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In memoriam Norman Stone, 1941-2019

Blog | By Harry Mount | Oct 24, 2019

Picture of Norman Stone at his Budapest wake, 2019

Yesterday, at the historian's memorial service, novelist Robert Harris revealed the film in which Professor Stone was played by Daniel Craig, to Stone's great pleasure

At St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, novelist Robert Harris paid tribute to Norman Stone by revealing he’d based the hungover, brilliant don in his 1998 novel, Archangel, on the historian.

‘A lesser man might have sued me,’ says Harris, who compared Professor Stone to a ‘battered Byron’. ‘But Norman liked a joke. And he liked even more that he was played by Daniel Craig.’

Stone’s colleagues and pupils paid tribute to Stone, Professor of Modern History at Oxford, Professor of European History at Bilkent University and lecturer at Cambridge University.

Former pupil, historian Andrew Roberts, said Stone was ‘the most influential historian in the half-century since AJP Taylor’, while recalling Cambridge tutorials fuelled by ‘two vast whiskys’, occasionally conducted at whisper-level – ‘Hangovers can last till noon,’ said Professor Stone. Roberts credited Stone for ‘inspiring me with a love of history’.

Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at Oxford, remembered Professor Stone’s instrumental effect on Margaret Thatcher’s views on German reunification at a Chequers meeting in 1990. After hearing Stone’s pro-unification advice, Mrs Thatcher said, ‘I’ve got the message. I’ll be very nice to the Germans.’

Michael Gove read Charles Mackay’s No Enemies: ‘You have no enemies, you say? Alas, my friend, the boast is poor.’

The Marquess of Salisbury imitated Stone’s most dismissive gesture – ‘Tongue out, shrugging his shoulders, spreading out his hands’ – reserved for bureaucrats, panjandrums of Austro-Hungarian Europe and mindless, pompous figures in general.

Rupert Stone, one of Professor Stone’s sons, remembered his father’s childlike, malice-free, magical personality, which he compared to Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. He quoted Professor Stone’s own view of himself as a ‘goofy Enlightenment optimist’ with ‘the willpower of a prawn in a tsunami’.

The Rev Dr Sam Wells presided. St Martin’s Voices sang Bach’s Magnificat and his Mass in B Minor and Rachmaninov’s Great Ektene.