CHIPS CHANNON: Prince Philip is the best looking boy I've ever seen

Prince Philip is the best looking boy I’ve ever seen: The cheeky verdict of society gossip CHIPS CHANNON on the future Duke… and just one of the sexually charged observations in this shamelessly frank last extract from his uncensored private diaries

First published in 1967, the diaries of MP Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon were so salacious they had to be censored. Now published in full, our final extract of the second volume opens with Britain being battered by the Blitz. 

Chips — now separated from his wife Honor — pined for his lover Peter Coats, on a military posting in Cairo. Meanwhile, he continued to have an intimate friendship with his brother-in-law, Alan Lennox-Boyd, a future Cabinet minister. 

Despite the horrors of the war, Chips found time to indulge his sexual proclivities, to gossip about the royal family and to live luxuriously, even amid the smoking ruins of a bomb…

Thursday, November 7, 1940

I write amidst my ruins … After nine, we got up and, as my four [dinner] guests preceded me, still carrying their brandy glasses, there was an immense crack as if of lightning!

‘That was somewhere near, let’s go and see if we can see anything,’ Bolitho [Hector Bolitho, an Air Ministry official] suggested. I protested that there were usually two bombs in quick succession and that we had better wait a moment.

As I spoke, I heard the sound of breaking glass, then the voice of Harold, the footman, shouting: ‘We’ve been hit.’ We all rushed into the hall and were half blinded by dust.

In a second, as if we had invoked the Devil from smoke, in sprang an ARP warden, whom I recognised as the Archduke Robert [former Archduke of Austria]!

He was followed by a woman and several others armed with pickaxes. They had made their way through the falling porch and portico to dig us out! ‘Are there any dead below?’ they asked. ‘I don’t think so,’ I answered, surprised by my own calm.

I poured them out drinks and rang the bell. Lambert [the butler] appeared and I asked him to bring more tumblers and drinks. I nearly said ‘Krug ’20’ but just didn’t.

Soon we tried to go into the Square, but it was a feat to crawl over the fallen masonry and broken columns etc. The porch had gone; so, too, had the pretty balcony, only a heap of rubble and debris. My beautiful house so damaged. Still we were lucky to be alive.

The dust and dirt were indescribable. I went to bed in my underground bedroom, took a sleeping draught, and thus is ending a very tiresome, difficult day.

Friday, November 8

All day the house was in the throes of cleaners, builders, demolition squads.

Sunday, November 10

A horrible sleepless night: a sexual explosion, cold, and the interminable drone of German planes on high kept me awake …

Mr Chamberlain died in the night. He had nothing more to live for; he was against the war and would have done anything to prevent it. Now it will go on for ever.

Thursday, November 28

I had my bottom washed out. It takes two hours and does one a universe of benefit! Life takes on a new complexion.

Tuesday, Dec 31, 1940

Cairo

From the window, before we landed, I saw Peter, amber, alert, handsome, waiting for me. I rushed out: he seemed enchanted. I was almost delirious with excitement. Peter had arranged a suite, he whispered, at Shepheard’s [hotel]. He drove me, took me to the room … He was so charming. We had a rapturous reunion.

Sunday, Jan 5, 1941

I went to dine with Peter at Shepheard’s. He agreed to live with me after the war, and to share my house, houses, or flat: we should travel together and be happy. I long for the day.

Friday, February 28

London

Sandy Vereker has killed himself: an appalling tragedy. He left his wife for love of a fellow officer, one Howard. It was the great love affair of the war. Now I gather Howard has left him: this is the neurotic result. Sandy was Lord Gort’s only son — the heir of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army!

MP Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon, whose diaries were so salacious they had to be censored when first published

Sunday, March 9

Last night’s raid was really serious. Buckingham Palace was badly hit, and at the Café de Paris over 30 people were killed [in fact, 34 killed and 82 injured]. London presented a melancholy appearance this morning.

Tuesday, May 20

The long-expected [German] attack on Crete has begun.

Monday, June 2

The evacuation of Crete is announced. A further decline in our prestige. The BEF [British Expeditionary Force] are now known as ‘Back Every Friday’!

Thursday, July 10

Godfrey Winn [an actor turned naval officer] … told me strange stories of his feverish friendship with David Bowes-Lyon [the queen’s brother and, like Winn, homosexual]!

Tuesday, July 15

Our days at the Foreign Office are ending … I am wretched, yet relieved! [Chips’ boss, Rab Butler, moved to the Board of Education and he lost his job.]

Wednesday, July 23

I am no longer a PPS [Parliamentary Private Secretary]. I am no longer anything.

