[Paleopsych] NYT: Harold Brooks-Baker, 71, U.S. Royal Watcher, Dies

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International > Europe > Harold Brooks-Baker, 71, U.S. Royal Watcher, Dies


    Harold Brooks-Baker, an American authority on British nobility who
    was a sought-after commentator on the doings - serious, scandalous or
    merely ridiculous - of the British royal family, died on Saturday in
    London. He was 71 and had lived in London for more than 30 years.

    The cause was complications of post-polio syndrome and a fall he
    suffered in November, his daughter Natasha said.

    At the time of his death, Mr. Brooks-Baker was publishing director of
    Burke's Peerage Partnership, a publishing and genealogy concern. He
    was previously a managing director of Debrett's Peerage.

    Regularly quoted by reporters, Mr. Brooks-Baker's opinions on the
    British monarchy were characteristically American in their
    no-holds-barred approach.

    On Diana, Princess of Wales: "She shows herself to be very mentally
    disturbed and a very sad person who has been badly treated by the

    On Prince Harry: "I think that the difficulty will come a few years
    from now when there isn't the place for him any more than there was
    for Princess Margaret."

    On Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York: "If you sat her next to Henry
    VIII, you would have an interesting time deciding who was the most

    An adroit publicist, Mr. Brooks-Baker often beat the reporters to the
    punch, issuing a public statement in response to the slightest royal
    transgression. This kept him extremely busy.

    Mr. Brooks-Baker recently gave his blessing to the wedding of Prince
    Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, calling Queen Elizabeth's decision
    not to attend the ceremony "an outrage." He added, "This has got to
    stop, otherwise they will ruin the whole fabric of the monarchy."

    Harold Brooks Baker was born in Washington on Nov. 16, 1933, the son
    of Silas Baker and the former Elizabeth Lambert. He earned a
    bachelor's degree from Trinity College in Hartford and later went to
    Europe as a bond trader, settling in London in the late 1960's.

    There, Mr. Brooks-Baker, who along the way had acquired a hyphen,
    completed the kind of personal reinvention that recalls the
    American-born, Europe-besotted heroes of Henry James. Always called
    Brookie, he was described by The New York Times in 1978 as "European
    in tastes and speech, American in drive."

    In 1976, Mr. Brooks-Baker and several partners took over Debrett's
    Peerage, a competitor of Burke's. A master of marketing, Mr.
    Brooks-Baker quickly shook things up. In 1978, for instance, Debrett's
    published "The English Gentleman," a satirical advice book. As
    paraphrased by The New York Times, the book counseled that a gentleman
    "does not drive a Rolls-Royce unless it is very old and smells of
    dogs," and always "speaks to the engineer before a train trip because
    of an old belief that he owns the railroad." Mr. Brooks-Baker moved to
    Burke's in 1984. At the time, the company was in poor financial
    condition. It had already sold the publication rights to its flagship
    reference work, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, first published in
    1826, some years before. (Now in its 107th edition, Burke's Peerage
    and Baronetage is published by Burke's Peerage and Gentry, which is
    not connected to Mr. Brooks-Baker's company.)

    At Burke's, Mr. Brooks-Baker oversaw the company's other titles, among
    them "Burke's Presidential Families of the United States of America."
    (The current President Bush, Mr. Brooks-Baker said, is a 13th cousin
    to the current Queen Elizabeth.) The company also traces ancestries
    and designs coats of arms for the already titled and the merely

    Mr. Brooks-Baker's first marriage, to Irène du Luart de la
    Rochefoucauld , ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife,
    the former Catherine Neville Rolfe; a brother, Lambert Baker, of
    DeLand, Fla.; two daughters from his first marriage, Nadia Loudon and
    Natasha, and a stepdaughter, Arabella Neville Rolfe, all of London;
    and one grandchild.

    For very wistful customers with very deep pockets, Mr. Brooks-Baker's
    company occasionally offered blue blood for purchase. (A Scottish
    baronial title, land included, costs £50,000 to £100,000, according to
    the company's Web site.) As he told The New York Times in 1990, such a
    sought-after commodity came on the market only rarely.

    "There are only three ways titles can be acquired," Mr. Brooks-Baker
    explained. "Fighting a war, sex or buying."


    1. http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=MARGALIT%20FOX&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=MARGALIT%20FOX&inline=nyt-per

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