Major Sir Ralph Anstruther of that Ilk, 7th Bt of Balcaskie and 12th Bt of Anstruther, who has died aged 80, was a courtier in the 19th-century mould.
As Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from 1961 to 1998 he was noted even among his fellow courtiers for his outstanding discretion. With his military moustache, tortoise-shell rimmed spectacles and bowler hat, Anstruther represented an unshakeable model of stability during a period when the Royal Household was subjected to rationalisation, and the Queen Mother's image was transformed from that of a grieving widow into that of the Royal Family's most popular figure.
Joining Clarence House after a distinguished Army career, Anstruther was one of the small coterie of Old Etonian soldier bachelors who ran the Queen Mother's Household after the death of King George VI. Of all of them, Anstruther was probably the one who most perfectly blended devotion to his executive role with a deep personal friendship with his employer. In addition to his official duties, which ranged from administering the financial affairs of Clarence House to laying the Queen Mother's wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, Anstruther used his many European contacts and his command of French to organise his employer's annual private holidays in Italy and France. A stickler for protocol, Anstruther would precede these trips with reconnaissance visits on which he briefed potential hosts on the Queen Mother's requirements, and eliminated the possibility of her encountering anything deemed unsuitable. Hints would be dropped about the Queen Mother's preference for Tanqueray's gin; and, during the "Lamb war" between Britain and France, Anstruther went on ahead to Maurice Hennessy's estate near Cognac, so that when he returned with the Queen Mother a fortnight later, the Hennessys had thoughtfully removed every sheep within sight.
Ralph Hugo Anstruther was born in London on June 13 1921. His father, Captain Robert Anstruther MC, died a month after his son was born and Ralph succeeded his grandfather, the 6th Baronet of Balcaskie, at the age of 13. With the baronetcy, created in 1694, came the title of Hereditary Carver to the Sovereign, a post dating to King James VI's time, although the Anstruthers themselves could trace their line in Scotland back to Norman times. In 1980 Anstruther became a double baronet when his cousin, Sir Windham Carmichael-Anstruther, 11th Baronet of Anstruther, died.
Young Ralph's mother Madge disliked the family seat - Balcaskie House in Pittenweem, Fife, where the Anstruthers had been since the 17th century - and the boy spent most of his childhood with her at Scotney Castle, a moated castle in Kent which belonged to Christopher Hussey, the architectural historian and a family friend.
After Eton, where Anstruther's friendship with the future antiquarian Felix Hope-Nicholson engendered a lifelong interest in genealogy, he went on to Magdalene College, Cambridge, before being commissioned in the Coldstream Guards in 1941. He was posted to the Second Battalion, which landed in Algiers in 1942. On February 28 1943, his company launched an attack on an enemy stronghold nicknamed "Steamroller Farm", north-east of El Aroussa, Tunisia, where the enemy was firmly established with tanks and heavy artillery. Riding on Churchill tanks, the Coldstreamers approached to within a mile of their objective; then, jumping off, they advanced on foot over ground with little cover, exposed to intensive enemy fire. During the subsequent operation, Anstruther's platoon came under machinegun and mortar fire when in the open, and it became necessary to move his men to cover in order to advance round a flank. Anstruther was wounded, but refused any attention until he had effected the hazardous withdrawal of his platoon. This he achieved with great skill and without further loss to his soldiers; the wounded were also got back under his direction. Anstruther was awarded the Military Cross, and the official regimental history noted that "the cheerful courage and leadership of Sir Ralph Anstruther did much to inspire the guardsmen".
After the war, in which Anstruther also served in Italy and had a spell on the staff, the battalion was posted to Malaya, arriving there in 1948. Posted to the Tapah area in Northern Malaya, they were actively employed against Communist terrorists who attacked tin mines with explosives, and terrorised the local population. While out collecting parachutes which had been used for air supply, Anstruther was crossing the River Telom when he slipped on a stone and was carried away by the river, which at the time was in flood. Guardsman Platt, seeing what had happened, plunged into the river, succeeded in grabbing Anstruther, and was able to catch hold of a projecting rock some way down the river. Ironically, Anstruther, whose life he saved, was the best swimmer in the battalion. Platt was awarded the Bronze Medal of the Royal Humane Society. During the Malayan campaign, Anstruther was mentioned in dispatches in 1950.
It was during his Army years that Anstruther was at his most dashing, both in and out of uniform. The lithe, amusing, six-foot figure who strode around off duty in a white planter's suit and Panama hat attracted a competitive female following across Europe. There were rumours of impending marriage, once to a Scotswoman from a neighbouring estate in Fife, and then to an Austrian aristocrat. Although Anstruther was to adopt a more staid image in his civilian role, he remained in demand as a dancing partner with ladies-in-waiting.
After retiring from the Army in 1959, Anstruther was recruited to Clarence House as Equerry and Assistant Private Secretary under Sir Martin Gilliat. Two years later he was appointed Treasurer to the Queen Mother, and in this position was responsible for his employer's private finances and the funding of her Household.
Visitors to Clarence House were always given the impression of an old-world court, but one at which the spirit of friendliness and fun, emanating directly from the Queen Mother, permeated all levels of the Household. During a period when expenditure was tightened, it fell to Anstruther to ensure that this aura of bonhomie continued in spite of staff cuts. In this, Anstruther's Scotch frugality brought him into his own. A believer in bulk buying, he would often take on the business of shopping for the Household himself, and could be seen in the Army and Navy Stores in Victoria carrying shopping baskets piled with jars of instant coffee. These and other economies made it possible to maintain a high level of hospitality while trimming costs below stairs. In a similar spirit, when organising his employer's private excursions to the Continent, Anstruther eschewed hotels in favour of private houses, often belonging to his own friends. During these trips, Anstruther's sartorial standards were maintained whatever the climate.
