Henry Channon tells tale of the night future Queen's drinks were laced
11th December 2022

The night the future Queen’s cocktails were laced with amphetamines at a high-society Dorchester ball… Just one of the countless shocking tales told by Henry ‘Chips’ Channon

The salacious diaries of Tory MP Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon caused a sensation when first published in 1967. Their wildly indiscreet observations about the great and the good of English society between 1918 and 1957 led them to be censored. Although married to Lady Honor Guinness, the American-born politician lusted after both men and women – sharing a bed with his MP brother-in-law, Army officer Peter Coats (who was posted on duty to India) and the playwright Terence Rattigan, for whom he pulled strings to get off RAF service. The final volume of the diaries begins near the end of the Second World War…

Monday, January 22, 1945

We drove to Lancing to see ‘Bosie’ Douglas. [As a young man, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, son of the Marquess of Queensbury, had famously had an affair with Oscar Wilde that led, indirectly, to Wilde being jailed.]

He is dying. He seemed enchanted to see us; but I was shocked by his appearance; he looked like an aged dying French duchess… we sat with him for two hours as he chatted of Oscar Wilde and old days.

The Russians seem headed for Berlin.

Catty: Channon often criticised the appearance of the then Queen Elizabeth. ‘[Her] bosom is big and bottom immense’

Wednesday, January 24

Another blissful honeymoon day. Terry [Rattigan] was an enchantment… I love him deeply.

Friday, January 26

Too cold to live; the whole country is frozen up and electricity is cut everywhere. Is it the end of the world?

Wednesday, January 31

Terry telephoned early: he has had a notice to appear at the Air Ministry tomorrow, and may be forced to rejoin his unit. I was desperate and enlisted the help of Rupert Brabner, the pretty little under-secretary [at the Air Ministry]. Rang up Terry who was immensely relieved.

Thursday, February 1

At 12.25 I met Terry; he looked very handsome and was happy because he has been granted a further three months extension of leave.

We went to the Hippodrome… Terry and I were in the next stalls to [playwright] Noel Coward, who gave me a leer of a look. He has lost his looks, certainly.

Sunday, February 4

All day at Kelvedon [his Essex country home] where I read, wrote, worked and reclined and thought about Terry. I have a premonition that our now tremendous and world-known axis will break up – some outside element or event will interfere with our happiness.

Friday, February 9

[Coppins, Duchess of Kent’s home]

We drove here to stay with the Duchess of Kent. After the Duchess went to bed we browsed about the sitting room and found an incredible sugary insincere letter from the Queen. Queen E [Elizabeth] is the hypocrite of all time – a sugary gentle humbug.

Tuesday, February 20

I begin a fresh volume of my journal on this night of my divorce. I felt like a prisoner going to the condemned cell. At 10.30 I arrived [and] waited a while as other suits were heard; sordid cases. I felt nervous. Suddenly I found myself in the witness box giving evidence in a clear voice. No mention was made of Honor’s many infidelities [nor Chips’ it seems!]

I was awarded the unconditional custody of my child. It was all over in ten minutes.

Wednesday, February 21

Called on Diana Cooper [wife of Secretary of State for War Duff Cooper]. She came in from lunching with Winston and Mrs Churchill. Clemmie had been rather cross with the PM; but he took it, as always, calmly.

Monday, February 26

Went on a walk with my Austrian bitch Batsi and a rocket bomb fell only a few fields away. I was flung, or rather fell, to the ground. There were two explosions and clouds of smoke: luckily it fell in a field and nobody was killed.

Wednesday, February 28

Jacqueline Killearn [diplomat Lord Killearn’s wife], having flown from Cairo, telephoned to announce her arrival: she adores me. People whispered that I am the father of her son, which happens to be untrue.

Tuesday, March 20

Slept ill after leaving Terry at 2am, and read a book he had lent me about flagellation, a form of perversion which fascinates him.

Woke at 10am, and found a sweet letter from Peter Coats, who is making plans to return to me and to London soon. A dramatic situation will develop…

Drove to see the damage in Park Lane [caused by a V-2]. Only eight people who were out walking their dogs were killed. The Dorchester inmates are unscathed.

Wednesday, March 21

Terry and I exchanged gold signet rings with our crests on them – Cartier made them.

