Henry Lumley-Savile

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The Independent Online

Henry Leoline Thornhill Lumley-Savile, businessman: born London 2 October 1923; married 1946 Presiley Inchbald (one son; marriage dissolved 1951), 1961 Caroline Clive (died 1970; one son deceased), 1972 Margaret Bruce (née Phillips; three sons); died Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire 28 March 2001.

Henry Leoline Thornhill Lumley-Savile, businessman: born London 2 October 1923; married 1946 Presiley Inchbald (one son; marriage dissolved 1951), 1961 Caroline Clive (died 1970; one son deceased), 1972 Margaret Bruce (née Phillips; three sons); died Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire 28 March 2001.

Henry Lumley-Savile might have been a great pianist but for the Second World War, when he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Monte Cassino. Instead he became a man about town, a popular escort for such celebrities as Jackie Kennedy, and at one time Evelyn Waugh's travel agent.

Henry Leoline Thornhill Lumley-Savile was heir presumptive to his brother George, the third Baron Savile. He grew up at Rufford Abbey, the former Cistercian monastery in Nottinghamshire that came into the Savile family in 1618. (Now a ruin, the abbey is in the care of English Heritage.)

He and his brother, his elder by four years, played in a nursery which still had windows of horn instead of glass. Rufford was the setting for some of the last of the great Edwardian house parties. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, came with his entire entourage seven years running for Doncaster Races.

Henry's father, a brilliant shot and popular host, was 70 when Henry was born in 1923, and died in 1931. Seven years later Rufford was sold. Henry's mother was convinced that, because of impending war, Britain would be invaded. Ironically, at the sale, Hermann Goering bought the famous Rufford tapestries.

The Lumley-Saviles were one of Yorkshire's largest landowning families. Each of the second Baron's children was named after a West Yorkshire town ­ Halifax, Thornhill and Elland. They were descended from the Earls of Halifax and Scarbrough ­ but, as the bar sinister in the Savile coat of arms suggests, illegitimately. Henry's great-grandfather, the eighth Earl of Scarbrough (whose grandmother was the Savile heiress), had a family by a Frenchwoman, Agnes, who had been abandoned by her husband.

Educated at Summerfields and Eton, both Henry and his brother George won the Harmsworth Music Prize at Eton. While still at prep school, Henry had composed a short opera, Il Duca Maligno. He was a direct descendant on his mother's side of Henry Purcell and a promising career as a musician seemed in store.

Leaving Eton, however, he had one week before joining the Grenadier Guards. He was sent first to North Africa and then to Italy. He was wounded at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944. In a letter home he wrote,

If there is anyone who really believes that war is a "creative art" (I heard it so described the other day) let him go to Monte Cassino to view his creation. Where once had stood a lovely little town at the foot of a tree-covered hill, crowned with one of the finest edifices in the world, there are now heaps of rubble, obscene in their ugliness: the trees on the hill scarred and stunted, the monastery hideously distorted ­ a scene which, with all its grisly details, Goya might have found delight in painting. If, to some, the wreck of Cassino is a masterpiece of creative art, to me it is the consummation of the loathsome monstrosities that are war.

Being in charge of the officers' mess, he looked in vain for food but could find only horseflesh and a cartload of Strega, the Italian liquor. His CO made him intelligence officer because, he claimed, he could rely on Lumley-Savile's getting a proper gin and tonic to him on the battlefield.

The experience was so traumatic for someone so young ­ it involved pouring lime over his friends' decaying bodies each night ­ that, after losing part of his elbow, Lumley- Savile never fulfilled his career as a classical musician. He did compose night-club songs, including one for the jazz singer "Hutch" entitled "Is It Just My Imagination?"

Aged 22, he married Presiley Inchbald, by whom he had a son, John. Before and between marriages, he escorted many famous women, including Jackie Kennedy and the two royal princesses. He was a director of the Rufford travel agency which looked after Evelyn Waugh ("He still owes me money," he said). He was also involved in a grand car-hire business and sold fire alarms. He loved racing. His great-uncle Henry Savile-Lumley had owned the Derby winner Cremorne. His own horse Don Quixote became the champion sprinter in the United States.

In 1961 he married Caroline Clive. She gave birth to a stillborn son. This had a traumatic effect on her and she died in 1970. Then, in 1971, he met the Canadian-born concert pianist Margaret Bruce, who had recently been widowed. With her he could share his passion for music and they married in 1972. In 1975 she bore him identical triplet sons, a chance of one in eight million births. In 1975 Henry and Margaret Lumley-Savile gave a concert together at the South Bank and the clubs of Pall Mall emptied to hear them play duets by Mozart and Beethoven.

Some seven years ago he retired from London life to live more or less permanently at Walshaw, a windswept shooting lodge on the Brontë moors.

Henry Lumley-Savile was fairly inscrutable: a man of few but well-chosen words, often delivered with deadpan wit. He held strong views, especially on politics, but he never forced them on anyone. He was very urbane, a wonderful host and loyal friend. He remained reassuringly old-fashioned and yet he was tolerant of the new. On his deathbed, in the same bedroom where he had slept as a child, he was reading Zadie Smith's White Teeth.

Celia Lyttelton

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