D'Arcy Osborne, 12th Duke of Leeds
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (April 2010)|
Minister to the Holy See
He was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Holy See 1936–1947. Osborne's appointment came on the heels of Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli's (future Pope Pius XII) complaints of the short tenure of British Ministers to the Vatican; in fact, Osborne himself waited six months after his appointment before arriving in Rome.
He was one of the group, which he supported with his own money, led by Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty and a French diplomat François de Vial who both helped conceal some 4,000 escapees, both Allied soldiers and Jews, from the Nazis; 3,925 survived the war. Their story was portrayed in the 1983 film The Scarlet and the Black, starring Gregory Peck. He also played a key part in a plot in 1940, which involved the Pope and certain German generals, to overthrow Hitler (See Owen Chadwick's Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War, 1988, Cambridge University Paperback Library, p. 86 et seq.)
Major Sam Derry, in his book Escape Line, described meeting the Duke in the Vatican in 1943:
Unruffled poise... Seldom have I met any man in whom I had such immediate confidence. He welcomed us warmly, yet I found it impossible to behave with anything but strict formality. Apart from the restraining influence of my clothing [he was not used to being dressed as a monsignor] I was almost overwhelmed by an atmosphere of old-world English courtliness and grace which I had thought belonged only to the country-house parties of long ago. Sir D'Arcy was spry, trim, a young sixty, but he had spent years enough in the diplomatic service to develop an astonishing aptitude for creating around himself an aura of all that was most civilized in English life. I felt as though I had returned home after long travels, to find that royalty had come to dinner, and I had to be on my best behaviour.
At this dinner Derry was in disguise as a Monsignor; afterwards Sir D'Arcy "offered him the command of the escape organisation".
After the war he lived at the Palazzo Sacchetti, 66 Via Giulia, Rome. He succeeded his second cousin once removed as Duke of Leeds in 1963. He died just a year later, at the age of 79, at which point the Dukedom of Leeds and all of its subsidiary titles became extinct.
Osborne's wartime papers were indexed and constitute the source matter for Owen Chadwick's 1988 book, Britain and the Vatican during the Second World War. Chadwick included the following quote attributed to Osborne: "I reached the grave conclusion during the Mass that I am nothing but a pencilled marginal note in the Book of Life. I am not in the main text at all."
- Chadwick, 1988, p. 3.
- Chadwick, Owen. 1988. Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War. Cambridge University Press.
|Peerage of England|
|Duke of Leeds