Wodehouse denied a knighthood by Bertie
Bertie Wooster was the undoing of his creator P G Wodehouse when it
came to the award of a knighthood.
The comic writer's association with Nazism might have been
overlooked, but the languid lifestyle of a public school toff who
could afford not to work and kept a butler did not fit the image of
the Swinging Sixties.
It was a rum do, as Jeeves might have remarked, when a fellow could
be nominated for a knighthood or Companion of Honour by a trade
union leader and blackballed by senior Establishment people.
Files released yesterday at the Public Record Office reveal that in
1967 Wodehouse was put up for an honour by Walter Citrine, once
Mersey district secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, given a
peerage after serving as TUC general secretary.
Because Wodehouse lived in America our ambassador in Washington, Sir
Patrick Dean, was consulted and said the author had done nothing for
British interests there to justify an honour.
Sir Patrick, educated at Rugby and Cambridge and a member of
Brooks's club in St James's, said the award "would revive the
controversy of his wartime behaviour and give currency to a Bertie
Wooster image of the British character which the embassy was doing
its best to eradicate".
Wodehouse had lived in America since 1955 and taken US citizenship.
He had been warned not to return to Britain after the Second World
War because he might face treason charges.
He had been in France when Germany invaded in 1940. He was captured
and later rashly agreed to make light-hearted broadcasts about the
conditions of internment. Comparisons were made in Parliament with
the propaganda tirades of William Joyce, known as Lord Haw Haw.
Wodehouse received what appeared to be favourable treatment from the
Nazis, living in a hotel in Paris and receiving money from Germany
until the Liberation.
In 1971, as Wodehouse turned 90, Lord Home, the Tory Foreign
Secretary, suggested it was time to bury the hatchet. But the new
ambassador in the US, Lord Cromer (Eton, Cambridge and also a member
of Brooks's) said he backed Sir Patrick's views.
Then in 1975 Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, ensured Wodehouse
got his knighthood in the New Year Honours, a month before he