Norman St John Stevas | 1980 | Press Association | 14417
Gay Activist notes the passing of Lord St John of Fawsley, the former Norman St John Stevas, age 82 after a short illness. He had served several Government ministerial positions and is especially remembered for his work for Education and Arts at a time when the Conservatives were anti gay people.
The Guardian notes: “A law lecturer and amateur constitutional authority who was in demand as a royal crisis commentator on TV well into old age, it was his way of handling a flamboyant and witty personality at a time when homosexuality was not formally acknowledged in public life and actively deplored by the Tories.
St John was merely assumed to be gay by most of those who knew him: “The thinking man’s Larry Grayson”, as the Guardian’s Simon Hoggart once wrote.
An enthusiastic high Catholic, he threw himself into the part. Independently wealthy, he had a collection of papal memorabilia in his home in Knightsbridge, London, along with items of Queen Victoria’s clothing. Outside were parked a white Jaguar and a white Rolls Royce which he would drive to Westminster, occasionally dropping off flowers for the Queen Mother at Clarence House en route. Yet beneath it all he was a serious man who chaired the Royal Fine Arts Commission, judged the Booker prize and edited the writings of Walter Bagehot.
Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, told the BBC: “He was very flamboyant and had a style all of his own, which was very theatrical, but actually he was an intelligent, sensitive man. He was a very, very good minister and he had very, very clear political opinions.”
As Norman St John-Stevas, he was MP for Chelmsford from 1964 to 1987, a junior education minister under Thatcher in Edward Heath’s government of 1970-74, and later briefly arts minister where he delivered a bigger budget. As party leader and prime minister Thatcher stayed loyal to him despite his incorrigible frivolities which often included calling her “Tina”, “the blessed Margaret”, “the leaderene” and “she who must be obeyed” when talking to colleagues and political reporters. Word got back.”
What items of Queen Victoria’s clothing were in the Lords’ posession are not recorded.