Johnny Kimberley, the 4th Earl of Kimberley, a glorious failure in a variety of private and public endeavors including the posts of Liberal spokesman in the British House of Lords and Chairman of Britain's National Council on Alcoholism, died of renal failure May 12 in Wiltshire, England.
Over the years, Lord Kimberley had sold real estate in Jamaica, operated his London public relations firm and served as a Guards Armoured Division officer in World War II. He also had been a member of Britain's national bobsled team, a championship tiddleywinks player, a breeder of prize pigs and an amateur steeplechase jockey and shark fisherman of note. But he may be best remembered for his lack of luck in marriage. Married six times (and divorced five times), he held the record as the most married man in the British peerage. He was reportedly even more unlucky in gambling than in marriage, being forced to sell his family's immense properties over the years to pay his debts.
Lord Kimberley's carreer in the House of Lords began its downward turn when he was fired as a Liberal Party spokesman in 1979 after he called upon the public to vote for the Conservative Party in the coming general election. However, he continued to serve on the Lords' All Party Defence Study Group and was that body's president from 1992 to 1999. He had been a delegate to the North Atlantic Assembly from 1981 to 1993.
Lord Kimberly considered himself an authority on defense, foreign policy, aviation and UFOs. A member of the Lords' All Party Defense Study Group, he once gave such an arousingly singular speech on UFOs in the House of Lords that the official published record of the speech was sold out in 24 hours.
Lord Kimberley failed to win election to the newly organized House of Lords in 1999. Britain's Guardian newspaper, a longtime supporter of the Labour Party, said he blamed his defeat on Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Lord Kimberley was quoted as saying, "That little sod Blair; I would assassinate him tomorrow."
In 1949, he embarked on the first of his disastrous marriages when he wed a daughter of the master of the king's household. The marriage took place in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The queen and the two princesses attended the ceremony, and King George VI toasted the bride and groom.
His divorces, as well as gambling debts and high living, led to the liquidation of his inherited wealth. The main mansion on his 5,000-acre estate was so large that when asked in one of his divorce trials how many bedrooms it had he replied, "I havn't the faintest idea."
He made some money in the 1950s with his PR firm, whose clients included Gregory Peck and Elizabeth Taylor, and later with his real estate sales operation in Jamaica.
Lord Kimberley had used a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in the 1990s. Last year he published a racingly readable volume of memoirs, "The Whim of the Wheel."
From the Washington Post, via the San Francisco Chronicle, 6/14/02