Me­mo­rial Ser­vice: Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - James Hughes-onslow

Hugh Thomas, the cross­bench peer and lead­ing his­to­rian of the Span­ish Civil War, was al­ways in favour of Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion, as many dis­tin­guished speak­ers re­flected at his me­mo­rial ser­vice at St Martin-in-the-fields. Thomas also served as chair­man of Mar­garet Thatcher’s favourite think tank, the Cen­tre for Pol­icy Stud­ies.

His daugh­ter, Is­abella Varoux­akis Thomas, in­tro­duced the ser­vice. Her son, Alexan­der, read from Lewis Car­roll’s Jab­ber­wocky and her hus­band, Pro­fes­sor Ge­or­gios Varoux­akis, read from her fa­ther’s ground­break­ing book, The Span­ish Civil War (1961).

Mario Var­gas Llosa spoke of Thomas’s love of South Amer­ica from his own per­spec­tive as a nov­el­ist, his­to­rian, politi­cian and pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Ramón Pérez Maura, for­mer ed­i­tor of the Span­ish news­pa­per ABC and Thomas’s com­mis­sion­ing ed­i­tor, praised his deep knowl­edge of Spain.

Sir John El­liott, Regius Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Mod­ern His­tory at Ox­ford, said, ‘Just as Ed­ward Gibbon could say of his ex­pe­ri­ence as a cap­tain in the Hamp­shire mili­tia that it “has not been use­less to the his­to­rian of the Ro­man Em­pire”, so Hugh could have said with equal jus­tice that his ex­pe­ri­ence as a pol­icy ad­viser to Thatcher had not been use­less to the his­to­rian of the Span­ish Em­pire.

‘He was, above all, a con­sum­mate sto­ry­teller, pos­sessed of out­stand­ing pow­ers of de­scrip­tion both of peo­ple and places. Colum­bus, he tells us, was “a pre­ma­turely white-haired man – it had once been red – his eyes blue, his nose aquiline, and his high cheeks of­ten turn­ing scar­let, on a long face”. It is as if he had met him.’

‘My fa­ther knew he had a pres­ence and, while he was no king, he was in com­mand of his life,’ said his son Inigo. ‘He be­lieved a writer could be­come any­thing he chose. When, in his twen­ties, try­ing to re­as­sure his par­ents about his ca­reer, he told them he was con­fronted by two pos­si­bil­i­ties: 1. to marry a rich Amer­i­can; 2. to write a best­seller. “Nei­ther was im­pos­si­ble,” he said.’

The Voce Cham­ber Choir sang Riu, Riu, Chiu (c 1550) by Ma­teo Flecha el Viejo, and Regina Caeli Laetare by the 16th-cen­tury com­poser Fran­cisco Guer­rero.

The or­der of ser­vice was de­signed by Thomas’s son Isam­bard. JAMES HUGHES-ONSLOW

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