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QUOTATIONS: How other people see us (II) – Harold NICOLSON

April 27th, 2010 · No Comments · Books, Diary, OPINION, PEOPLE, quotations

Harold Nicolson (Diaries) on King Carol II of Romania

Harold Nicolson (Diaries) on King Carol II of Romania

The Harold Nicolson Diaries: 1907-1963

Sir Harold George Nicolson KCVO CMG (21 November 1886 – 1 May 1968) was an English diplomat, author, diarist and politician.

Nicolson was a respected author, succesful politician, respected broadcaster and diplomatist. His marriage to Vita Sackville-West could only be described as unique.The diaries allow us insights behind closed doors in Cabinet in the 1940s and also witty, succinct portraits of personalities Nicolson knew.

Amongst these there a brief insightful portrait of King Carol II of Romania, whom Harold Nicolson visited in Bucharest:

Carol II of Romania I lunched with the King. At 12-30 I said that I must dress for luncheon. As I walked upstairs I felt strangely giddy. the staircase seemed to shift and wobble. I was appalled. Suppose I came over faint during my luncheon?. That would be hell. I arrayed myself miserably in the tail coat of Rex Hoare (the British Minister), which would not, I regret, meet in front. But it looked allright. Then i espied the bottle of Sal Volatile. I corked it tightly and put it in my pocket, in fact the only pocket which I could call my own, my trouser pocket. Then off I went.

At the palace an aide-de-camp in stays and aiguillettes arrived and made polite conversation. Then a lift hummed and two pekinese darted in barking followed by the King (Carol) in naval uniform. I bowed. he greeted me with affection and respect. We passed into the dining room. I sat on his right. The aide-de-camp sat on his left. The pekinese sat on his knee. We started conversation.

He had ordered he said, a purely Romanian luncheon. God, it was good! In spite of my feeling so faint, I gobbled hard. We talked agreeably. He is a bounder, but less of a bounder than he seemed in London. He was more at ease. His Windsor blue eyes were wistful and he had something behind them. He spoke with intelligence about Chamberlain and Eden and the Italian Agreement and the French cabinet and the league of Nations. He was well-informed and most sensible. We kept all debating topics away.

I was beginning to enjoy my conversation when I was aware of a cold trickle and the smell of ammonia. I thrust my hand into my pocket. It was too late. The Sal has indeed proved Volatile and my trousers were rapidly drenched. I seized my napkins and began mopping surreptitiously. My remarks became bright and rather fevered, but quite uninterrupted. I mopped secretly while the aroma od Sal Volatile rose above the smell of grujhenskoia.

This was agony. I secretly heard what he was saying: ‘Have you’ he was asking ‘recovered your land-legs yet? After three days in the train one feels the room rocking like after three days at sea’. So that was it! Why on earth had he not told me before and now it was too late. I recovered my composure and dropped my sodden napkin. The conversation followed normal lines. At 2.45 he rose abruptly. I rose too, casting a terrified glance at the plush seat of my chair. It bore a deep wet stain. What, o what, will the butler think? he will only think one thing.

(Harold Nicolson Diaries, op cit 185-186, Edited by Nigel Nicolson, Phoenix paperback, Weidenfeld and Niocholson, 511 pages, London 2004, ISBN 0-75381-997-X)

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