Sir Angus Ogilvy

Businessman husband of Princess Alexandra of Kent

Monday 27 December 2004 01:00 GMT

Angus James Bruce Ogilvy, businessman: born London 14 September 1928; Treasurer, Friends of the Elderly & Gentlefolk's Help 1952-63, Chairman 1963-69, Vice-President 1969-2004; Chairman, British Rheumatism and Arthritis Association (later Arthritis Care) 1963-69, President 1969-78, Patron 1978-2003; President, Imperial Cancer Research Fund 1964-94; Chairman, National Association of Youth Clubs (later Youth Clubs UK) 1964-69, President 1969-89; President, Scottish Wildlife Trust 1969-74, Patron 1974-90; President, Carr-Gomm Society 1983-2004; Chairman, Advisory Council, Prince's Youth Business Trust 1986-99; KCVO 1989; PC 1997; Chairman, Advisory Council, Prince's Trust 1999-2004; married 1963 Princess Alexandra of Kent (one son, one daughter); died Kingston upon Thames, Surrey 26 December 2004.

In later life Angus Ogilvy joked that, since he could not escape the Royal Family, he had been happy to go a step further and join them.

He came from a family that had served the Royal Family for generations. His grandmother Mabell, Countess of Airlie (through whom he descended from Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Stuart kings) had been a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Mary, his uncle Bruce Ogilvy was a long-serving equerry to the Prince of Wales, later Duke of Windsor. His father, the 12th Earl of Airlie, was Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (they had been childhood neighbours in Scotland). Years later, his elder brother, the present Earl of Airlie, served as Lord Chamberlain to the Queen, and Lady Airlie became her lady-in-waiting. Ogilvy himself became a member of the Royal Company of Archers - the Queen's Body Guard for Scotland - in 1958. And in 1963 he married Princess Alexandra, the Queen's first cousin.

It is the role of the Queen's cousins to undertake those royal engagements and duties for which the Queen does not have time. These are often the less obviously appealing, frequently in the regions and suburbs, but none the less important. The demand for members of the Royal Family to undertake such duties greatly increased in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, when television heightened the demand for celebrities. No longer was it enough to have the local lady of the manor or mayoress to open the local hospital. They wanted stars or royalty.

Princess Alexandra never had a career other than undertaking royal duties. She undertook her first solo royal engagement in May 1954, when she was 17. In her twenties she accompanied her mother, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, on tours to Canada and the United States, and to Mexico, Peru, Chile and Brazil. In 1960 she represented the Queen at the Nigerian independence celebrations. And in 1961 she undertook a solo Commonwealth tour, visiting 22 towns and cities in Queensland, Australia, returning to Britain via Thailand and Cambodia. This tour included an important visit to Emperor Hirohito of Japan, paving the way for the Emperor's State Visit to Britain in 1971 and the Queen's return visit to Tokyo in 1975.

For over 40 years, following her marriage, the Princess was accompanied by her husband, Angus Ogilvy, the pair undertaking an enormous number of public engagements with quiet dignity and professionalism. Wherever they went, they left a memory of charm, and lightness of touch, which was achieved with no diminution of the royal status.

Angus Ogilvy was born in London in 1928, spending much of his childhood at Cortachy Castle, his father's estate in Angus. He was educated at Eton and did his National Service in the Scots Guards, commissioned in 1946, and joining the Reserve of Officers in 1948. He went up to Trinity College, Oxford, to read PPE, and his economics tutor was the future Foreign Secretary Anthony Crosland. He graduated in 1950.

As a younger son, he was aware that the family estates would go to his brother, with very little for him. He longed to be an architect, but was not confident he had the talent. And so, despite his father's imprecations that all businessmen were crooks, Ogilvy went into the City.

He was given an early job by Harold Drayton, a man who had one of the most remarkable financial careers in the city of London. Drayton's father had been a Lincolnshire gardener, and Drayton himself started work at a Streatham tobacconist's for 7s 6d a week. He moved on to be office boy in Viscount St Davids's group of investment companies, and gradually rose to be a confidential secretary and finally head of the group himself. In time he was the man to whom people came for major financial backing. He believed in diversification, investing in Butlin's Bahamas enterprise, Decca, Skyways and Crittall windows. He owned four evening papers and 28 weeklies. By the time he died in 1966, the Drayton Group was worth £160m.

Prime in the group were his 17 investment trusts. As early as 1948, he took on Angus Ogilvy, who became director of some 50 of the companies. Drayton was once asked how many directorships he had, and confessed he did not know: "There are so many new ones, you see. Angus and the other little devils are always up to something."

Ogilvy was a hard-working businessman, dictating letters in his car, lunching at his desk and putting in a 12-hour working day at his office. In due course he became chairman of the investment trusts of the Drayton Group. One of the companies owned by Drayton was Lonhro, then a small mining concern. In 1961, following a visit to South Africa, Ogilvy persuaded Roland "Tiny" Rowland to join Lonhro, to build the company up. He came to describe Rowland as "a genius . . . but with defects".

Angus Ogilvy's other directorships included Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Clive Holdings, Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance, Metropolitan Estate and Property Corporation, Midland Bank, Rank Organisation and Robeco. He was a member of the Council of the Institute of Directors.

His business career prospered until trouble brewed at Lonhro over investment in a Rhodesian mining company, about which Ogilvy said he knew nothing. Indeed Ogilvy resigned from all companies that had connections with Rhodesia in 1968. Sir Denis Greenhill, at the Foreign Office, talked to him to make sure that the Crown was in no way tarnished by any dealings he might have. Ogilvy was said to be in a difficult position due to being financially involved with Rowland, and thus possibly not able to act freely as a director. Some of this hinged around a Bahamian company, Yeoman Investments (which, unbeknown to Ogilvy, had purchased an interest in a copper mine in Rhodesia), from which Rowland paid Ogilvy £60,000, and a flat made available to him by Lonhro (not exclusively as it turned out).

