Yorkshire has lost one of its most recognisable and respected sons. The Yorkshire Evening Post gives an appreciation of Lord Harewood’s life.
The comment was poignant: “I remind myself constantly that in life you must never stop touching wood and that a banana skin lurks around every corner, and there is plenty of time for fortune to turn around and buffet me. But as I write I can only bless the stars which have so frequently shone down with benevolent accuracy and hope they don’t decide to change direction.”
This was written by Lord Harewood, cousin to The Queen, in a publication to mark his 80th birthday.
Yesterday the 7th Earl, passed away at the age of 88.
But over the decades, the influence of one of the most instantly recognisable Yorkshiremen, whose landmark stately home rests on the edge of Leeds, spread far and wide.
Lord Harewood was born George Henry Hubert Lascelles on February 7, 1923, at Chesterfield House in London, the son of the 6th Earl and HRH Princess Mary, who was the only daughter of HM King George V.
He was the King’s first grandchild and sixth in line to the throne at the time.
Harewood, to the north of Leeds, became George’s home when he was seven years old. He said: “Harewood means everything to do with the word ‘home’ both on a small and on a big scale. It’s always been somewhere to come back to, a refuge.”
George’s childhood was happy. He and his brother, 18 months younger, were taught at home by a governess. He later went to Ludgrove Preparatory School, followed by Eton.
Holidays were split between London and Yorkshire, with regular visits to royal relations. Easter was always spent at Windsor and New Year at Sandringham.
George was taken to his first Leeds United match by his father when he was nine and remained an ardent supporter throughout – so much so he eventually became a life president of the club.
He also developed an early fascination with music, listening to records on a wind-up gramophone player over and over until he knew every note. He maintained he was always “too ham-fisted to become a performer” but, like soccer and art, music, in particular opera, would become a lifelong love.
But George Lascelles’ life was very nearly cut short in the second world war. On June 18, 1944, the 21-year-old Grenadier Guards officer was checking a road in Italy for anti-tank mines when he was ambushed by a German patrol. He was shot and the bullet missed his heart by a critical few millimetres.
“To be wounded by a bullet entering half an inch from my heart and exiting through my hip bone without doing any lasting harm could have exhausted at least eight of a cat’s nine lives and yet I survived,” he said.
He was captured and sent to Germany, first to the POW camp at Spengenberg, before being transferred to the infamous Colditz Castle, where he was to see his death warrant signed by Hitler.
“But that was only hours before being set free by the German general charged with carrying out the order. “You can’t get much luckier than that.
“I always used to say: ‘you make your own luck’ and for many years that is what I have believed. But thinking back on my own life, I suspect to some degree I got it wrong. I have had lucky breaks without ‘making” my own’, and I never cease thanking my stars for it,” he said in his 80th birthday interview.
At the age of 24, George Lascelles became the seventh Earl of Harewood, in charge of one of the greatest houses in England as well as its extensive estates.
He was in his second term at Cambridge and totally unprepared for taking on the responsibilities of a huge country house and estate. He had to sell a great deal of the land and possessions to pay off the death duties.
But a strategy for survival was worked out and Harewood went on to become a successful estate, home to a wide range of activities from vintage car rallies to being the location for filming the television soap Emmerdale.
Over the years Lord Harewood was a member of a number of a number of arts committees. He had close associations with Opera North, he ran Opera Magazine and worked for Covent Garden, the Leeds and Edinburgh Festivals, the New Philharmonic Orchestra, English National Opera, the British Board of Film .Of his personal life, he said in his 80th birthday publication: “Above everything , I reckon my good fortune held over my marriages – with Marion, three stalwart sons with whom I get on well and 18 more years of more harmony than a subsequent divorce suggests; and with Patricia, a son and 35 years of the sort of shared interests and mutual love such as one mostly dreams of or finds only in the pages of fiction.”
Finally, Lord Harewood said of Harewood: “I was brought up to think of Harewood as a trust, something that was entrusted to one from the past: a beautiful house, beautiful contents and in a beautiful environment – a trust which I would then pass on to my children”.