In 1990 he joined the Queen Mother on a private view of important mosaics in Sicily. He emerged from the Rolls-Royce in a three-piece suit, bowler hat in place, and clutching a tightly furled umbrella; the temperature was in the low 100s. The Queen Mother was also an annual guest of Anstruther in Scotland, both at Watten Mains, his shooting lodge in Caithness, and at Balcaskie, overlooking the Firth of Forth. The charms of the latter, a 16th-century towerhouse classicised in the 17th century and partly "baronialised" in the 19th, were much enhanced by Anstruther, not least by the design of a rose garden. Dinners there were accompanied by Anstruther's piper, who patrolled the hall sounding Highland refrains.
In London, Anstruther lived at Pratt Walk, a small street of Georgian houses in south London. The Queen Mother had implored her Treasurer to purchase the street with his own funds to save it from demolition when the two were walking together in the nearby Lambeth Gardens. He did so, and often entertained his employer to tea in his own house there until he retreated to a modest flat next door.
In his own domestic life Anstruther applied the same frugality which characterised his administration of the Queen Mother's Household and finances. At Balcaskie he made his own jam, jars of which graced various Royal breakfast tables, and the provisions in his larder at Pratt Walk included multiple tins of baked beans. Such personal austerity belied a character distinguished by generosity of spirit. Towards the staff at Clarence House, Anstruther showed a concern which went far beyond mere politeness, and he was remembered with a mixture of great affection and admiration both by them and by those who had served under him in the Army. He was a man blessed with a tremendous memory for names and places, and kept up correspondence with his old regiment. He also maintained a continuing interest in the progress of his subordinates in their civilian lives.
Sir Ralph Anstruther was appointed CVO in 1967; KCVO in 1976; and GCVO in 1992. On his retirement in 1998, he was appointed Treasurer Emeritus to the Queen Mother. He was a member of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen's Body Guard for Scotland, and became a Deputy Lieutenant for Fife in 1960, and for Caithness-shire in 1965. The heir to the baronetcies is a cousin, Ian Fife Campbell Anstruther, who was born in 1922.
Major Sir Ralph Anstruther of that Ilk, Bt, GCVO, MC, Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, 1961-98, was born on June 13th, 1921. He died May 19th, 2002, aged 80.
I was saddened to hear this past week of the death of my friend and senior Anstruther relative, my cousin, Ralph Anstruther of Balcaskie, Pittenween, Fife.
As many will know the Chiefly family of the Carmichaels are also the senior family line of Anstruther of Anstruther, Ellie and Carmichael and my direct predecessor here was Sir Windham Eric Carmichael Anstruther of Carmichael and of Anstruther. However you cannot be the recognised chief of two clans and in 1980 Ralph and I agreed that I would relinquish claims to Anstruther family chiefship and reunite the Carmichael name with its lands and he would be free to claim chiefship of the name Anstruther as the senior heir of the Balcaskie cadet branch ...
The Anstruther family motto is Perissem ni Perissem and the crest of the coat-of-arms show two arms grasping a battle-axe (pole-axe). The motto means in Latin "I had perished if I had not gone through with it" and reference was given to it in Sir Walter Scott's 12th note to 'Waverley', "One of that ancient race, finding that an antagonist with whom he had a friendly meeting, was determined to take the opportunity to assassinate him, prevented the hazard by dashing his brains out with a battle axe. Two sturdy arms brandishing such a weapon form the usual crest of the family".
Our joint Anstruther roots can be traced back to William de Candela, an 1100 Lord of the feudal barony of Anstruther in the Kingdom of Fife and just like the Carmichaels he was one of the very few at that time to adopt the name from his lands rather than his own noble name. Ralph's mother was Marguerite de Burgh herself tracing back to Sir William de Burgh in County Wexford in Ireland in 1308. That family's old family home in Ireland was recently "saved" by Chris de Burgh whose fortune was recently made in the music business. "Lady in Red" springs to mind. Ralph's mother died in 1992 and Richard and Andrew Carmichael of Carmichael and of Anstruther attended her funeral at Balcaskie with some fifty others. On Monday May 27, 2002 Richard and Andrew attended the private chapel at Balcaskie again with some 300 mourners for Sir Ralph's funeral. He will be sadly missed by Carmichael and is very much the end of his era as he has no children and never married and is succeeded by his cousin Ian Anstruther (the author) born in 1922.
SIR RALPH HUGO ANSTRUTHER OF THAT ILK, 7th Bt., of Balcaskie and 12th Bt. of Anstruther, GCVO (1992), KCVO (1976), CVO (1967), MC (1943), DL (1960) Fifeshire, DL (1965) Caithness, Maj RARO, Coldstream Gds; educ Eton, and Magdalene Coll Camb (BA 1940), served in WW II (MC, wounded), and in Malaya 1948-50 (despatches), memb The Queen's Bodyguard for Scotland, Roy Co of Archers, Assist Priv Sec to HM QUEEN ELIZABETH THE QUEEN MOTHER 1959-64, Equerry to HM from 1959, Treasurer to HM from 1961, Hereditary Carver to the Sovereign and a Master of the Roy Household in Scotland; b 13 June 1921; s his grandfather 1934 and his cousin, 1980.
Lineage-Sir Robert Anstruther, 1st Bt, (3rd son of Sir Philip Anstruther, of Anstruther, and younger brother of Sir William Anstruther, of Anstruther.)