“He would, wouldn’t he”, was the reply famously given by Mandy Rice-Davies when she was told in court that Lord Astor had denied ever having sex with her. But did she actually speak those words? According to Sir Ivan Lawrence M.P. she didn’t. Sir Ivan wrote to the Times saying that he was in court, as a junior barrister, taking meticulous notes when she gave evidence and he could say with absolute authority that she didn’t. What Sir Ivan hadn’t reckoned on was that Mandy Rice-Davies herself is still around to contradict him. She wrote to the Times today with her riposte: “The palest ink is not always better than the best of memory, Sir Ivan – besides I have before me the court transcript”.
Poor Sir Ivan. He’s been dining out on that story for years.
Even if Mandy hadn’t been around to shoot Sir Ivan down there’s no doubt that the original story would have stuck- it’s just too good. One old chestnut which does deserve to be laid to rest was repeated on the radio today by the garden historian Richard Bisgrove in Matthew Parris’s Great Lives programme, which featured the great Victorian garden writer, William Robinson. In a discussion about Robinson’s hatred of bedding plants, Bisgrove repeated the tale that as a young man Robinson had deliberately destroyed all the plants in a heated greenhouse, by putting out the fires in the middle of winter. It’s a nice story, the only problem being that there’s no evidence that the incident ever took place, and if it did it would have had no connection with his views on bedding plants, which emerged much later. As Robinson’s biographer Bisgrove knows this, but it’s such a good story and fits in so well with Robinson’s reputation as an awkward sod that people will always say “well, he would, wouldn’t he”.