There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about the enormity of the contribution made to Formula One by Louis T Stanley. Married to Jean, the sister of Sir Alfred Owen, the co-owner of BRM, Louis T effectively was BRM in their glory years – and through to the end. Along the way, he published his own F1 annuals, featuring his own photographs, and wrote numerous books, the most memorable of which were undoubtedly Golf With Your Hands and Lawn Tennis. Stanley was fond of candid portrait shots and would typically like to picture Tony Brooks drinking a cup of water and write as a caption: “Tony Brooks – speaks directly, but in no way loquacious”, or write this about the legendary Mercedes team manager, Alfred Neubauer: “He combines the manner of Friar Tuck with the authority of a dictator. Vaguely reminscent of the ‘man of very stout countenance’ in Bunyan, who bellowed at the keeper of the Book of Life: ‘Set down my name, Sir!’ and hacked his way thereafter through an army into Heaven….” Not your average SkyTV soundbite presenter, in other words.
A pioneer of safety in F1, Louis T was responsible for the arrival of the mobile Grand Prix Medical Unit in 1967 and was a great supporter of Sir Jackie Stewart and all that patently needed to be done to make racing safer in the 1960s. He is pictured below, indeed, at a Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) meeting in South Africa, 1969. Sir Jackie is in the centre, speaking to Graham Hill, Chris Amon, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jacky Ickx, Jochen Rindt, Denny Hulme and Mario Andretti among others – and there, on the side, immaculately dressed, as ever, is Louis T Stanley.
I mention all this because a lurid book has just been written by Bobbie Neate in which the author claims that Louis T Stanley protected a secret for most of his natural life – to wit, that he was actually the illegitimate son of the British Prime Minister, HH Asquith. Neate was Stanley’s stepdaughter but never knew of this background until she began to research the family history. In F1 Louis T was always known for the affectation of his – how shall I put it – upper-class ways, so now I guess we can all appreciate why he was the way he was. So Lordly did he appear to foreign drivers that most of them called him “Sir Louis” even without thinking about it. “Yes, Sir Louis. Tea at the Dorchester. I’ll be there”: they all said it – from Pedro Rodriguez to Jo Siffert to Jackie Oliver to Larry Perkins – and yes, to that real knight of the realm, Jackie Stewart. Stanley-bashers loved to call him a fraud. Now – assuming we are all over the the business of being “illegitimate” – we can all look back at Louis T and raise our hats. He indeed had the pedigree.
Bearing in mind that Louis T obviously didn’t want this information to be made public, I suspect Neate’s book is on the scandal/resentment side, and therefore probably very negative (sadly); I have to confess, though, that I’ve only read its “Product Description”. If you’d like to buy it, go to Amazon.com and search for Conspiracy of Secrets. Me? I think I’ll re-read The Beauty of Women and Journey Through Cornwall by Louis T Stanley.