MORE than 370 people attended the funeral of Viscount Hambleden last Friday.
William Herbert (Harry) Smith, who was the 4th Viscount, died at his home in America last month after a battle with cancer. He was 82.
The funeral and thanksgiving service, which was held in St Mary’s Church in the village, was delayed by five minutes due to the late arrival of dignitaries.
All the pews were full by the start of the service, which was conducted by the Rev John Wigram, the rector of Hambleden, and began with the Hambleden Valley Choir singing Blessed Are The Pure In Heart by Sir Henry Walford Davies.
Mr Wigram welcomed the congregation who then sang The Lord’s My Shepherd.
Viscount Hambleden’s son, Alexander, then read a passage from the Gospel of St John.
Lyra, the Vocal Ensemble of St Petersburg, sang Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart before performing a chant of the Russian Orthodox Church.
James Ogilvy, who first met the viscount when he was 14, paid tribute to his “great friend”.
He said: “I gave an address on another sad occasion and I left the church thinking ‘I hopefully got away with it’ but Harry came up to me and said, ‘James, I simply didn’t hear one word you said’ so if my voice is a bit loud today it’s because I want to make absolutely sure Harry hears every word.”
Mr Ogilvy said the time the viscount had spent in the King’s African Rifles had imbued in him a love of Africa and he went on a number of “amazing trips”.
On one such trip in north-east Kenya, the viscount met the explorer Wilfred Thesiger.
“Harry really loved roughing it,” said Mr Ogilvy, adding that he also loved the “bright lights”.
He said: “On one occasion, when he was a bachelor, he went to a ball at Hampton Court which was bursting with all sorts of royals with all their tiaras and he spotted a very pretty 17-year-old European princess and suggested that he should show her the mysteries of Hampton Court maze.
“Some time later, her mother enquired where her daughter was because she wanted to go home but she was told that her daughter was with young Harry
Hambleden. ‘Oh how nice’, she said, adding that she knew his mother, Patricia, Viscountess Hambleden, who was lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother.”
Mr Ogilvy said the viscount loved shooting, no more so than at Hambleden, and to entertain friends. “His generosity knew no bounds,” he added.
Another love was horse racing and the viscount decided that syndication was the “way to go” and so he had a share of a horse with 25 other people Mr Ogilvy said: “Although he probably owned three hairs of the tail of the horse, that horse was Harry’s. He got a real kick out of it.”
He continued: “Harry must have been the only man on the planet to have taken up golf at the age of 77 but, sadly, his illness curtailed that activity.”
Mr Ogilvy described his friend as a “showman” who, on one occasion, had hired a sheik’s headdress and a stretch limousine to attend Royal Ascot after being refused entry to the royal enclosure the previous day for not wearing a morning jacket.
Viscount Hambleden married Countess Maria Carmela Attolico di Adelfia in 1955 and they had five sons. The couple divorced in 1988 but Lady Hambleden has continued to live at the manor house in the village.
The viscount later married Lesley Watson.
Mr Ogilvy said: “Lesley and Harry were married for some 24 years and Lesley made Harry a very, very happy man. Harry would be proud of her poise and elegance and Lesley admired his charm, energy and enjoyment of life.
“Harry was a life-enhancer, a key component of life’s rich tapestry. He was just not like anyone else — he was unique. Harry was a smashing bloke, he really was, and in modern language he was cool, real cool.”
In closing, Mr Ogilvy shared a “dream” with the congregation where God advised the viscount to have a “period of austerity” and to save some money as the world was in financial turmoil.
He said: “Harry thought for a moment and replied, ‘Not on your Nellie, God, that’s not me. I couldn’t do that austerity lark, that won’t make me happy’.”
The congregation then sang Lord Of All Hopefulness before the viscount’s granddaughter Kana read A Gaelic Farewell.
His younger brother Philip Smith read Psalm 121 before the congregation recited The Lord’s Prayer and the final hymn Thine Be The Glory.
Mr Wigram said: “We all have our own memories of Harry, he touched so many people’s lives in so many ways. He was a great weather man and, as James put it, a life-enhancer.”
Lyra sang the Kontakion of the Departed before the blessing and a church bell was rung three times as the coffin was carried back outside.
The coffin was then taken by hearse at walking pace to Pheasant’s Hill cemetery for a private family burial.
Viscount Hambleden was buried between his grandfather and great grandfather.
A reception was held at the manor mouse.
The peerage has passed to Viscount Hambleden’s eldest son, 56-year-old William Henry Bernard Smith.