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Wodehouse denied a knighthood by Bertie
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The Daily Telegraph 16 August 2002

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 died.

Copyright Michel Kuzmenko (gmk), The Russian Wodehouse Society © 1996-2008. Established 04/04/1996.