The second episode of the new ITV series “Keeping Up With the Aristocrats” airs tomorrow on ITV at 9pm. This will, no doubt, offer additional examples of enterprising efforts by four aristocratic families to make something of more immediate value out of their inheritances. Previously, we mentioned Evelyn Waugh’s connections with one of these families–the Sitwells at Renishaw Hall. It turns out, after some additional research, that Waugh also had a connection with the Sitwell’s neighbors the Fitzalan-Howards at Carlton Towers. Waugh recounts in some detail a 1939 visit to Carlton Towers where he was the invited guest of Miles Howard.
This connection is mentioned in an article by Eleanor Doughty appearing in today’s Sunday Times based on her interview of Gerald Fitzalan-Howard and his wife. Here’s an extract:
…Carlton, rebuilt by Edward Pugin in 1873, has 126 rooms, a clock tower, and about 2,000 acres. The house came into Gerald’s family through his grandmother Mona, 11th Baroness Beaumont, in whose family, the Stapletons, the estate had been since 1301. Gerald’s late father treasured Carlton as his childhood home, and, Gerald told me in 2018 when I visited, “could remember the First World War armistice parade coming through”. His friend, the author Evelyn Waugh, who was at Oxford with the future duke — in his time, the most senior lay Roman Catholic — stayed at Carlton, “and wrote Brideshead Revisited after he stayed here”.
Waugh leaves a record of that visit in his diary for 29 July 1939. The visit began with a trip in a hired railroad carriage arranged by Miles Howard who accompanied Waugh and two other guests on the trip to Yorkshire, where they got out at Selby. Waugh’s connection with the Howards seems to come through their friendship with his wife’s family, the Herberts. The Times article suggests that Waugh and Miles knew each other at Oxford, but that seems unlikely since Miles was 12 years younger than Waugh. In his diary entry, Waugh comments, “Lord Howard has little importance in the house and twitches painfully.” That must have been Lord Howard of Glossop (1885-1972) who (according to a footnote in the diary) was the father of Miles Howard (1915-2002) and owner of Carlton Towers at the time of Waugh’s visit. Miles became the 17th Duke of Norfolk in 1975, inheriting the title not from his father but from a second cousin once removed. Miles was, in turn, the father of Gerald Fitzalan-Howard (b. 1962) present owner of Carlton, who appears in the ITV series.
Just to complicate matters further, Waugh’s biographers make several references to a Francis Howard. This is probably Francis Philip Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Penrith (1905-1999). Waugh met him on the occasion of his first meeting with the Herbert family in Portofino. His obituary in the Daily Telegraph (8 Dec 1999) says that during “school holidays and thereafter he enjoyed staying with his Herbert cousins in the West Country where his love of literature was fostered in company that included Evelyn Waugh, Hilaire Belloc, and Ronald Knox.” Francis was a witness at Waugh’s marriage to Laura Herbert in 1937 and a godfather of their first child Teresa. Selina Hastings identifies him as “Francis Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Penrith”. On the day of his departure from Carlton Towers (2 August 1939), Waugh enigmatically writes in his diary: “Lord Howard of Penrith dies.” The person referred to as Francis Howard would have inherited the Penrith title at that time, but Waugh makes no connection between this Howard and those at Carlton Towers mentioned a few lines above. How Francis may be related, if at all, to the Fitzalan-Howards at Carlton Towers is not explained. His father was a diplomat: Esmé Howard (1863-1939), sometime Ambassador to the US, and was created the 1st Baron Howard of Penrith in 1930 when he retired.
Waugh says that there were 7 or 8 Howards present when he visited Carlton Towers in 1939, “each with a Christian name beginning with M.” That would seem to exclude Francis Howard from that party. However, it is somewhat troubling to note that Miles, who was definitely present and seems to be Waugh’s connection to the family, had the full name “Miles Francis Stapleton Howard”. So far as I can determine, however, “Francis Howard” and “Miles Howard” as referred to by Waugh and his biographers are different people. Michael Davie, who edited Waugh’s diaries, seems to agree (p. 810). Anyone having more or contrary information on this point is invited to comment as provided below. Another indirect connection existed between Waugh’s wife Laura and a “Henry Howard” who, according to Selina Hastings (p. 324), was one of her suitors before she met Evelyn. Since he lacks an “M” name, he was also probably absent from the Carlton Towers house party. He may possibly be Francis Howard’s brother: Henry Anthony Carrillo Howard (1913-1977).
In his diary, Waugh provides a detailed description of Carlton Towers, both outside and inside. It is not very flattering:
“First sight of the house is staggering, concrete-faced, ivy-grown, 1870 early Tudor, bristling with gargoyles, heraldic animals carrying fully emblazoned banners, coroneted ciphers; an orgy of heraldry…The inside gives every evidence of semi-amateur planning; space where none is needed, cramped arches and windows where one cries out for space, harsh light everywhere from bad stained glass…Large numbers of indifferent paintings ascribed to Italian masters. The great drawing room wainscotted in sham ebony with, above, sham Spanish leather, atrocious paintings in the panel of Shakespearian characters, more escutcheons with countless quarterings.”
But as he explored some further reaches of the house, he found
“many charms: the relics of two earlier houses below the 1870 shell, some 1830 Gothic, some first-class pre-Adam Georgian and bits of pre-Tudor rooms. A fine music library with some fairly interesting books.”
So far as I can tell from Waugh’s writings, he did not renew his friendships with the Howards after the war. They must have rubbed into each other in London but he mentions no further visits to Carlton Towers or meetings with Miles, Francis or “Lord Howard”. In the case of Francis, this may have been due to a war wound in 1942 from which, according to the Telegraph, he never fully recovered and which limited his mobility. There was a further connection with Carlton Towers after Waugh’s death. As explained in Miles Howard’s obituary in the Daily Telegraph (26 June 2002):
When Evelyn Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust was filmed at Carlton Towers, [Miles Howard, by then 17th Duke of Norfolk] was an extra in the part of a gardener; Kenneth Rose remarked in The Sunday Telegraph that Norfolk lit a bonfire and touched his cap as if “to the cottage born”.
It would seem fair to say that a closer personal relationship existed between Waugh and the Fitzalan-Howards than he had with their Protestant relatives living at Castle Howard a few miles further north, even though the latter have benefitted more from repeated adaptations of his works.