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.
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.
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.