Today (May 21st 2020) marks 20 years since the death of Dame Barbara Cartland. My father recently sat down with John and here are some of his memories of this wonderful, larger than life character.
"Lord Weidenfeld introduced me to Barbara Cartland in 1977. Weidenfeld had been trying to find a biographer for Barbara and I had been looking for a quieter subject than the Kray twins! My first impressions were that she was overwhelmingly self-confident, but that she was also shrewd. She had already sold 100 million copies of her books and had just recorded an album of love songs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
As the project unfolded, she told me some great stories. For example, she explained how she had applied special honey to a boil on the Queen Mother's leg and it disappeared very quickly...but Barbara would not let me tell the story and winkled it out of my script. Throughout my time as her biographer, she insisted that I took what she described as a 'brain pill'. A few weeks later, I started to sprout hair in improbable places and - at my wife's insistence - stopped taking the pills. I subsequently learned that they were a massive dose of male hormones and that she had sent a batch to Mrs Thatcher soon after to help her run the country.
Lord Mountbatten was one of her many admirers but he did tell me - rather astutely - that it was only in 'Jigsaw' that the protagonists enjoy sexual intimacy. The fact that the sexual act did not occur in the other 299 books was part of her magic. Her circulation certainly did not suffer as a consequence.
Somewhat battle-weary after working together for a year, I suggested dedicating the book to her saying that she had been such a wonderful subject. This was not enough for Barbara who wrote back suggesting a dedication: 'To Barbara for all the fun and games that we have had together'. She never saw that this might be misunderstood. Instead, the final book - free of most jokes - was released under the pseudonym of Henry Cloud with a final dedication 'To Barbara with love and amazement.'"
BBC Radio 4 extra, In the Psychiatrist's Chair: