Wednesday, February 09, 2005

If It Was a Movie, It Would Have Starred Greer Garson

And the FLUBA Committee on There Will Always Be an England, isn't sure the plot of this Brit Obit wasn't made into a film:

Lady Aitken, who died on Monday aged 94, was the widow of the Tory MP Sir William Aitken and steadfast mother of the fallen former Tory minister Jonathan Aitken and the actress and director Maria Aitken.

... in the late 1990s she emerged into the limelight during the series of events that led, in 1999, to Jonathan being sentenced to jail for perjury, after he was forced to admit he had lied in court during a libel action against the Guardian over a hotel bill at the Paris Ritz - in an attempt to cover up a business meeting with Arab friends.

Lady Aitken never faltered in her devotion to her only son. When, in 1995, he admitted to having had an affair with a prostitute shortly after his marriage, she dismissed press criticism of him, adding: "This is the way men behave. It's just human nature." When it emerged that he had fathered a child with Soraya Khashoggi, the former wife of Adnan Khashoggi, she welcomed her new grandchild into the family.

After his failed libel action against the Guardian in 1997, Lady Aitken declared that the whole thing had been a "muddle" caused by the incompetence of her daughter-in-law, Lolicia.

When Lolicia subsequently filed for divorce, Lady Aitken said (somewhat to her son's dismay): "As far as I'm concerned, it's the best thing to come out of all this, and cheap at the price. She doesn't cook for him and she spends most of her life in health farms or at airports."

....She was born Penelope Loader Maffey on December 2 1910, the only daughter of the first Lord Rugby, who was to become Governor-General of the Sudan and Permanent Secretary of the Colonial Office. Earlier, he was private secretary to the Viceroy of India and Governor of the North West Frontier province, and Penelope spent her early years in India, where three of her siblings died in childhood.

Aged seven she was sent to prep school in England, and went on to Sherborne School for Girls. Her parents had a house, Anmer Hall, on the Sandringham estate, where as a teenager Penelope bred cocker spaniels. When one of her dogs caught a pheasant right under the nose of the King, she expected a dressing-down, but he seemed to want only to talk to her about their shared interest in cockers. She was later asked to lunch, aged 16, and remembered Queen Mary "sitting bolt upright with high ruched collars and the house party all dressed in their finery. I was sitting on the left of the King because that was the side he could hear. Because I was young and pretty he was very nice to me."

....In 1938 she met William "Bill" Aitken, nephew of the media baron Lord Beaverbrook and at the time a financial journalist with the Evening Standard. A shy Canadian, Aitken had just volunteered as a pilot in the RAF.... they were married that year at St Peter's, Eaton Square.

....In 1944 the family's house in London was bombed and Bill Aitken was badly wounded in a Spitfire crash.

.... in 1964, Bill Aitken died aged 58, leaving his family facing crippling death duties, exacerbated by a stock market crash, which almost wiped out their fortune. It seemed that Jonathan, then in his first year at Oxford, would have to make his own way in life.

....When [her son] entered the government in 1992 as Minister of Defence Procurement, she was on hand to take photographs of him holding his ministerial red box.

She remained loyal throughout the slow torture of his downfall and subsequent "rebirth" as a Christian; she employed his friend from Belmarsh, Spider Aguda, as her chauffeur, whom she would introduce by saying: "Meet my wonderful bullion-robber friend." She also remained a great lover of parties, and of men.

Pempe Aitken is survived by her son and daughter, whose revival of Terence Rattigan's Man and Boy opened to rave reviews on the night that she died.

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