Earl of Onslow
Michael, Earl of Onslow, died on the 14th of May 2011 at his home at Temple Court, following a serious illness.
I spoke to him a few days before he died and his voice and manner in no way revealed how ill he had become. He was a very brave man.
Towards the end of his life he had one burning wish - to drive his daughter to church on her wedding day, in a family carriage designed especially for weddings. Fearing that he might not make the intended day, the date was brought forward and all arrangements completed in eight weeks. Now all that remained was to work out a way of getting Michael into the carriage. He described his undignified ascent as being shovelled up like a load of bricks in a mechanical bucket and dumped down on the seat. "But I did it !" he said. What a memory with which to leave his family.
Michael was an exceptional man, the quintessential Englishman, appearing at times a trifle dotty. Those who found him so, however, were never more wrong. He had a sharp mind, he was highly educated, intensely interested in the workings of government, politically up to the mark and aware of the ways of the world. Add to this a great knowledge of history and the classics and you have a truly erudite man. All this made him a brilliant conversationalist and dinner with him was indeed a feast for the body and the mind.
He was a member of the BHDTA and was Chairman from 2005 to 2008. He was well known for driving a tandem of Palomino ponies, later moving onto a pony team. It was when he became a team driver that we became close friends. One year in Breda we came across a man who embroidered the backs of jackets. Many of the drivers had logos such as "Robertson Pony Team" on their jackets - not so Michael. He appeared sporting a Latin inscription which none of us could decipher. We were finally forced to ask for a translation. The translation was "Go Forward Slowly". On the same occasion at the Gala Dinner, he addressed the company in fluent French. A truly talented man.
He was at ease with all kinds of men in all kinds of circumstances, but he was definitely allergic to the self-opinionated and pompous and his remarks concerning them were acerbic in the extreme. Above all else he was a colourful character who will be sorely missed by those in the driving world who knew him well.
Our sympathy goes to Robin and his family at this very sad time.