It is a strange story and one that has been told elsewhere rather more fully than Gerald McMillan was able to in 1954 I think, but the book – stamped ‘Dowlais Library’ has been sitting on the windowsill in our Assembly office for as long as I’ve worked there and curiosity finally got the better of me.
Maundy Gregory was a conman of his time. An impresario and nightclub owner who was always immaculately dressed, he could have been written by Agatha Christie and would have been the ideal villain for a Saint novel. With his vanity press newspaper, he was a conman and possible murderer who sold honours for Lloyd George and others and who remains the only person prosecuted for the sale of peerages.
What this book is really good at is showing what sort of man Maundy Gregory was and how he worked his victims which was primarily through appealing to their vanity. What it’s not so good at is making explicit the links to the very top of British politics, not just Lloyd George. Mostly McMillan leaves it to nods and winks, for example, by pointing out that Gregory’s ignominious exile may have been funded by ‘party manages.’ That may well have been because the political classes closed ranks over the sale of honours. As recently as 2006, the Telegraph was reporting that Maundy Gregory’s file remained censored.
Some fascinating titbits emerge too. I hadn’t realised that Lloyd George invented the Order of the British Empire in 1917. By 1922 it had over 25,000 members!
And Maundy Gregory’s house in St John’s Wood, Abbey Lodge was later bought by EMI and became the Abbey Road studios made famous by the Beatles.