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Tributes to Alexander Chancellor

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A snippet from Craig Brown's eulogy that was read at Alexander's funeral and notes from John Walsh, David Wheeler and links to obituaries published elsewhere.

Alexander Chancellor died on Saturday morning, the 28th January.

Since then, we have received a vast number of e-mails, letters and phone calls expressing condolences and sharing memories that we wanted to publish. He will be greatly missed.

An edited version of the eulogy that was read by Craig Brown at Alexander's funeral will appear in the April issue, that will be available to buy from Wednesday 1st March.

A snippet here:

And there is the famous story of the representatives from the American Spectator coming over to England to
study the magazine’s working methods. After a week’s hard study, they told Alexander how amazed they were at the extraordinary amount of time everyone spent at lunch.
‘But how else could you fill the day?’ Alexander replied.
This reply would, of course, have been accompanied by his usual chorus of laughter. But the lunches, the enjoyment, the fun, were all part of his armoury. Beneath it all, that brilliant mind never stopped whirring. More puritanical editors, priggishly insulated from the world outside, had nothing of Alexander’s verve and excitement.

Craig Brown


Here are some of our contributor’s responses to the news:

What a terrible loss to journalism. I took over from him as editor of the Independent Mag in 1994, and marvelled at the high quality of a magazine that — from front-page layout to inside-back-cover feature — he had invented single-handedly.

He was always so sweet-natured to deal with. And I’ll always remember his Shane MacGowan-ish giggle.

John Walsh


I am so very sorry to hear this. I first worked for Alexander at the Spectator in 1975 and I'd like to think that any skills I might have as an editor are based entirely on his remarkable proficiency and extreme kindness.

David Wheeler, Editor: HORTUS & Oldie Gardening Columnist


Such sad news. Alexander was indeed the best and kindliest of editors. And a wonderfully steadying hand, as you say, when that was so much needed after Richard's departure. When he was The Spectator's ed, he published my first-ever piece of journalism. When I proposed the piece (in 1982, as I remember), I'd been travelling with Miriam Rothschild in Israel as her botanical illustrator and got into all sorts of places I shouldn't. When Alexander immediately agreed, I panicked and asked him what I should say. "Say whatever you want. Just write." Right. Really? Wonderful. Best thing anyone's ever said to me. Bless him. I'm sure there'll be many more stories like mine.

Elisabeth Luard


Long ago - so long ago that I very much doubt you remember it, and indeed you would have no reason to - I spent a night in your home in London at Alexander's invitation. I was then working for the Irish Times, and had become friendly with Alex during occasional stints in Rome in the late 1960s when I was reporting on the Vatican Council, Synods and God only knows what else. The memory of that extraordinary apartment you occupied there is also etched into my memory.

I remember being woken that morning in London by the sound of Alexander indulging in ragtime on the piano. Wonderful!

I found everything about him a delight. He was incapable of all the bad stuff - pomposity, vain-glory, superciliousness, exaggerated secrecy - that characterises all too many top-flight journalists; he shared his extraordinary knowledge and insights into the world and his work with an open-handed generosity; and he was just great company at all hours of the day or night.

John Horgan


More thorough tributes have been featured in the Spectator by his old friends, Taki (‘he hired me and then was too well mannered to fire me’); Charles Moore (‘how Alexander Chancellor restored The Spectator's greatness’); and Simon Courtauld (‘he established a congenial atmosphere: intellectually stimulating, civilised yet slightly anarchic’).

In the Guardian, by his great friend and occasional visitor to the Oldie office, Ian Jack, who described him as, ‘an endlessly curious writer and editor who gave the Spectator magazine its lively shape and tone.’

And in the Telegraph by Harry Mount, 'a raffish editor more interested in cocktail parties than political ones.'

This story was from April 2019 issue. Subscribe Now