Wednesday, March 24, 2021

30 Years Since the Passing of Nicholas Phillips, Master of Luton Hoo

Nicholas Phillips.
Photograph by Lord Litchfield.

A little over thirty years ago, the last guardian of Luton Hoo passed away. Nicholas Phillips was found dead in his car in the garage of Luton Hoo on 1 March 1991. Mr Phillips was only forty-three years old.

The wedding of Harold Phillips and Georgina Wernher.

Born on 23 August 1947 at London, Nicholas "Nicky" Harold Phillips was the only son of Lieutenant Colonel Harold "Bunnie" Phillips (1909–1980) and his wife Georgina "Gina" Wernher (1919-2011; later Lady Kennard), who wed in 1944. Nicholas had four sisters: Alexandra "Sacha" (1946-2018; later Duchess of Abercorn), Fiona (b.1951), Marita (b.1954), and Natalia (b.1959; later Duchess of Westminster). Nicholas Phillips was the maternal grandson of Major-General Sir Harold Augustus Wernher, 3rd Baronet, and his wife Countess Anastasia "Zia" de Torby. Through his grandmother Zia, Nicholas was the great-grandson of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and his wife Countess Sophie von Merenberg. Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, served as Nicholas' godfather at his christening.

Nicky and Lucy Phillips, 1984.
Photograph (c) Desmond O'Neill Features Ltd: www.donfeatures.com.

On 18 October 1975 at Salzburg, Nicholas Phillips married Countess Marie Lucie "Lucy" Czernin von Chudenitz (b.Graz 16 May 1941), the daughter of Count Paul Czernin von Chudenitz and his wife Baroness Elisabeth von Gudenus. Nicholas and Lucy had two children: Charlotte Sonia Maria Phillips (b.Paris 22 December 1976) and Edward Phillips (b.London 2 November 1981; married Marina Wilson). 

Nicky and Lucy Phillips at Luton Hoo.

After learning of Nicholas' death, the Hon. Jeremy Soames, a grandson of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, wrote: 

Nicholas Phillips's many friends will be deeply shocked and saddened by the news of his tragic death. His natural reserve belied a thoroughly cultured, astute, and generous mind.

Following university in Switzerland and a period as a banker in Paris, Nicky returned to England and immersed himself in his family's business interests. The international approach he inherited from his grandparents and cultivated in his own lifetime, added an extra dimension.

His meticulous running of his family's estate at Luton Hoo and his ability to enhance its appeal and access to the local community has set a fine example for others in privileged positions to follows. A respected racehorse breeder, he directed a considerable amount of energy towards the administration of British racing. It was typical of Nicky that he should wish to make a contribution to a sport which had provided him and his family with so much pleasure.

He enjoyed and appreciated the many treasures which his family had accumulated, but his real pleasure came from sharing the with his many friends and the community around Luton Hoo. His unaffected generosity will be widely remembered. 

May his memory be a blessing. 

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