Tragic life of Alice Ormsby-Gore….
Having read of the recent death of Lord Harlech, a man beset with a lifetime of struggles I was reminded of the tragedy that was his older sister, Alice Ormsby-Gore. Theirs was a story of socialite meets working class, a naivety which saw them turn their backs on the institution in favour of a hippy lifestyle, a story symptomatic of the hangover from the carefree, drug-fuelled days of 1960s England, and Alice in particular, never recovered from them.
They were son and daughter to Lord Harlech, who, as British Ambassador to the United States in Washington was a confidant of President Kennedy and along with his wife, Sylvia were popular socialites in the Washington political and cultural scene. Their children enjoyed an enviable upbringing between America and the family estate in Shropshire but by 1967 a catalogue of family tragedies would determine the fortunes of both of the children until their early deaths.
It all began with the death of their mother in a car crash in 1967, seven years later Alice found her brother Julien dead in his apartment from self-inflicted gunshot wounds and in 1985 their father died in a car crash whilst avoiding a stray dog on the road. Following the death of her mother, Alice became a young socialite more interested in music and partying than playing the role of daughter to a landowner and powerful political father. As she mourned her mother’s death her father proposed marriage to Jackie Kennedy in Cambodia, a proposal accepted but later rejected and, as Kennedy later admitted, regretted.
By 1968 a seventeen year old Alice had met Eric Clapton who had spent some time attempting to recover from drug addiction on her father’s farm. Clapton had turned to heroin in an attempt to overcome his feelings for Pattie Boyd and by the following year they had become engaged, with Alice joining Clapton in using heroin. The engagement made the headlines, her father was supportive of the engagement and despite Clapton insisting he never loved her they remained together for five years with Lord Harlech doing much to help Clapton beat his addiction to heroin.
Whilst Clapton recovered and enjoyed flings with other women, Alice battled with the addiction Clapton had dragged her into, he later admitted that at the time of their meeting he could not see the wrong in bringing her into ‘his nightmare’. But he did, and as he continued with his rock star status and wealthy lifestyle Alice would end her days dead from a massive overdose in a Bournemouth bedsit in 1995. She was let down badly by Clapton in particular, her brother struggled to cope with the mess their father left him with and like Alice, he struggled to find any sense of normality in a life which began in luxury but swiftly descended into chaos and hardship.
Much has been made of Clapton and his ilk to their addictions to drugs and alcohol but very little to those less famous, less talented and fortunate who joined the party but never went home. One cannot help but wonder how many other ‘Alice’s’ fell by the wayside in an era which, upon closer inspection might not have been as romantic as we, the fans might wish to imagine it.
Categories: Retro Heaven