Review: Roy Hattersley, Holt Festival
07:47 23 July 2014
Auden Theatre, Gresham’s School, Holt
The years have dealt kindly with Roy Hattersley since he quit active politics and turned instead, with considerable success, to the chronicles of Buster and a number of historical biographies.
The most recent, with the title The Devonshires, is about one of the greatest, richest and most remarkable English families.
The family’s rise from fake origins to the rank of duke formed the subject of the former secretary of state’s engaging Holt Festival lecture.
Speaking easily, without notes, he told his well-researched tale clearly. Dovetailing in the odd vivid detail, he occasionally added sly asides, so we should not forget that he had his personal take on all this.
Over the centuries the Devonshires played their part in public life, without climbing quite so high as might have been expected.
Perhaps they were more focused on amassing wealth through advantageous marriage settlements, even if the policy did not always make for happy family life.
We were given some insight into the way the Devonshires ran their estates and reminded that Paxton, of Crystal Palace fame, tended the gardens at palatial Chatsworth.
For Hattersley, though, the abiding characteristic of the family was imperturbable self-confidence coupled with blithe aristocratic disdain for other people’s opinions.