Alex Massie

Jeanne Campbell, RIP: Forget Not

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John F Kennedy, Nikita Kruschev, Fidel Castro, Lord Beaverbrook, Oswald Moseley, Claus von Bulow, Norman Mailer, J Paul Getty, Randolph Churchill, Henry Luce, Gore Vidal, the Beatles and Napoleon Bonaparte...

Just some of the names appearing in this Daily Telegraph obituary of a remarkable and entertaining (yet oddly melancholy) life:

Lady Jeanne Campbell , who has died aged 78, was a journalist who reported for the Evening Standard from New York for many years; she was also the former wife of Norman Mailer, the daughter of the reprobate 11th Duke of Argyll and the favourite granddaughter of Lord Beaverbrook.

As a journalist she covered the funeral of John F Kennedy in 1963, observing memorably that Jackie Kennedy had "given the American people from this day on the one thing they always lacked — majesty".

Lady Jeanne was wild. So numerous were her love affairs that James C Humes (a speechwriter for many American presidents) claimed in his memoirs, Confessions of a White House Ghostwriter, that she was the only woman to have known "Biblically" Presidents Khrushchev, Kennedy and Castro — and all, he claimed, within the space of a year. Humes suggested that Kennedy went through his paces at her Georgetown house in October 1963; Khruschev at his dacha in April 1964; and Castro in Havana the following May.

Jeanne Louise Campbell (sometimes known as Jean or Jeanie) was the daughter of Ian Campbell, the handsome playboy who was heir to Niall, the bachelor 10th Duke of Argyll, his eccentric first cousin once removed. Her mother was Janet Aitken, daughter of the proprietor of the Daily Express.

Jeanne's parents had met at a casino in Le Touquet, when Janet was 17 and Ian 24. Janet later recalled that her husband had been "long on charm but short on judgment at the gaming tables". They married in December 1927, but the union got off to an unpropitious start when the groom — intending to instruct his bride in her marital duties — took her to watch a display of graphic lovemaking in a brothel. He was soon selling his bride's jewels to pay his gambling debts.


Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.