Father, Dear Father: Life with Woodrow Wyatt
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Petronella Wyatt writes: 'The eccentricities of my father, Lord (Woodrow) Wyatt (1918-1997), are a legend. I, his only daughter, was required to participate in his astonishing behaviour with all the enthusiasm I could muster. This resulted in a childhood of a kind unknown to the late 20th-century - a mixture of Edwardian extravagance, Victorian whimsicality and a vivid 18th-century haute sophistication. 'Father was the last of the old school.
Described by his friend and former political rival Roy Jenkins as 'the ultimate original', he was a politician, writer, race-horse owner, womaniser and bon vivant - a unique product of pre-war English civilisation. His career ensured him a varied circle of friends. I grew up with such companions as Harold Macmillan, Margaret Thatcher, Rupert Murdoch, Robin Day, Sir James Goldsmith, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, the Duke of Devonshire and much of Debrett's Peerage.
'Each chapter of the book will contain personal and historically important anecdotes about the famous that have never before appeared in print and which will generate considerable news coverage. What I am writing is a waspish social document - irreverent, satirical, dramatic and scandalous, disclosing how the privileged enjoy their privileges.
impossible,’ he said with shuddering horror. ‘I don’t believe it.’ The couple in front of us had turned their heads and were struggling between contradictory feelings of irritation and curiosity. With the dawning consternation felt by a commander when he loses control of an infantryman I observed Father struggling to his feet. ‘That man can’t play Gandhi,’ he cried out. ‘His chest is covered with thick black hair. Gandhi’s chest was utterly smooth.’ Stern counsels prevailed upon him to sit
career as a Labour MP, Oswald Mosley had adopted one of the first Churchillian principles of party politics: find a famous man and attack him. It was inevitable that this invention, should be turned against the inventor. Nye Bevan had achieved a degree of notoriety by challenging Churchill. Father, who was a man of bold adventure, at once comprehended the merits of this approach. His first opportunity came in November 1947. Churchill opened for the Opposition against the Labour government’s
There were many miners living there. Ironically they had been complaining about high taxes on their wages. It was Father’s policy to stay away from his constituency as often as possible during a campaign. Father’s logic was straightforward. He reasoned that the more he appeared on people’s doorsteps, the less likely they were to vote for him. This had worked in the past and his majority had gone up. But on this occasion he decided to take his new wife and see every householder in Bosworth.
of the Apocalypse. The yellow horse remained with us for a month. Then the cataclysm. One morning in summer it escaped from the stable and ran all over the croquet lawn neighing viciously, its lips twisted in disdain. This caused such a rumpus that it was touch and go whether Father or the horse would survive. For a while my money was on the horse. It ducked and dived with dexterity. Eventually Father seized a crow-bar. His attitude was so menacing that I thought he was going to hit the wretched
examples of how not to behave on air. Fame has its own food on which it fattens and grows ever larger. After the success of Panorama, Father was offered a newspaper column in the tabloids, first in the Sunday Mirror under the editorship of the fabled Hugh Cudlipp, and then the News of the World. The latter was the site of Father’s most famous pensées, which ran under the portentous moniker ‘The Voice of Reason’. It was Father’s columns that incensed people most. He often observed that you could