Robert Hardy’s Estate Auction: All Memories Great and Small

Robert Hardy’s Estate Auction: All Memories Great and Small

Robert Hardy’s estate went under the ham­mer in Glouces­ter­shire yes­ter­day. It com­prised an eclec­tic scrap­book of his grand life. There was even the brass plaque of Siegfried Farnon, the iras­ci­ble York­shire vet. RH endeared him­self as Siegfried for nine­ty episodes on “All Crea­tures Great and Small.”
Alert­ed late, I tried for one of his Churchill rings, but the bid­ding went far beyond esti­mates. A friend and col­league came away with Churchill’s bow tie. It was giv­en to RH by Grace Ham­blin dur­ing the film­ing of Churchill: The Wilder­ness Years, in 1981. It cost him a bun­dle, but he is delight­ed.
My wife was tak­en by a eques­tri­an paint­ing of RH in the role of Prince Albert. It went for less than I thought. I should have bid on it. Where would I hang it? Some­where, some­where.

Jus­tine Hardy post­ed a love­ly three minute video about the wrench of part­ing with the effects of her father’s robust, admirable life. She wrote: “My father was such a moun­tain in our land­scape, it has been quite a shud­der­ing since the moun­tain fell.”

Robert as Raconteur

Christo­pher Stevens wrote elo­quent­ly and humor­ous­ly of Robert: “Racon­teur, his­to­ri­an, bril­liant musi­cian and lover of his lead­ing ladies, Robert Hardy was a ras­cal. A man of unbri­dled enthu­si­asm, with a voice like but­ter melt­ing on a hot crum­pet. He would tell his scur­rilous anec­dotes in per­fect­ly com­posed prose, as if read­ing aloud.”
To Stevens, as to us, Robert recount­ed his youth­ful love scene with Judi Dench. He was Hen­ry V. She, then 26, was Kather­ine, Princess of France. She was “unspeak­ably pret­ty and adorable and deli­cious,” who “had me real­ly very, very hot under the col­lar. It’s the only time I had trou­ble with my hose,” he would say, refer­ring to the Shake­speare­an tights. For­tu­nate­ly, nei­ther the cam­era nor the lead­ing lady were aware of his excitement—but when he con­fessed to her years lat­er ‘she was thrilled to bits!’”
Dear Robert, dear Tim. There was sim­ply no one like him.  Lis­ten to that hon­eyed voice, that per­fect Eng­lish, if you have an hour. He spoke of “Churchill in My Life”, and much else besides, includ­ing Amer­i­ca, at Hills­dale Col­lege in 2015.  Click here for my own words. He was the finest man I ever knew.

Great Contemporaries

The auc­tion of his effects was of course inevitable and nec­es­sary, but cast a pall over his fam­i­ly and friends. Churchill words in Great Con­tem­po­raries, on the death of Arthur Bal­four, well fit fit my own expe­ri­ence with Robert Hardy:
I had the priv­i­lege of vis­it­ing him sev­er­al times dur­ing the last months of his life. I saw with grief the approach­ing depar­ture, and—for all human purposes—extinction, of a being high uplift­ed above the com­mon run.
As I observed him regard­ing with calm, firm and cheer­ful gaze the approach of Death, I felt how fool­ish the sto­ics were to make such a fuss about an event so nat­ur­al and so indis­pens­able to mankind. But I felt also the tragedy which robs the world of all the wis­dom and trea­sure gath­ered in a great man’s life and expe­ri­ence and hands the lamp to some impetu­ous and untu­tored stripling, or lets its fall shiv­ered into frag­ments upon the ground.

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