in the 1980s….
A devout Roman Catholic, Lord Mowbray was vice-president and longest-serving Knight of the British Association of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta. He was also chairman of English Catholic Ancestor, a society which aims to acquire and disseminate knowledge of the history of English Catholic families.»

Quote from the Obituary by Desmond Seward at «The Independent»:

«One of the most surprising members of Tony Blair's new House of Lords in 1999 was Lord Mowbray, Segrave and Stourton. The oldest of the rump of the hereditaries, he was variously described as looking like a character from a Walter Scott novel who had strayed into the modern world, something that might have been dreamt up by Evelyn Waugh or the sort of Englishman who would have made Proust swoon.
In these classless days when even gentlemen are nearly extinct, he was probably one of the last people in England who was immediately recognisable as a nobleman. His appearance suited his almost unbelievably blue blood. At the coronations of Elizabeth II, George VI, George V and Edward VII, his father and grandfather had respectively paid homage as premier barons of England.
No one ever forgot meeting Charles Mowbray. It was not just the round Norman head, walrus moustache and black eye-patch, or the lisp and slight stutter, that made him so memorable, but his cheerful, kindly manner, the friendly way he greeted everybody, always just the same for prime ministers, waiters or taxi drivers. Those who worked with or for Mowbray - in particular, those who worked for - were devoted to him. A genuinely lovable man, with tremendous zest for life, he could be the best company imaginable, especially for those who shared his passion for history, gaining so many friends that he had over 40 godchildren. There were countless affectionate anecdotes about him, such as that of his laughter bringing down a carving from the ceiling of the House of Lords.
Yet this survival from another age was an able politician who held office as a junior minister in the governments of both Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher. Had Heath's abortive scheme to reform the Upper House been implemented, Mowbray would have received a life peerage, a testimony to his effectiveness. For 13 years he was a Tory whip, while he was also a spokesman on the environment and the arts in both their administrations, his principal achievement being to guide the National Heritage Act of 1980 through its various stages in the Lords. (For some year he was chairman of the Government Picture Buying Committee.) During four decades of unflagging attendance, he became very popular with his fellow peers, Labour and Liberal no less than Conservative, a popularity demonstrated in 1999 by the hereditaries' electing him as one of their 90 representatives - their oldest, since he was already 76.
Charles Edward Stourton was born in 1923, the son of William Marmaduke, 25th Baron Mowbray, 26th Baron Segrave and 22nd Baron Stourton, succeeding his father in 1965. His Stourton title, held in unbroken male-line descent, was created in 1448 for Sir John Stourton, the son of a Speaker of the House of Commons, who had campaigned with Henry V and built a castle at Stourhead in Wiltshire paid for by French loot, besides being the jailer of the poet Duke of Orleans (captured at Agincourt). Because of his Mowbray barony, created in 1283, inherited through the female line, Charles was the last link with the signatories of Magna Carta through his direct ancestor William de Mowbray, one of the magnates who forced King John to submit at Runnymede. As such, he was a member of the parliamentary delegation that went to Washington in 1976, to present one of the four surviving copies of the charter to the United States Congress…..
At the Reformation, as much from stubbornness as piety the Stourtons refused to exchange Catholicism for what they saw as a new, foreign, religion - nobody was going to tell them what to believe - and for centuries they endured relentless persecution as recusants. The faith Charles inherited was the old Cisalpine sort, staunch but tolerant, charitable and unobtrusive. When the Thatcher government announced its support for the celebrations of the third centenary of the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, Charles Mowbray declared, "I have no intention of celebrating Dutch William's accession to the throne", adding that it had prevented his family from taking their seat in the Lords or serving in the armed services until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. Their Jacobitism ruined the Stourtons and Stourhead had to be sold. They recouped their fortunes, however, and in the 19th century built a vast new family seat, Allerton Park, near Knaresborough, which is regarded as one of the most important of all Gothic revival houses….
A director of Securicor, Mowbray also served as Chairman of the Thames Estuary Airport Company, an imaginative project for which he showed unflagging enthusiasm. Among other activities, he was Vice-President of the British Knights of Malta and chairman of the English Catholic Ancestor, an organisation devoted to the history of recusant families. (His genealogical knowledge was remarkable, even greater than his impressive grasp of military history during the Napoleonic wars.) He was also a keen member of the Roxburghe Club, the most distinguished of all bibliophile societies. He was very proud of being chairman of the Normandy Veterans in Scotland, delighting in their company and in taking the salute at their parades.»

From Time Archive, May 14th 1965:

«Died. Lord Mowbray, 69, England's Premier Baron (his title, the country's oldest, dates back to 1283), who in 1962 invoked the rarely exercised peer's immunity to prevent his estranged wife from having him jailed for refusing to return her family heirlooms (a silver matchbox, two trays, two bowls, three swords and a wig); after a long illness; m Harrogate, Yorkshire.»
Charles Stourton, Baron Mowbray at Wikipedia
Lord Mowbray – House of Lords Debates
The Mowbray Family 1066-1481

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.