Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-07 > 1122115793

From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: HERBERT; Anne Bridget-8/7/2005-UK
Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005 11:49:53 +0100

Bridget Grant
(Filed: 23/07/2005)
The Daily Telegraph & the

Bridget Grant, who has died aged 91, was a conservative of the old school -
countrified, communistical and commonsensical; an anarchic rocker of boats
with an unassailable air of authority, she was also a devout Roman Catholic,
an obsessive farmer and an intrepid horsewoman.

A great beauty, she took no interest in her own or anyone else's appearance.
After brief spells first in Paris, then in Mayfair, she spent her entire
adult life in the West Country, where her door was, quite literally, always
open - her houses were as cold as her welcome was warm. Her pattern in
general was to carry on knowing anyone she had ever known. This resulted in
a wide acquaintance of all ages and classes and of several nationalities -
she was especially fond of Poles and Albanians - over whom she exercised a
profound influence, less because of anything she did, than because of how
she was.

Her younger sister, Laura Herbert, was married to Evelyn Waugh. The
novelist's relations with his in-laws were stormy to bad. Those with Bridget
were the exception: he admired and was amused by her, and she is generally
thought to have been the model for Barbara Sothill, the beautiful billeting
officer in Put Out More Flags, whose difficulties with a family called
Connolly are the inspiration for her brother Basil Seal's most successful
wartime scam.

Anne Bridget Domenica Herbert was born in London on February 22 1914. Her
father, Aubrey Herbert, the second son of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon, was a
blind soldier-poet and adventurer - the model for Sandy Arbuthnot in John
Buchan's Greenmantle - who was twice offered the throne of Albania. Her
mother, Mary Vesey, was an Irish Protestant, only child of Lord and Lady de
Vesci, striking looking with a ferocious temper.

Bridget, together with her two sisters and one much younger brother, was
brought up at Pixton Park, a handsome Georgian house on a wooded hillside
above Dulverton in Somerset. Aubrey Herbert's attachment to his Somerset
estate was one of the reasons why he turned down the throne of Albania. He
died in 1923, and despite the hostility of her mother-in-law, Lady
Carnarvon, Mary Herbert was received into the Catholic Church soon
afterwards, partly under the influence of her great friend, and Aubrey's
one-time tutor, Hilaire Belloc. The children gradually followed their mother
into the Roman fold. Bridget remained steadfast in her devotion all her

After a spell at Kensington High School, she lived for some months in Paris,
where she took cello lessons in between parties. Years later she would
recall of this period that she had accosted a boy and told him that they
would have to get married because she was having his baby. A chaste kiss had
provided the grounds for this misconception.

Holidays were spent at Portofino, in a large villa set in acres of steeply
terraced vines and olive trees built by Aubrey's father. In 1933 a
fashionable young novelist was invited by Gabriel Herbert, the eldest
sister, to join the house-party at Portofino. His name was Evelyn Waugh and
he had been recently, and disastrously, married to Evelyn Gardner, first
cousin to the Herbert girls on their father's side. It was not an auspicious
occasion. Mary Herbert threw a knife at him and ordered him out of the house
for mocking the Irish. Bridget, taking pity, drove the young man up and down
the Ligurian coast until word came that her mother had retired to bed. It
was the beginning of many years of mediating friendship.

A year later, when Waugh began to pay court to the 18-year-old Laura
Herbert, her mother was not pleased; and an aunt in common to both the
Herberts and Evelyn Gardner was heard to murmur: "I thought we had seen the
last of that young man."

In the early 1930s Bridget was taken by her mother to Albania, where she
caught the eye of King Zog. But she was always firm in rebutting the rumour
that he had asked for her hand in marriage: "He offered me yachts and villas
by the sea, which is not the same thing at all." Less exotic suitors
congregated at Pixton, where the more diffident stood and shivered, while
dogs sat on chairs and jumped in and out of the always open windows.
Arrangements were mulled over at great and inconclusive length in a fashion
later satirised by Waugh in his depiction of Boot Magna in Scoop:

"For over an hour the details of Priscilla's hunt occupied the dining-room.
Could she send her horse overnight to a farm near the meet; could she leave
the Caldicotes at dawn, pick up her horse at Boot Magna, and ride on; could
she borrow Major Watkins's trailer and take her horse to the Caldicotes for
the night, then as far as Major Watkins's in the morning and ride on from
there; if she got the family car from Aunt Anne and Major Watkins' trailer,
would Lady Caldicote lend her a car to take it to Major Watkins's, would
Aunt Anne allow the car to stay the night; would she discover it was taken
without her permission? They discussed the question exhaustively, from every
angle. "

This continued to be the flavour of conversations in and around Pixton for
decades to come.

In 1934 Bridget married Captain Eddie Grant, an engaging steeplechasing roué
double her age who had twice broken his neck riding in the Grand National.
(On the first occasion he was unconscious for 30 days, so the neck mended
without the break having been noticed; it was picked up by doctors next time
round.) The couple lived in London, where Grant worked for a time in
publishing. All Quiet On The Western Front is the best known of the books he
turned down.

At the beginning of the war Bridget returned to Pixton with two small
daughters. She became billeting officer for the area - and saved Pixton from
servicemen by filling it with pre-school evacuees - while Eddie Grant was
seconded to MI5.

In 1942, after the birth of their son, the Grants bought Nutcombe, a
beautiful Elizabethan manor house in a state of total disarray in Devon,
into which they moved in 1945. Eddie Grant died suddenly two years later,
leaving Bridget with three small children and little money. She became very
interested in farming, canning her muscovy ducks and salting her runner
beans, and became devoted to Red Poll cattle, an allegedly dual purpose
breed not much good for either. Like her, both her sisters took up farming,
though none had grown up knowing anything about it. All three settled in
striking distance of their mother and brother at Pixton, and Bridget
continued to hunt whenever she could.

The young of succeeding generations adored Bridget Grant, and continued in
their adoration when no longer young. The most down-to-earth by far of all
the Herberts, she was a hugely important parental presence in the lives of
her nieces and nephews as well as in those of her own three children. She
combined great reserves of sympathy with a talent for making less of
everything, including messy lives. Even in her eighties her approach to
delinquency remained good-humoured and pragmatic. Sound advice about the
present and future rather than mournful recrimination about the past was
what she went in for.

In 1971, when her son got married, she moved from Nutcombe to a smaller
house on the Pixton estate. The early deaths of her sister and brother and
then, in 1984, of her daughter Anne made her more of a lynchpin than ever,
and the flow of people in and out of her increasingly dilapidated house
never stopped. A champion smoker, she had no interest in clothes beyond
insisting on long cardigans with large pockets. She died on July 8 and is
survived by a son and a daughter.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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