23 MAY 1992, Page 7


Less than a fortnight ago the Sunday Times Magazine published an engrossing little table headed 'The 10 richest people in the world.' In fourth place were 'The Reichmann brothers. Canada. £7.8 billion'. This put them behind 'King Fand. Saudi Arabia. £10.9 billion', but comfortably ahead of the only woman in the group, `Queen Elizabeth II. UK. £6.5 billion'. A week later the Sunday Times, informed by the intervening event of the Reichmanns' filing for bankruptcy protection, came up with some revised figures. According to these, the assets of Olympia and York, the brothers' holding company, are worth C$14.9 billion, while the company's 'aggre- gate indebtedness' is also C$14.9 billion . A strange feeling came over me, as I read this. I discovered that I am richer than men who only a week ago were said to be the fourth richest people in the world. A simi- lar thought struck me when Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy: Mr Trump would have to borrow even to buy a copy of The Specta- tor, whereas I had ready cash, unencum- bered by bankers' liens, of £1.60. And yet, as I continue to observe the extravagant life style of Mr Trump, I cannot honestly say that I feel as though I am richer than he. The Reichmanns, per contra, have always been renowned for the modesty of their way of life. But, solvent as I am, I still feel that it would make more sense for me to ask the immensely charitable Reichmanns for a personal loan rather than vice versa. Even if you are worth nothing, everyone especially bankers — will think you are rich if you behave as though you are. Perhaps we need a new definition of what it is to be rich. It no longer means that you have a very high net worth, or even any net worth at all. It means only that lots of people sin- cerely want you to be rich.

The woman described in the 'ten most wealthy' list as 'Queen Elizabeth II. UK. £6.5 billion' seems to have escaped the crit- icism which has recently been aimed at most of her immediate family. Until last week that is, when John Grigg sounded off in The Monarchy Revisited', a pamphlet produced and distributed by W H Smith. Mr Grigg boldly attacks the monarch on what had been thought to be her strongest ground: her devotion to duty. Mr Grigg criticises the recent film Elizabeth R for describing the Queen's holidays as 'very short'. 'They are by any standards long,' he protests, adding that her days off work `probably constitute the largest amount of holiday taken by any major and active pub- lic figure in the world.' Mr Grigg adds that:

The film made much of her incessant work on official boxes but this occupies two hours a day at most and can scarcely be

DOMINIC LAWSON regarded as a backbreaking holiday task.' Readers with long memories will not need reminding that the author is the same man who in 1957 wrote an article called 'The Monarchy Today' for the National and English Review which brought the house if not quite the House of Windsor — down. Then Lord Altrincham — as John Grigg was known before he renounced his peer- age — was criticising not so much the young Queen as the court which surround- ed her. The effect was still devastating. The author was denounced by public figures, including most of Britain's newspaper edi- tors. He was struck in the street by an elderly man who, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate opined, shared the views of 95 per cent of the population. And an Italian monarchist, Commendatore Marmirolli, challenged Lord Altrincham to a duel. 35 years on, even a direct attack on the Queen for being a lazy Head of State causes scarcely a ripple. This time John Grigg is in no danger of being attacked in the street, or being challenged to a duel, or even, I am afraid to say, of being noticed. Pace 'The Monarchy Revisited', that is the most inter- esting change of all, and one which should cause the House of Windsor more concern than the criticism of any one individual.

Te former Lord Altrincham is, for all his eccentricities, a supporter of the monar- chy, and a conscientious, rather than wilful- ly destructive critic. The same cannot be said for the Murdoch press, in particular the Sunday Times, which has paid approxi- mately £275,000 for the serialisation rights of a book which it meretriciously dubs

`Don't worry — everyone gets acne in adolescence.'

'Diana: Her Own Story'. It is in fact writ- ten, without authorisation, by one Andrew Morton, a former Daily Star and News of the World reporter. In an effort to promote this expensively acquired 'scoop', the Sun- day Times last week splashed across an entire page an article entitled 'Pyramid Selling', which sought to prove that the Princess of Wales, then in Egypt, was 'bril- liantly manipulating' the poor hacks of the British press. She is a 'calculating and clever woman' quoted the article, and backed this up by alleging that the book it describes as Diana: Her Own Story, has been 'sourced by a close circle of the Princess's friends with her full knowledge'. What of course the article does not do is to quote Buckingham Palace, which last week stated wearily that the Princess 'has not given access or co-operation on the text, photographs or production of this book in any way.' The truth is that it is the editor of the Sunday Times who is 'calculating', `clever' and 'brilliantly manipulative'. Mr Andrew Neil seems quite prepared to tra- duce, without risk of attracting a libel suit, a blameless woman, in order to gain returns on a large, and, I hope, unwise commercial investment. Where is Com- mendatore Marmirolli now, when a young royal lady most needs him?

An American reader of The Spectator, Mr Thomas Woodhouse, wrote to me last week: 'Generally I do not find the letters reprinted in your Unlettered Column to be particularly crass or illiterate. Perhaps that is because we have to put up with so much of each in the US. The enclosed, which I received following the recent death of my mother, is what I would call crass.' (I should add to Mr Woodhouse's remarks that the letter he enclosed was a printed circular, with the addressee's name hand- written in.) 'Dear Mr Woodhouse, I am very sorry to hear about the passing of your loved one. I read the legal notice in the paper recently and was wondering if you were going to put any PROPERTY up for sale. Often, when a loved one passes and

there is real estate involved, the executor prefers to sell it as QUICKLY and EASI- LY as possible. Since this is a sad time for you, perhaps I may be of assistance. I buy houses in this area for CASH. Because there are no real estate agents involved, I

may be able to SAVE you all the time and effort it normally takes to find a buyer.

Please call me any time at (319) 354-7554 and leave a message if I'm not in. Very sin- cerely, David Walker. PS I have CASH for your property NOW. If you would like a cash offer on any estate property within the week, call NOW. I also buy AUTOMO- BILES.'