THE DUKE OF NORFOLK
IT is now just a hundred years
since the last Duke of Norfolk was born, not only to be the Premier Duke and Premier Earl of England; not only as Earl Marshal and Hereditary Marshal of England, not only, therefore, to take precedence over every other English peer. except the two Anglican Archbishops and the Lord Chancellor, but to enjoy with the prestige of rank estates of commanding wealth. His seat. Arundel Castle, was both an immense medieval fortress and palace, rising on the hills above the mouth of the Arun in Sussex. His town house in St. James's Square was another palace. His prestige was enormous: and_ail this at a time when to the eyes of Britain a Catholic was looked upon with what Dean Church called " awful curiosity and dismay "; when the Provost of Oriel had warned Newman. in becoming a Catholic. against the awful sin of idolatry, and when a Catholic could not by the laws of Britain take a degree at the University. and had hardly learnt to use the vote which had been taken away from him for hundreds of years.
Theyouth of the late Duke was coloured by his father's conversion and the Influence of Newman's. He inherited the dukedom at the age of twelve. Soon after he was sent to Newman's Oratory to school. He grew up to take up from early youth his immense responsibilities. He it was who first suggested to Leo XIII that Newman should be made a Cardinal But he was at the same time a man active in his county and in political life. He was Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, and for five years Postmaster General under the premiership of Lord Salisbury. He was at various times Mayor of Sheffield, of Arundel and of Westminster, and as Earl Marshal he occupied a foremost place at the coronations of both Edward VII and George V.
HIS first son had died at the age of 23. On February 15, 1904, he married his second wife. Bat oness Herries. She had borne him a daughter before the. first son was born in 1908. with two other daughters afterwards. This Son is of course the present Duke of Norfolk. He too inherited his father's tole early. He was hardly nine years old when in 1917 he became in turn the Premier Duke and Hereditary Marshal of England. with, it seemed, the additional power which he would owe to enormous wealth ac increasing during a minority that in earlier years would have combined
with land values almost to double the millions entailed upon him by ancestral estates which were already great in the days of Bosworth Field, when the prestige of the family had been increased by Royal marriages.
The young Duke therefore inherited great possessions, princely rank, political and social responsibilities, and the sporting tastes of a landowner. He, too, was sent to the Oratory School but he did not prove to be a scholar. Instead therefore of fulfilling the plan of coming to Christ Church where his cousins, Leo Ward. and Henry and Richard Hope, had preceded him from the Oratory, he did some military training, and obtained a commission in the Royal Horse Guards. Horses have always been more to his taste than books, and he has been for twenty years a prominent figure at the big race meetings—at Epsom, at Newmarket. at Doncaster (where he usually rented a house for the races), at Aintree. and above all at Ascot, where he represented the King. With this he took an interest in politics and began to speak. as a Conservative, of course, in the House of Lords. In 1937 he married the Honourable Lavinia Strutt, a daughter of Lord Belper. As yet there is no direct heir to the Dukedom. The heir presumptive is Lord Fitzalan, whose fatherl long known as Lord Edmund Talbot, was for long a prominent member in the House of Commons and acted as Earl Marshal during the long years of the present Duke's minority.
I N 1941, and until thc collapse of the Churchill Government, the Duke was Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture; and could be seen in the days of petrol restriction bicycling among the farms to see for himself how things were going. He was respected in the world of politics. and the present writer once heard the late Lord Lloyd urge that he should be sent as Ambassador to Madrid before it was decided to send Sir Samuel Hoare, now Lord 1 emplewood. But his great opportunity came with the Coronation in 1937. The business of the Earl Marshal is to supervise the whole of the Abbey function—to arrange about the.seating, to drill the equerries and pages, to arrange in fact the whole ceremonial. It wee a trying and intricate job, needing savoir faire, organising capacity, tact and dignity. The young Duke did it all excellently and the King and Queen were delighted. They invited him to stay at Windsor, and made him a Knight of the Garter, and have ever since counted him in the circle of their friends.
These are days when taxations have revolutionised the whole structure of society. Neither rank nor wealth have a fraction of the prestige they enjoyed w i when the Duke was a boy. But if his power is curtailed, he s not the less anxious to make the most of the many fine opportunities that remain. and to use with good will and common sense the residue of that dazzling tradition of Catholic aristocracy which no matter how much we in England undergo revolutions, survives in undimmed splendour in the Duke of Alba, and the Duchess of Montoro.