Monday, 11 July 2011

At the road’s end: George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood (1923-2011)

The 7th Earl of Harewood, the eldest son of the late Princess Mary of Britain and thus a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, died from a heart attack at his home Harewood House near Leeds this morning at the age of 88, following a long illness.
George Henry Hubert Lascelles was born on 7 February 1923 and was the first grandchild born to King George V and Queen Mary of Britain. His mother Princess Mary (who was created Princess Royal in 1932) had married the then Viscount Lascelles, who succeeded his father as the 6th Earl of Harewood in 1929, in Westminster Abbey on 28 February 1922. At that time he was sixth in line to the throne; at the time of his death he was 46th.
Educated at Eton and Cambridge, George Lascelles joined the Grenadier Guards, where he eventually rose to the rank of Captain, and served in Italy during World War II. In 1944 he was captured by the Germans and was subsequently held prisoner at Colditz, where the Nazis held several relatives of prominent enemies. These hostages eventually included Giles Romilly (a nephew of Clemetine Churchill), John Elphinstone (nephew of Queen Elizabeth of Britain), George Haig (son of Field Marshal Douglas Haig), John Winant Jr (son of the US Ambassador to Britain) and Charles Hope (son of the Viceroy of India) and five Poles. The prisoners were freed on 5 May 1945.
George succeeded to the earldom on the death of his father on 23 May 1947 and took his seat in the House of Lords (which he lost in 1999) on 7 February 1956. At that time he was still high enough in the line of succession to the British throne to act as Councellor of State in the absence of the monarch, which he did in 1947, 1953-1954 and in 1956.
On 29 September 1949 he married the pianist Marion Stein, with whom he had three sons: David (now the 8th Earl of Harewood), James and Jeremy. Their divorce in 1967 was considered quite a scandal because of his genealogical proximity to the British royal family and he was subsequently excluded from a number of family events, including the funeral of his uncle the Duke of Windsor in 1972, which seems quite ironic given what the future had in hold for the royal family when it came to divorces.
While the former Countess of Harewood remarried Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party, the Earl of Harewood married the violinist Patricia Tuckwell on 31 July 1967. They already had a son, Mark, born in 1964.
Lord Harewood had a great passion for opera and was editor of the magazine Opera 1951-1953 and 1969-1972 as well as musical director of the board of the English Nationa Opera 1972-1985 and its chairman of the board 1986-1995. Among the other posts held by Lord Harewood was Governor of the BBC 1985-1987, Chancellor of the University of Leeds 1962-1967 and President of the Football Association 1963-1972. Most of his rather dull autobiography, The Tongs and the Bones (1981), is devoted to opera.
Lord Harewood was last seen in public when he, seated in a wheelchair, attended the memorial service for Dame Joan Sutherland in Westminster Abbey on 15 February this year. He did not return there for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambrige in April.

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