Wednesday, March 28

Terry really likes second-rate people, drunkards and ne’er-do-wells – I feel tonight that after six delectable months our friendship might now cool. I am beginning to be bored… we talked on the telephone and arranged for his release from the RAF and then walked to the Commons where I had a shock. I was told that Rupert had been killed in a flying boat off the Azores! He was a delightful, extremely good-looking charmer, and next to me the second-best-dressed man in the Commons.

Tuesday, April 17

Took my son to the service at St Paul’s in memory of President Roosevelt [who had died five days earlier]. The King was in naval uniform, the Queen in black. Immediately behind them was Princess Elizabeth in Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform.

Following them were the King of Norway escorting the Queen of Holland, who looked an old frump.

After the service: I turned towards the church. Winston was standing bare-headed, framed between two columns of the portico and he was sobbing as a shaft of sunlight fell on his face.

Post-war ball: Channon described Princess Elizabeth, seen here in 1946, as alert and looking ‘like a gay partridge’

Tuesday, May 1

It is said that Hitler is dead and nobody now cares. To the House. Winston in gay form.

Monday, May 7

The unconditional surrender of Germany took place today! I go to bed with mixed feelings; hostilities are finished: the celebrations, which I half-dread, begin tomorrow. I am half-dead with excitement, love and emotion.

Tuesday, May 8 – VE Day

Got up slowly, dazed! At one o’clock I walked through the Ritz, which was beflagged and decorated. Everyone kissed me! Drove to the Commons. Every seat was occupied. At last Winston entered and he had a tremendous reception. Everyone waved handkerchiefs and order papers… Winston smiled, half-bowed and, turning towards the Speaker, read out the short and stilted phrases announcing the surrender of Germany. Members wept.

Outside there was a terrific crowd; the sun was shining; there were bells; cameras clicking. The long nightmare has ended.

Wednesday, May 9

Listened to the King’s broadcast. It was really too embarrassing: he ought to talk better by now. I have no patience with the present Sovereigns [sic], both are bores and dull.

Sunday, May 13

Drove to St Paul’s [for the National Service of Thanksgiving] through the streets. The great cathedral was packed. Their Majesties looked young and smiling (the Queen’s appearance is appalling – her bosom is big and her bottom immense); the King looked drawn and tired although he has the Windsor gift of appearing half his age.

Thursday, May 17

Liverish and depressed in spite of my daily injections… had my bottom washed out, and then went to the Commons. The King and Queen arrived. He was in navy uniform, she in turquoise blue with a feathery hat… all smiles and graciousness but her figure is deplorable!

Saturday, July 28

[The Conservatives had been defeated by a Labour landslide. Churchill was out of office.]

I am stunned and shocked by the country’s treachery, and extremely surprised by my own survival.

Sunday, August 5

The world has been electrified, thrilled and horrified by the atomic bomb; one has been dropped in Japan today. It devastated a whole town [Hiroshima] and killed a quarter of a million people. It could mean the end of civilisation.

Friday, August 10

At long last the war is over, or ending. The streets were crowded with celebrating people singing, and littered with torn paper. People tear telephone books to bits and throw them into the streets.

Tuesday, August 14

This morning I read the resignation honours list; no peerage for Mr Channon. Midnight and I happened to turn on the news, and heard Attlee announce the end of the war.

Peter Coats returned from India.

Saturday, February 2

[Coats and Chips threw a dinner party before a ball at the Dorchester. Princess Elizabeth came.]

Everyone was dressed up. Noel Coward was covered with emeralds. The Duchess of Kent’s beauty was staggering. It was a shimmering sea of splendour. Princess Elizabeth looked like a gay partridge… Never has there been so much excitement about a ball! (Peter and I surreptitiously put some Benzedrine* in the cocktails; nobody noticed.) *An amphetamine.

Sunday, February 3

Peter quite lost his heart to the royal partridge [Princess Elizabeth]. She seemed alert, and has a turned-up nose; but whilst gay and self-assured is as yet inelegant.

Sunday, February 24

Peter had been out dancing and spent the evening, or most of it, with Princess Elizabeth with whom he is en flirt. [Rattigan returned from America. Chips divided his attention between him and Coats.]