Ogilvy remained on the board of Lonhro until 1973, in which time the profits of the company rose from £150,000 to £80m. But he resigned during the boardroom battle to remove Rowland.

In July 1976, he was criticised by a Department of Trade report into Lonhro and described as "negligent . . . to an extent that merits severe criticism". He denied 58 statements of fact in the report, and several of omission, but in the climate of the time immediately resigned 16 of his directorships, though Rank and MEPC refused to let him go. Eighteen months later, his name was cleared, but the damage was done. In 1976 he said that it was "the only honourable thing to do", and that, because there was no legal redress, he was unable to clear his name.

Instead he became, in 1977, a working director of Sotheby's, acting as a kind of roving ambassador, and contributing on the business side. He found the art world congenial. He also devoted himself to his extensive charitable interests. He was Patron of Arthritis Care, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the National Association of Ladies' Circles of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, President of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (giving up smoking after a long battle) and the National Association of Youth Clubs, Vice-President of the Friends of the Elderly & Gentlefolk's Help, and Vice-Patron of TocH. He became a trustee of the Leeds Castle Foundation in 1975.

Despite his business career, it was his marriage that propelled Angus Ogilvy into the public arena. He had first met Princess Alexandra in 1955, at a ball at Luton Hoo, and later declared that she was the only woman he ever loved. But he resigned himself to life as a confirmed bachelor. In 1962, when he was 34, and she nearly 26, he proposed and was accepted.

The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 24 April 1963, with a memorable television commentary by Richard Dimbleby, and was attended by a large gathering of foreign royalty, including Queen Ingrid of Denmark and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain. Indeed, the event vexed the Foreign Office since the princess had to be diverted from inviting many overseas heads of state that she had met on her travels, including the Emperor of Japan. The young couple wanted to invite the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but Princess Marina would not have them.

Immediately following their marriage there was a rare paparazzo incident, when the lens-man Ray Belisario secreted himself in the shrubbery behind Birkhall, the Queen Mother's residence in Aberdeenshire, and snatched intimate photographs of the honeymoon couple on the lawn together. Though these were far from shocking, they were none the less seen as an undignified intrusion.

In those days it was considered likely that Angus Ogilvy might be given an earldom on marriage, but this he declined, believing that marrying a member of the Royal Family was not reason enough to accept one. These were years of transition and there was an identical historical parallel, differently treated. In 1919, another granddaughter of the Sovereign, Princess Patricia of Connaught, had married the younger son of a Scottish earl, the Hon Alexander Ramsay. On that occasion she had relinquished her royal titles, being known as Lady Patricia Ramsay. On the other hand, in 1961, shortly before Princess Margaret's son was born, her husband accepted an earldom. Ogilvy's refusal set the present pattern whereby there was no question of Princess Anne's first husband's being ennobled. The advantage of this was that any children of the marriage were not encumbered by titles and could lead lives out of the public eye.

Ogilvy accompanied Princess Alexandra on evening engagements, but rarely in the daytime, when he was at work. But he did go with her on various foreign tours. Finland and Luxembourg decorated Ogilvy in 1969 and 1972 respectively, on the occasion of state visits, but it was not until much later in life that the Queen appointed him KCVO, and the Government appointed him to the Privy Council, both honours reflecting his quiet service to the Crown, behind the scenes.

Likewise, the Ogilvys were close to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, staying with them regularly at Balmoral and Sandringham. They sometimes accompanied the Prince of Wales on summer holidays. (Ogilvy was both a trustee of the Prince's Trust and a member of the Governing Council of Business in the Community.)

Until October 1989 the Ogilvys maintained a consistently good relationship with the press. Each year they posed for a group photograph. In 1971 the family shared an umbrella for the picture. These pictures were issued to the press and presented a convincing image of a united family, living happily together in Richmond Park.

While their son, James, fulfilled all his parents' wishes, their daughter, Marina, dropped a bombshell into their lives when she announced she was pregnant by a stubble-chinned young photographer, Paul Mowatt. She accused her parents of being cold and formal and caring only for their royal life, and aired her grievances publicly. Eventually she married the father of her future child in an uneasy church ceremony in 1990, attended by her parents and James and Julia Ogilvy.

Relations did not improve. Photographs of one Mowatt christening attended by the Ogilvys were retailed to Hello! magazine. In the 1990s Marina told her tale in public on numerous occasions, even posing in black leather, seated on a throne, surrounded by corgis, for the benefit of You Magazine.

It says much for the Ogilvy parents that they bore all this in stoic silence and were on hand to support their daughter when, inevitably, the mismatch dissolved into separation and divorce. Only on certain occasions, the wedding of Prince Edward in 1999 and the funeral of Princess Margaret in 2002, did Marina return to the family fold. By then both parents and daughter had resumed their earlier happy relationship.

Throughout his life, Ogilvy suffered from bouts of ill-health, a bad back preventing him from sleeping through the night. In his early life he was a Christian Scientist (like his mother), and even later in life at least once consulted a faith healer. For relaxation, he liked nothing better than a concert at the Albert Hall, though his back made this an uncomfortable business. Lately he had taken to walking with a stick.

In January 2002, it was announced that Ogilvy was suffering from cancer of the oesophagus, and he cancelled his public engagements, failing to accompany his wife to the funeral of Princess Margaret the following month. By sheer willpower, he determined to get better, and, though he looked frail and gaunt, he was able to take a full part in the celebrations for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in June that year.

He enjoyed two more years of life, and saw his wife installed as a Lady of the Order of the Garter in 2003. His inherent courtesy never deserted him.

Hugo Vickers

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