Long-forgotten politician Sir Henry Chips Channon is about to enjoy a new lease on life decades after his death. Publication has begun, over three instalments, of his unexpurgated diaries. Channon’s bitchy and salacious revelations of the rarefied circles he moved in will provide immense entertainment to history buffs and royalists. Unfortunately, the avalanche of bon mots tends to overshadow his history as a racist Nazi-loving arselicker to the aristocracy.
Mention of Channon’s diaries in the years following his death reputedly caused high profile Brits to turn deathly white. The nazi-loving intimate of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson bonked anything with a title or even a smidgen of fame.
“I am riveted by lust, furniture, glamour, society and jewels.”
Before his death, Chips Channon placed a 60-year embargo on the publication of his unexpurgated diaries. A slim volume of sanitised excerpts saw print in the sixties. But only after long-time companion Peter Coats (known as Petticoats) redacted most mention of the indefatigable bisexual bedhopper’s sexual shenanigans. Then, Lady Honor Svejdar, Channon’s former wife, censored catty jabs at the royal family (mainly Elizabeth, the Queen Mother).
The family also ran red pencils through numerous denigrations of Winston Churchill, a man the nazi-loving Channon despised for standing up to the Germans. Lady Honor worried that criticism of the recently deceased wartime Prime Minister might harm their son’s political fortunes. They named their only child after Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, the apparent love of Channon’s life.
Sir Henry Chips Channon
Born into a wealthy Chicago family, Chips Channon moved to Paris during World War I as a 20-year-old to work for the American Red Cross. Soon afterwards, he obtained a position as an attaché at the American embassy. A prestigious honorary position suited him just fine. He had no need for paid work. The cheques his father sent enabled him to live in grand style at the Paris Ritz.
He later moved to England and attended Oxford University, where he began a life-long relationship with Paul of Yugoslavia. Supported by stipends from home, Channon employed his wealth, charm, good looks and sexual availability to ingratiate himself with the British elite.
How successful was he?
He almost certainly shared the bed of George, Duke of Kent, his next-door neighbour, and uncle of the current Queen. The Duke died in a mysterious plane crash during World War II. Records from a secret inquiry into the disaster disappeared, and official papers relating to the Queen’s bisexual uncle remain embargoed. Speculation surrounds the flight’s purpose with suggestions of a covert mission to conduct talks with Nazi officials in Sweden.
The ultimate star fucker
Simon Heffer edited the new editions of the diaries. He spoke somewhat ambiguously about Channon’s relationship with Edward VIII.
“Chips is the ultimate star fucker, and if you get into that in this country, then the ultimate star to fuck must be the monarch.”
Whether that statement means what it seems to hint at, we will have to wait to discover. Rumours about the sexuality of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor circulated for decades. Legendary Hollywood male madam Scotty Bowers laid claim to a threesome with the royal twosome. Although easily dismissed as gossip, many of Scotty Bower’s other claims checked out. And people like Gore Vidal, Dominick Dunne, Debbie Reynolds and Cecil Beaton either verified individual stories or vouched for Bowers.
(Gloria Vanderbilt, Anderson Cooper’s mother, marvelled at Edward VIII’s crown jewels, describing his sceptre as the weeniest she ever saw. Winston Churchill agreed.)
In 1933, Channon married Lady Honor, a Guinness brewing heiress. That ensured his continued membership of the idle rich, swanning through life, supported by both father and father-in-law.
After basically ‘inheriting’ his mother-in-law’s seat in Parliament, he remained in the House of Commons until his death. Luckily, his constituents had no idea of the contempt he held them in.
Channon arrived as a young man in a French capital under threat from an advancing German army. His diaries chronicle a never-ending round of dinners, balls, and teas with numerous nobles and minor royals. Banishing memories of Marie Antionette and Madame Guillotine from their thoughts, European aristocrats sought refuge in Paris during the war. To read Channon, one wonders how Parisians navigated the cobbled footpaths without stumbling over fat Duchesses and drunken Vicomtes.
