What were Sir Clement Freud’s personal characteristics and how do they relate to meeting the McCanns and any alleged acquaintance with Robert Murat?
Freud’s Wikipedia entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clement_Freud is long on detail about events in his life, but rather short on his personal characteristics. There are some exceptions though.
“”During the war Freud joined the Royal Ulster Rifles and served in the ranks. He acted as an aide to Field Marshal Montgomery. He worked at the Nuremberg Trials and in 1947 was commissioned as an officer.” The London Gazette supplement of 10 June 1947 says Sergeant Clement Freud of the Royal Ulster Rifles was given an immediate emergency commission to 2nd Lieutenant.
Freud had left school aged 16 (1940) and trained as a comis chef at the Dorchester before joining the army. (I have seen an alternative variant that states he trained in the Dorchester after the war.) ITV’s Exposure says Freud was a manager at the Martinez hotel in Cannes in 1948. Precisely what ‘manager’ means is unclear. A jump from comis chef to overall manager of a prestigious hotel is rather a large one.
Wikipedia goes on to state this about his election as an MP. “His autobiography, Freud Ego, recalls his election win, and shortly after, when asked by his wife June, “Why aren’t you looking happier?”, he wrote “It suddenly occurred to me that after nine years of fame I now had something solid about which to be famous… and cheered up no end.” So despite having celebrity fame and fortune, Freud wished to have an exterior image of gravitas.
Freud’s funeral in 2009 “was attended by a host of personalities from the media and entertainment industry” “as well as several representatives from Westminster”. That appears to be a hallmark of Freud’s life – connections to the glitterati and to the powerful.
A number of snippets from other sources are also interesting.
According to the Independent “In 2009, when it could safely be seen as affectionate, Stephen Fry spoke of Clement Freud’s raffishness, his “air of disreputability”, of how he was “a real Soho figure – he knew all the girls of easy virtue, he knew the pimps, the racetrack tipsters”.”
Gyles Brandreth wrote the following in the Telegraph at the time of Exposure. “It was, indeed, just Clement. And we kept company with him because he was a colleague and undeniably clever and entertaining. He had also been a popular and, from all I have heard, a conscientious, committed and effective constituency MP.” And “Derek Nimmo was a gregarious and engaging man. Peter Jones was droll and delightful. Kenneth Williams was brilliant, complicated and kind-hearted. They were all part of the team. Clement Freud was the odd one out. He seemed happy to be the outsider. He openly disparaged other players (me included, I’ve no doubt) … “
I have lost track of one tit-bit. It concerned an occasion when a group of celebrities met up with Freud for a social outing. Unfortunately, the teller of this tale is a writer, which does not help when trying to find the article again! The gist was simple. The writer was convinced that though he knew little about Freud, he would be in the company of others who knew more, and so could learn from them. He was surprised to find they all professed to know little about Freud the person.
The penultimate part of this character portrait comes from Freud’s daughter, Emma, and was written for the Guardian in 2010, a year after Freud died. “Is it possible to have a good death? If it is, my father’s death was good. He was 84, and hated being old. He was many stone overweight, his legs hurt constantly, he was slow and lame, and things were going on in the waterworks area, with which I refused to engage. For the last 10 years of his life, he was actively waiting for his death.”
And “when he was told by a doctor in February 2009 that he needed a triple heart bypass, he took the news calmly. As he’d planned a birthday party for himself on 24 April, he asked for the procedure to be delayed until after he’d turned 85. The party invitation said: “7.30 for 8pm – though it may be wise to keep an eye on the obituary columns.” Freud died before the party could take place and was cremated on what would have been his 85th birthday.
To finish off, here is another insight from Gyles Brandreth. “As the years went by, I continued to see Clement, sometimes around Westminster, more regularly recording episodes of Just A Minute. In front of the microphone, his wit appeared undimmed, but, before and after the show, in the green room, or at the hotel, I noticed he kept less company with us. He often ate alone. We were uncomfortable with him and he was uncomfortable with us. I always thought he was an odd one. I believe we all did. It seems it was darker and sadder than we realised.”
Make up your own mind as to a thumbnail portrait of the personal characteristics of Freud around 2007. The following is my personal opinion.
- He was reaching the stage of checking out from life. One article records his interests as boules and golf, but I doubt he was fit enough for golf, while boules is a social game and Freud appeared to be getting very picky as to with whom he socialised. This could explain why neighbours in Luz said he kept himself to himself.
- He seems to have had an exterior image and an interior reality, and he was quite adept in the main at keeping the two separate. Though it does appear that at least some of the interior was known to others, beyond his wife.
- He seems to have had connections to the glitterati and to the powerful, and exercised these to his advantage.
- He was dismissive of those who seemed to fall foul of his expectations and capability.
- He seems to have craved an image of gravitas, as opposed to mere celebrity status.
- He appears to have been someone who largely thought the rules of society applied to others, not to himself.
Despite his undoubted wit and intellectual capability, I doubt that I would have been able to get on with him had I met him in real life. That happens to be my personal opinion. However, please note what Gyles Brandreth wrote about Freud’s application as an MP. Then consider the positions Freud occupied in his career. It strikes me that he had a talent that went beyond being connected to the glitterati and to the powerful.