Lord Berners

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Lord Berners, whose full name was Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners, (born Apley Hall, Shropshire, 18 September 1883; died Faringdon House, Berkshire, 19 April 1950), was a British composer of classical music, novelist and painter. He is usually called Lord Berners. He was an amateur composer who is remembered for his strange, eccentric behaviour.

Life[change | edit source]

Berners was born in Apley Hall, Bridgnorth in the west of England. The Berners family were related to King Edward III of England. His father was a naval officer who was not often at home. He was looked after by his mother and grandmother who was very religious and very strict. Berners was very interested in lots of things, especially music, but his mother did nothing to help him.

At first he went to boarding school in Cheam. Then he went to Eton. He taught himself to compose. He became a diplomat and travelled to Rome and Constantinople. In 1919, when his uncle died, he became 14th Baron Berners and 5th Baronet. He had already composed some music which had been published under the name Gerald Tyrwhitt.

Berners lived an eccentric life. He lived in Berkshire but also had houses in London and Rome. He had plenty of money, so that he did not have to work. He had many friends, including the composers Stravinsky, Lambert and William Walton who dedicated his Belshazzar’s Feast to him.

His music[change | edit source]

Berners’s music is full of Romantic feeling, irony and parody. He wrote a lot for the theatre. He composed The Triumph of Neptune in 1926 for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. His music could often be described as light music.

His eccentricities[change | edit source]

Berners started his strange behaviour when he was quite small. He had heard that a dog could be taught to swim by throwing it into water, so he decided to teach his dog to fly by throwing it out of the window. The dog was not hurt, but Berners was given a beating.

He was often naughty, making silly traps for people. He was sent to boarding school in Cheam when he was nine. There he had a gay relationship with an older boy. He was then sent to Eton College. Berners said that he learned nothing there.

Later, when he was grown up, he painted pigeons at his house and once he even had a giraffe as a pet so that he could have tea with it. He travelled in a Rolls-Royce and kept a clavichord under the front seat.

He died in 1950 at Faringdon House, leaving his estate to his partner Robert ('Mad Boy') Heber Percy, who lived with him at Faringdon.

His epitaph on his gravestone reads:

"Here lies Lord Berners
One of life's learners
His great love of learning
May earn him a burning
Thanks be to the Lord
He never was bored".