Friends take just a minute to recall Sir Clement Freud

Jerome Taylor
Saturday 25 April 2009 00:00

His brother Lucian was noticeably absent, but Britain's artistic and literary elite turned out in force yesterday for the funeral of Sir Clement Freud, who died last week.

On what would have been the broadcaster and bon viveur's 85th birthday, friends, colleagues, politicians and relatives paid their respects to a man whose hang-dog looks and razor-sharp intellect made him one the nation's most memorable wits.

Colleagues from Just A Minute, the BBC Radio 4 panel game which Sir Clement joined in 1967 and on which he was a regular guest for more than 40 years, joined Gordon Brown, Bono, Paul Merton, Lord Steel and Freud's children, Matthew and Emma, at St Bride's, the church off Fleet Street which journalists traditionally use to say farewell to their colleagues.

The ceremony featured a number of carefully chosen readings and quintessentially British hymns to reflect Sir Clement's love for his adopted country, to which his family fled in the 1930s to escape Nazi persecution.

In a reference to Sir Clement's love of wine, Mr Brown read "The Wedding At Cana", the Bible story about Jesus turning water into wine. In a speech afterwards, Mr Brown said that Sir Clement, who once agreed to advertise dog food if he was paid the same salary as the Prime Minister, was "not only a national treasure but became within his own right a national institution". "Clement Freud had the greatest asset of all, a wonderful wife, Jill, and a wonderful family that have done so much for our national life," he added.

Stephen Fry, who often sparred with Sir Clement on Just A Minute, said: "It was far and away the most wonderful funeral service I have ever attended, if a funeral service can be wonderful. It was touching, elegant, funny, beautifully, beautifully organised. It was really remarkable."

Matthew Freud, the public relations magnate and founder of Freud Communications, fondly recalled his father's three key passions: writing, food and gambling. "If words were his craft, then eating was his purpose ... cooking and eating were in almost every article," he said. He also thanked the honest undertakers who returned £2,000 they found in his father's suit.

Sir Clement, grandson of Sigmund Freud, had not spoken to his equally famous younger brother, the reclusive painter Lucian Freud, for decades. They fell out when they were younger.

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