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Nicholas Mosley, writer haunted by fascist father’s notoriety

He was called 'Baby Blackshirt' at Eton

15 March, 2017 — By Gerald Isaaman

Nicholas Mosley had a ‘smiling, polite charm’

AT Eton he was nicknamed “Baby Blackshirt” and was told by a housemaster of his father’s wartime arrest in 1940, and considered a potential traitor by M15, thrown into Holloway Prison, where he remained captive in a house in the grounds.

And he only learned of his father’s remarriage to Diana Mitford from newspaper headlines, one declaring that Hitler was the best man at the event, amazingly held in the home of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. So, inevitably, his own life was haunted by being the son of the 1930s British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley and Lady Cynthia Curzon, the daughter of Lord Curzon, foreign secretary in Baldwin’s government and former Viceroy of India.

Such was the tormented life of the novelist Nicholas Mosley, who has died at the age of 93. A persistent stammer in his early years – due perhaps to the emotional traumas that invaded him virtually from the beginning – could not be cured even by the speech specialist Lionel Logue, who treated King George VI, as revealed in the film The King’s Speech.

Yet his bravery was undeniable, winning a Military Cross as an officer in the Rifle Brigade fighting in Italy in the Second World War. “I was frightened, yes, but what I was most frightened of was not being able to stand the fear – and then what would happen?” he later asked himself.

His smiling polite charm was another asset as a committed Christian who nevertheless, along with his racist father, labelled God a lunatic.

I first met Mosley when he lived in apparent luxury – with his father’s inherited title Lord Ravensdale – in Church Row, Hampstead, before moving to Primrose Hill, where he was a regular worshipper at St Mark’s Church, and finally to Hungerford Place, Holloway.

And I vividly recall his poignant assessment of the world filled with Hopeful Monsters, the title of one of his 30 books, perhaps the best known made into the Dirk Bogarde film Accident. Together with his two acclaimed volumes about his father, Rules of the Game and Beyond the Pale, they echo disastrously around us in today’s uncertain future as right-wing leaders in Europe and US President Trump take control.

“War is both senseless and necessary, squalid and fulfilling, terrifying and sometimes jolly,” Mosley said. “This is like life. Humans are at home in war, though they seldom admit this. They feel they know what they have to do. It is in peace that humans for the most part feel lost – they have to find out what it is they have to do.”

Mosley equally admitted in his painful autobiography Efforts at Truth that he inherited his father’s infidelities, his first marriage ending in divorce. His second was to Verity Bailey, who survives him, as does his son, Marius, his other three children and stepson, and some 19 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

His funeral takes place today (Thursday) at St Luke’s Church, Holloway.

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