Monday, December 8

As I lay awake in bed last night, something prompted me to turn on my little de luxe wireless. I was flabbergasted to hear that Japan had declared war on the United States and Great Britain, and that bombing of Honolulu etc has already begun.

America’s participation, of course, ensures final victory for the Allies … Shanghai, Hong Kong attacked etc. The whole Far East is in flames: civilisation is now at stake, and perhaps may perish.

Friday, January 9, 1942

The Duke [of Kent, George VI’s brother] proceeded to abuse the King and Queen: says that they are inept, ineffectual and inexpert. How the Duke hates them.

Sunday, January 11

Prince Philip of Greece [is] an absolute ‘charmer’ aged only 20. He is about the best-looking boy I have ever seen, fair, a touch languid but with good manners. No wonder that he has been selected as the Prince Consort of the future! I was impressed and attracted.

Channon wrote of meeting ‘absolute “charmer”‘ Prince Philip (pictured in 1951): ‘He is about the best-looking boy I have ever seen, fair, a touch languid but with good manners. No wonder that he has been selected as the Prince Consort of the future! I was impressed and attracted’

Thursday, February 5

Had my bottom washed out, but alas the treatment did not stimulate me as usual … I wish I had a career, a war too, anything to relieve my depression.

Monday, February 9

Slept with Alan, who didn’t snore. I like sleeping with people — with anybody except my wife!

Tuesday, February 10

More Japanese landings at Singapore but Rommel’s advance in Libya seems to have slackened.

Friday, Feb 13 (indeed!)

Is the war lost? Everything seems to be going against us.

Sunday, February 15

We rushed to dine early at Claridge’s before Churchill’s broadcast … an eloquent appeal for national unity. Wrapped up in his oratory was the far-reaching defeat at Singapore. It has gone.

Saturday, March 14

We have been decidedly defeated in a huge naval battle off Java. Why must England always be on the wrong side?

Monday, March 16

Alan and Patsy breezed in, high-spirited and rather animal. Alan gaily let down his trousers and revealed that he was wearing a pair of Patsy’s palest, pinkest pants. It seems he had none, and when he came up today from Ramsgate he borrowed a pair of his wife’s!! I thought the performance indecent and faintly exciting.

Sunday, April 26

I managed to have my coffee and toast in bed — toast made from the new national loaf, which immensely increases one’s energy and is an aphrodisiac.

Saturday, May 2

I went for a preprandial stroll in the blue and green loveliness of Kelvedon and I was assailed by strange longings, longings almost unmentionable! I am becoming more sexual.

I thought I would have given anything to be taken into the woods here, stripped and then whipped by a fat middle-aged severe woman! Why does one have such urges? Such strong, impossible desires. Do all men have them?

Sunday, May 3

Mrs Harris, mother of four children and wife of my gardener, has become a hoyden or perhaps harlot in her husband’s absence, and the soldiers here run after her like dogs after a bitch on heat.

Tuesday, May 5

The King should never be allowed to broadcast: it is deplorable and he sounds almost idiotic.

Friday, June 12

I found Jay Llewellin [an MP and minister] in my bed and he stayed and loved me for an hour — now this morning I am tired.

Monday, June 22

It is v hot and everything is depressing; Egypt is threatened; Winston is losing the war, if he has not lost it. He is the most dangerous man in England.

Thursday, June 25

The House was still excited but the movement against Winston is subsiding. Rested this afternoon for an hour and ruminated licentiously. I am lusty, depraved and hungry for sensations and sex.

Channon (pictured)’s marriage to Honor was dissolved in 1945, and he spent the rest of his life with Peter Coats

Friday, July 3

We are holding the Axis forces in the El Alamein area. A pause in their triumphant march, or a turn of the tide?

Tuesday, August 18

St Mary’s Abbey, Buckfast, Devon

My new volume opens, surprisingly enough, in a Benedictine monastery where I came this afternoon. The monastery … is simple, sweet and peaceful. I wonder whether I can induce the Abbot to whip me. I shall try.

Wednesday, August 19

The Abbot has just been to see me but I got no forwarder with him over my secret plans for abasement and humiliation …

The monks are all flogged on Fridays after [one] sings the ‘Miserere’. I must try to see that.

Friday, August 21

The doleful Miserere had just begun and I listened entranced. The flogging seemed severe, frightful whacks against obviously bare flesh. Each monk gives himself the discipline in the privacy of his cell.

Saturday, Aug 22

I went to the distant moors, a long trek … I rested by a boulder and ‘meditated’. My hand stung with nettles and I thought about mortification. Madly, insanely, I scarified my body with stinging nettles and the effect was electric; exquisite pain, exciting sensation.

