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The MP with a taste for bull-fighting

Blog | By Simon Courtauld | Mar 26, 2020

Tristan Karel-Jones (Credit: https://flickr.com/photos/48017599@N05/6030504196)

The obituaries of the former Conservative minister, Lord (Tristan) Garel-Jones, who died earlier this week, referred to his early years in Madrid and his Spanish wife. But there was only a brief mention of his enthusiasm for the bullfight.

He contributed to a bullfighting column in The Spectator after his retirement from John Major’s government. However, while he was Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, he risked embarrassing his prime minister (Mrs Thatcher) with a public display of his aficion in Madrid.

He was staying at his summer house near Madrid in August 1985 when he attended a bullfight at Colmenar Viejo, on the outskirts of the city. One of the matadors, 21-year-old José Cubero Sanchez, known as El Yiyo, was gored by a bull’s horn through his heart and died shortly afterwards.

Garel-Jones decided he would like to attend El Yiyo’s funeral - not, of course, on behalf of the British government, but a photograph of him at the graveside in a Spanish newspaper would have caused deep embarrassment in London and might have led to his resignation.

When the British ambassador, Nicholas Gordon-Lennox, heard that Garel-Jones had been at a bullfighter’s funeral, he erupted and had the strongest words with the Lord Commissioner for having behaved so irresponsibly. But the story never got out.