The young American partied, flirted, flattered, and bitched.
After taking tea with a duchess who selflessly nursed the war-wounded, he noted his impression in his diary.
“Strange, fat, undistinguished, almost grotesque [but] with great charm and intelligence… She looks [like] an old ragbag… She eats in a disgusting manner.”
And he liked her! At least he mentioned her charm.
Channon also mixed with European intelligentsia — Marcel Proust and Jean Cocteau among them.
“As I could not sparkle in such company, I tried to be as ingénu and as handsome as possible. They all petted me like a child.”
He arrived in Paris a virgin.
“I am happy as I am though I suppose I must begin soon… All my friends urge me to begin a life of going to bed with them or others.”
By June of 1918, he still boasted, “I am as pure as the winter snows.”
That despite, by his own count, 43 men and women attempting to make love to him.
“Some I have insulted, others understood, and others made scenes… I wonder that I have escaped.”
But not for long.
By August that same year, Channon surrendered to temptation though he did not yet begin to commit the details to paper.
“Why chronicle my immoralities even in my own diary?”
Although Channon’s vanity and non-stop name-dropping become wearying, his diaries contain sufficient intriguing detail to keep the reader engaged. On 10 December 1918, he lunched with Madame Tyzzkiewicz, who previously put him off to dine with exiled Englishman Bertie Stopford.
“For many years, he was the Cavaliere Servente of the Grand Duchess Vladimir and succeeded in rescuing her and her jewels from the Bolshies. He long played an enigmatic role at the Court of St James… Yet, he could not be saved from English justice. His royal friends allowed him recently to serve several years in an English prison for a heinous offence. Though Queen Alexandra, it is said, went in her car to the prison to meet him when he emerged.”
The ‘heinous offence’ was homosexuality, something that Chips Channon had ample personal experience of by now.
Through a family connection to the British royals, Stopford became a friend of Russian royalty. The high-class antique dealer reputedly also worked as a secret agent. In 1917, he retrieved magnificent jewellery the Grand Duchess Vladimir secreted in her Saint Petersburg palace to prevent the Bolsheviks from obtaining it. He smuggled 244 items of jewellery back to England, where the Grand Duchess later sold the Vladimir Tiara to Queen Mary. It remains one of the most significant items of jewellery owned by the current Queen.
Soon after his return to England, Bertie faced court for a homosexual offence committed in Hyde Park. Following two years in Wormwood Prison, he left for voluntary exile on the continent and never returned.
The Nazi-loving Channon adored Hitler and his fellow fascists. But then, he never really believed in democracy.
In France, he moaned about the aristocracy’s need to court politicians to obtain preferential treatment.
“This system has been invented to take the place of privileges that would naturally be theirs by right of birth in other countries.”
He was also a racist, casually denigrating People of Colour and Jews.
Channon believed in appeasing the loathsome German Reich. Following a conversation with some notably anti-Nazi politicians, he wrote, “I longed to cry out ‘Heil Hitler!'”
Witnessing Hitler’s arrival at the Berlin Olympic stadium, Channon wrote that he felt “in the presence of some semi-divine creature.”
During his Olympics visit, he attended an extravagant party thrown by Hermann Göering, who he described as ‘lovably disarming’. The Nazi-loving fanboy even admired Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, a man no one ever had a good word for. Taken to see a concentration camp, the pompous arselicker was easily scammed by his charming hosts.
“Tidy, even gay,” he described it.
“The boys, all about 18, looked like the ordinary German peasant boy, fair, healthy and sunburned.”
The boys were ordinary German peasant boys — young SS recruits — brought in for the day to fool gullible visitors.
Sadly, it appears Channon allowed his sexual attraction to Aryan fighting youth to influence his political judgement.
“It reduces itself to a question of sex; all people, whether male or female, who are attracted by men and force, are pro-German.”
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