King's Counsellor: Abdication and War – The Diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles by Duff Hart-Davis (ed) - review by Michael Bloch

Michael Bloch

The Courtier’s Craft

King's Counsellor: Abdication and War – The Diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 462pp £25 order from our bookshop

Sir Alan Lascelles, known to his friends as ‘Tommy’, was a courtier. He served as Principal Private Secretary to King George VI from 1943 until his death, and to the Queen for the first two years of her reign. From 1935 to 1943, he had been Assistant Private Secretary to three sovereigns, and during the 1920s, on the staff of Edward, Prince of Wales. He was in many ways superbly qualified for his job. He was loyal, meticulous, wily and resourceful. He was an exceptionally cultivated man, whose exquisitely written memoranda are a joy to read. Unlike his predecessor as Principal Private Secretary, Sir Alexander Hardinge, he had much personal charm and seems to have got on well with everyone; he also had a considerable talent for dissimulation, and was perfectly able to conceal, when necessary, his true motives in any matter or his true feelings for his interlocutor. He was thus able to fulfil to perfection his task of ensuring that no friction developed between the sovereign and his ministers, that the post-war Labour government developed no republican tinge, that the royal prerogatives were respected and the constitutional niceties preserved.

Unfortunately for historians, Lascelles also possessed another quality thought desirable in courtiers – he was pathologically discreet. The bulk of this volume consists of a diary which he kept for four of his ten years as Principal Private Secretary, from 1942 to 1946. It is of negligible value as a

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