Lord Michael Pratt
Last Updated: 1:11am BST 08/09/2007
Lord Michael Pratt, who has died aged 61, will be remembered as one of
the last Wodehouseian figures to inhabit London's clubland and as a
much travelled author who pined for the days of Empire; he will also
be remembered as an unabashed snob and social interloper on a grand
Pratt would arrive at country houses announcing that he was en route
to another castle or (even larger) stately home, and was intending to
stay for only one night. Quite often the "night" would turn into
weeks, and sometimes months.
Although he was generous with his conversation, gossip and anecdote,
many hostesses tired of Pratt's failure to make anything but the
smallest contribution to the house or staff.
Michael John Henry Pratt was born on August 15 1946, the youngest son
of the 5th Marquess Camden.
He was sent to Eton, having already acquired the rotund shape that
would stay with him for the rest of his life.
At school the young Pratt distinguished himself by emptying a vessel
of soapy water over the head of his housemaster.
Pratt had been washing in a bucket and, rather than dispose of the
contents into the drain, he tipped them out of the window.
"Come here, Pratt," said Mr Addison, the drenched housemaster.
"Certainly not," responded Pratt. "I'm far too busy."
On arriving at Balliol College, Oxford, Pratt took exception to the
state of his rooms, decamping to the Randolph Hotel until his mother
arrived with bucket and mop to render his apartments habitable.
Oxford otherwise began well for him, and he settled in socially and
He graduated with a Second in Modern History, however, causing some
consternation in the family, who had hoped for a First. His mother,
the Marchioness, suspected him of being idle; Pratt maintained that he
was unable to study owing to a broken leg.
In fact, both these things were true. Just before his finals Pratt was
involved in an horrific car crash in which he broke his nose, jaw and
There are those who claim that his demeanour changed dramatically
following the accident; certainly he became somewhat short-tempered.
There followed numerous rows with anyone who crossed him, and many
rumbled on until the day he died.
Just days before his death he was involved in an argument over a bill
with the owner of an off-licence at Dulwich.
At Oxford, Pratt was secretary of the Gridiron, a lunch and dining
club founded in 1884 that numbered Michael Ancram and Douglas Hogg
among its members.
He was also a leading light in another Oxford club called the Snuff
Committee, the sole purpose of which was to take snuff and drink port.
Membership was by invitation only; the only stipulation was that one
had to be the son of a landowner.
After graduating Pratt found a position at Lazard Brothers, the
merchant bank. Three months into his new job, however, he judged that
it would be more agreeable to attend Royal Ascot than to turn up at
the office, and his services were dispensed with. He never again
sought full-time employment.
The Camden family fortune had been somewhat depleted after the Second
World War, following some unwise financial decisions.
The family had hung on to property near Snowdonia in Wales while
selling large tracts of central London; while the property in London
flourished, the Welsh land remained confined to sheep-grazing.
Despite this, when Pratt's father died in 1983 he left £3.2 million, a
proportion of it in trust for his widow, Pratt's stepmother.
It was not long before she and Pratt had a falling out over money.
At the time the Marchioness elaborated: "Michael has been trying to
get at the money and my house for a long time. He made some approaches
to my solicitor about the will and I find it all very unsettling."
In 1982 Pratt wrote about the Byzantines in Britain's Greek Empire,
and in 1991 he turned his attention to grand houses in a book called
The Great Country Houses of Central Europe; this book - studiously
researched and beautifully photographed - was well-received and
remains in print today.
Pratt's working day would usually start with a large gin and tonic
before he meandered towards White's Club in St James.
He was a great social genealogist, and took much pleasure in regaling
listeners with stories of family matters.
Towards the end of his life, however, he found himself barred from one
of his clubs. Ironically, this was Pratt's, where he was asked to
leave the premises following a spectacular altercation with a
Pratt was generally ill at ease with modern technology, and even after
his motor accident at Oxford he remained a demon car driver,
terrifying passengers with his speed and overtaking technique, which
he often employed on blind bends at speeds of more than 70mph.
Several years ago, in Italy, he had a miraculous escape when he
overturned his car on the main road between Grosseto and Siena.
Pratt managed to escape prosecution by disarming the local police with
his charm, wit and smattering of pidgin Italian.
Pratt was equally dangerous with firearms. On one drive he shot a
fellow gun in the eye, and invitations to shoot dried up.
Michael Pratt married, in 1999, Janet Giannuzzi Savelli, who survives