Memorial Service: Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
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