Sunday, Aug 23

A ghastly night. I itched terribly. The nettles stung and tormented me all night. I alone cried out with pain … at last I got up and took two aspirins and fell into a coma, having resolved to be normal hereafter. I have had more than enough of mortification and mummery.

Wednesday, Aug 26

London

Lambert woke me at eight, saying ‘A message has come that the Duke of Kent has been killed!’ I cried out in astonishment, and a few minutes later he returned with the newspapers which speak the dreadful news. [The Duke, an RAF officer, was in a flying boat that crashed into a hillside in Caithness.]

It seems that for some hours nobody knew of the accident, as it happened in a remote and wild part of Scotland.

Wednesday, Sept 2

I like silence, solitariness and long to be humiliated and whipped. It is most ridiculous and quaint, but there.

Sunday, Sept 6

The poor Duke of Kent. The Duchess and he must have been the most beautiful and dazzling couple in the world! Naked, he was magnificently gold and copper. Of course he had a secret of which he rarely talked and was ashamed. I was long aware of it. [He was believed to be bisexual.]

Tuesday, September 8

Parliament reassembled and was unusually crowded! Winston proceeded to give a pedestrian account of his journeys and junketings. I have a deep and bitter loathing of him yet I see his great and many qualities: but he remains a selfish, paranoidical [sic] old ape, charmless, arrogant, grumpy, disagreeable, bullying, irritating, indeed infuriating.

Sunday, October 4

After visiting the Duchess of Kent

The car drove me into Windsor, where I caught a crowded train back; how ugly are the hoi polloi!!

Friday, October 23

Another offensive has opened in Egypt [the Second Battle of El Alamein, a decisive British and Allied victory].

Thursday, November 26

At the House I fell asleep in the library, where I have often slept alongside the greatest men in England, and was awakened by Leslie Hore-Belisha, who pinched my bottom. Startled, I came to.

Sunday, December 6

Pam Churchill [married to Randolph] confided in me that Randolph is unbalanced and horrible. She attracts me very much.

Thursday, December 10

Before dinner I gave Rab [Butler] his bath. He had an immense boil or carbuncle on his neck and I found myself wanting to squeeze it and watch the pus jump out.

Tuesday, Jan 5, 1943

Stuart Preston, the cleverest young American I have ever met, breezed in today, looking dishevelled. He is a sergeant in the American Army.

Sunday, January 10

Jock Butler, Rab’s brother, was killed yesterday near Cambridge on what was almost his first operational flight. He was 29.

Alan arrived from Falmouth. He is observed by Stuart Preston and is becoming rapidly involved in a romantic friendship with him.

Wednesday, January 20

There was a raid about luncheon time. When I dined with Pam Churchill she was in an emotional state, having just returned from Deptford, where she had been on duty. It had been horrible: about 40 children killed, more buried beneath the rubble, wailing mothers, slow relief services etc. An appalling tragedy.

Tuesday, February 16

A long letter from my Major [Coats, now in the Far East], who confesses to a lapse with a general at Chungking. The tale made me a little wretched.

Wednesday, February 17

I hear that Winston is really quite ill; he attended a Cabinet swathed in a shawl. Apparently he caught a cold on his return [from the Casablanca conference with Roosevelt] … a lifetime drinking brandy is not conducive to a speedy recovery for pneumonia.

Thursday, March 4

Hardly anybody knows that 171 people [in fact, 173] were killed at Bethnal Green. But not by bombs! An accident causing a stampede in a shelter and these many people were all crushed or suffocated. An appalling disaster.

Monday, March 22

A day of interviewing constituents — their problems, cares and domestic tragedies are often Babylonian.

Friday, April 16

A cable from P [Coats] announcing the stupendous news. He arrives here on Tuesday next.

Thursday, April 22

From the window, I saw a taxi and in it Major Coats. We fell into each other’s arms rapturously. He is thinner, handsomer, gentler, seductive, simple, subtle, wise and sweet.

Monday, April 26

Peter woke me and was wonderfully affectionate and altogether divine.

Sunday, July 25

Astonishing news that Mussolini had resigned and that Fascism in Italy has been overthrown. Could it be true? Is it the end of the war?

■ Chips Channon’s marriage to Honor was dissolved in 1945, and he spent the rest of his life with Peter Coats. He remained MP for Southend, was knighted in 1957, and died in 1958, aged 61, after suffering a series of strokes.

■ Adapted from Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries 1938-43, published by Hutchinson at £35. © Trustees of the diaries and personal papers of Sir Henry Channon 2021. Introduction and notes © Simon Heffer 2021. To order a copy for £31.50 (offer valid until September 25, 2021; UK p&p free), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193.

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