[Paleopsych] NYT: Harold Brooks-Baker, 71, U.S. Royal Watcher, Dies
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Sun Apr 17 15:57:18 UTC 2005
International > Europe > Harold Brooks-Baker, 71, U.S. Royal Watcher, Dies
By MARGALIT FOX
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
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."
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