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Duke Speaks His Mind at Claremont

October 06, 1985|MARY LOU LOPER | Times Staff Writer

"We love you so much, and we are a part of you." That was the sentiment from Miles Francis Stapleton Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal of England and the ranking Catholic layman in the United Kingdom, this week in Claremont.

In the sophisticated and elegant, but cozy, home of Dr. and Mrs. John D. Maguire (he's president of the Claremont University Center and Graduate School), both His Grace and the Duchess Anne mingled with the Board of Fellows of Claremont University Center and Graduate School and spoke their minds.

In two world wars, the Duke of Norfolk said in an after-dinner address, "You came in with your money, and you came in with your blood, and we are extremely grateful . . . but we have floundered around. We are so out of date, it is unbelievable. We haven't been invaded since 1066. We've never had a revolution since 1660, but we are out of date with our unions, with our parliamentary system, and now we are going forward with this prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and I am unabashedly for her . . . now I think we have good people . . . we have the same expertise we had when we made the first Industrial Revolution."

As an aside to a guest, he said, "And if you come to England in 1988, make sure you vote for Mrs. Thatcher."

As nobility, Howard is the duke of the longest surviving dukedom in England, according to Maguire, who introduced him. Maguire also noted, should there be a coronation during the duke's lifetime, he would be the master of ceremonies as Earl Marshal of England. As the 17th Duke of Norfolk, he has held the position only since 1975. However, his presence is influential in England. An Oxford man, "he is familiar with the education concept," as Maguire said. He also spent 30 years in the army, participated in the landings in Sicily and Italy and retired as a major general in 1967.

Like a 'Kissin' Cousin'

More recently, as a member of the House of Lords, Miles, as he likes to be called by friends and aquaintances, was instrumental in thwarting a proposed law that would have withdrawn busing for Catholic schools.

But, to the Claremont group, he was like a "kissin' cousin." He was a member of the board of fellows between 1980-1983, and then when Maguire established the International Council of Associates last October, Howard was among the nine distinguished charter members, representing nine nations. The others are Rodrigo Carazo, Abba Eban, Carlos Fuentes, Philippe Maystadt, Jihan Sadat, Washington SyCip, Bhekh Thapa and Desmond M. Tutu.

The concept of the council was, as explained by Maguire, "Anytime you're in the United States, add on a day and visit Claremont." Thus, the Duke of Norfolk inaugurated the program; Abba Eban visits Nov. 5; Malcolm Fraser (who became the 10th designee), former prime minister of Australia, visits Nov. 14. On Oct. 16, the former president of Costa Rica sends a celebrated choir to perform. Said Maguire: "If Bishop Tutu can get out in January for the investiture for the Episcopal bishop of the United States, he will visit us."

Of course, when you get a duke, you sometimes, if you're lucky, get a duchess. The Duchess of Norfolk was a favorite with the intimate gathering this week. Independent and outspoken, she appeared for cocktails nearly 45 minutes late, and immediately endeared herself to everyone present. As Maguire said, "Both Anne and I are American--we are half-Texan--there you have it."

Favorite Topic

Her Grace's painting hangs in the home of Joe and Jean Platt (he formerly headed Claremont), and after dinner she expounded on her favorite topic--hospices.

As she told it, "Four years ago I was invited to St. Joseph's Hospice in a poor part of London. I had become a duchess, and I was looking desperately for something to do with my life. Everyone thinks it's wonderful to be a duchess. It isn't."

She was overwhelmed with what she saw. "I rang up the next day and asked what I could do, and the sister said, 'We need your knowledge--will you raise money?' And I said, 'I've never raised money.' And she said, 'Oh, it will come. It will come.' "

And, in the last 18 months, she has raised more than half-a-million pounds, writing to banks, foundations, and holding, so far, three major fund-raisers, with a fourth on the way. "Four in one year have almost killed me," she said. The biggest was at Wembley Stadium with gold medalist ice champions Christopher Dean and Jane Towill performing and the Princess of Wales attending, raising 135,000 pounds. A polo event with Prince Charles raised 50,000 pounds. There was a rugby event. And a musical event at Albert Hall in London on Oct. 26 starring Gwyneth Jones and the attendance of the Prince of Wales is the finale--for now.

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