The third volume of Roy Strong’s diaries cover the years 2004 to 2015. In January 2004 Strong was in a state of deep grief following the death of his wife, Julia Trevelyan Oman, three months earlier. Yet the diaries written in this first year following Julia’s death offer a picture of determination and resourcefulness as he begins the task of ordering Julia’s huge collections of papers, antiques and jewellery, carefully considering where each should be placed. There followed a reconfiguring of The Laskett and the wonderful garden that he and Julia had created together.
The following years see an extraordinary energy and creativity, new ideas for books brought to fruition and the book tours, literary festivals, public appearances and stage performances that surround each new publication. There were also regular forays into the worlds of TV and radio, his donations to the Fashion Museum in Bath and the three-year photographic portrait project with John Swannell, which concluded with the Sir Portrait exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. As he approaches and then passes his seventieth birthday, Strong tackles each new challenge with energetic determination, chronicling his experiences and observations with an acute eye and delicious wit. With the passing years he gradually settles into a new rhythm of life in the country, describing events, visitors to the garden, the joys of tricycle rides around the glorious Herefordshire countryside. We have his reflections on the state of the nation, the growing social divide, the EU and the Royal Family.
London cultural life is never far away: the Diaries are a wonderful window on to Roy Strong’s world, and his encounters with leading figures in the museum, theatre and media worlds, churchmen, politicians, royalty – and friends old and new. Social occasions, exhibitions and theatrical productions, as well as national events such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, are described with a telling eye for detail and wicked observation that makes the Diaries hugely entertaining and informative. But the Diaries are also punctuated with moments of deep grief at the loss of his beloved wife, sadness at the passing of friends, and comment, criticism and frustration at the changing world around him.
The final year in this volume of the Diaries, 2015, witness three key events: Roy Strong’s 80th birthday in August, the signing of the agreement with Perennial to take over The Laskett house and garden in 2020 (after 15 years of fruitless negotiation with the National Trust) and the announcement in December that he would be appointed a Companion of Honour in the 2016 Queen’s New Year Honours, for services to the nation’s culture.