Friday, March 1

Slept badly as Peter woke me at 4.30; he had danced again with Princess Elizabeth, whom he finds gay and delightful.

She is alert and has ideas. I hear that she is much attracted by him and he has been summoned to Buckingham Palace to a party next week.

Tuesday, March 5

I was angered with Terry… he went off to Brighton to see his catamite (a little horror named Kenneth Morgan).

Thursday, March 7

My 49th birthday. I look about 41. Venetia Montagu and Diana Cooper came to see me. Much criticism of the King and Queen. Venetia described her as a ‘middle-class’ bitch!

Wednesday, July 3

Trouble again with my huge Rolls-Royce [outside the Commons]. It had to be pushed, to the amusement of ‘the Comrades’, as we call the socialists.

Monday, July 29

All day at Kelvedon: gorgeous sun. We bathed and swam naked.

Terry looking like a god, golden and glorious. Utterly drained and exhausted mentally and spiritually by my indulgences, gastronomic and sexual.

[The diary lapsed from August 1, 1946 to October 20, 1947. Chips records ‘the end of the Rattigan romance’ and ‘a brief but exciting and passionate friendship with Lord Audley, from whom I now feel estranged’. His relationship with Coats endured.]

Tuesday, October 21

Peter and I drove in semi-state to the Opening of Parliament; the proceedings are in a subdued note; semi-state carriages, the K and Q in one. He was in naval uniform; she in an aquamarine afternoon gown with a longish train.

From behind she looked all right but the front view looked ridiculous; her bosom is bathetic: too many Balmoral teas, I fear.

Saturday, October 25

The royal engagement [between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip of Greece] was, is, wildly triumphantly popular but the wedding (not the marriage) is decried and criticised on all sides: its bogus austerity appeals to nobody.

Tuesday, October 28

Anthony [Eden, former Foreign Secretary] cannot get Beatrice [his wife] to resume conjugal life… and yet cannot bring himself to bring an action for desertion against her. Anthony must have his position regularised before he becomes Prime Minister.

Monday, November 17

The stage is now set for the royal wedding; it has been mishandled from the start: the King is such a poltroon.

The whole affair should have been magnificently stage-managed – the most splendid wedding in history. I have been asked if I would lend or let my house to them for some months; and I refused.

Thursday, November 20

Royal Wedding Day! Huge crowds. Princess Elizabeth looked shy and attractive; Philip was dazzling and evidently enjoyed himself.

The Queen looked well; the King seemed wooden and stiff. The biggest, warmest reception was reserved for Winston; in the Abbey, everyone stood up – even the Kings and Queens.

Thursday, January 22

Went to the Lyceum theatre for the Vic-Wells Costume Ball. I have seen much, but never an orgy to touch it; the costumes – or lack of them – and the naked young men, many of them dancing together, was staggering.

Tuesday, February 17

Dripping with rubies and elegantly dressed, Peter and I went to pick up Miss Mae West, the world-famous comedienne; we were nearly mobbed – a crowd jumped on the car shouting for autographs etc. Peter and I feared that the Rolls would be smashed up.

Sunday, April 25

After going to bed on Wednesday evening I felt ill and couldn’t sleep. At 5am I had a haemorrhage (the second in my life) and I thought I should die.

For four days now I have been in bed, living first on ice, and then on milk.

Now I am recovering… my room is banked with flowers and it looks like a gangster’s funeral.

Friday, April 30

I am now recovering. All my old friends have rallied around me and been divine! John Gielgud sits on my bed…

Sunday, July 18

The Queen had become so disliked [among] the Scottish aristocracy.

Apparently it is her falseness, her levity and treacherous conversation which disillusions everyone in the end.

At the small Windsor dance during Ascot week the Queen drank a toast – ‘Death to Dalton!’ [Hugh Dalton, Labour Minister and Old Etonian, was regarded by some as a class traitor]. This is serious.

Princess Margaret… bored and bullied everybody. She is a tiny tyrant and will get the royal family into trouble.

Adapted from Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries (Volume 3): 1943-57 by Chips Channon, published by Hutchinson Heinemann at £35. © The Trustees of the diaries and personal papers of Sir Henry Channon 2022. Introduction and notes © Simon Heffer 2022. To order a copy for £30, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937 by December 23; UK p&p free on orders over £20.

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