Thursday, March 27, 2008

William Randolph Hearst at St Donats

This is a rare photograph of American newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (centre) at St Donat's castle. Taken in 1928, he is pictured with Alice Head and Spanish artist Federico Beltran-Masses (noted for his portraits of Valentino, Joan Crawford and the Shah of Persia).

Below are extracts from an interview Hearst gave to the Cardiff Times (also in 1928) in which he discusses buying the Welsh castle and the problems of Prohibition:

My first word was one of congratulation that he had secured one of the glories of South Wales. His eyes beamed.

"Yes" he said, "it is a charming place. It was very beautiful last night and as we sat on the terrace in the moonlight, with the waves plashing below, it was almost poetical."

"Is this your first visit to Wales?"

"No I have been here two or three times before, and it is a beautiful country."

"But how came you to buy a castle in Wales?"

"Well," he said, with a disarming smile, "I had seen some of your great castles such as those at Caernarvon and Conway and they made such an impression on my mind that I decided to acquire something in the same way, only smaller and more domestic, as it were."

"Is it your intention to spend much time here?"

"I shall certainly come here as often as I can for a week or two. Besides I have five sons, three of them with families and they will also like to spend some time here. Two of my boys have already been here and they are delighted with the place. I am already charmed with the place and its associations. I think it is delightful."

"Do you intend to make any alterations?"

"I shall have the decorative work seen to and I have Sir Charles Allom, the well-known architect and Sir Joseph Duveen, the distinguished art connoisseur, here now to advise me. Some of the modern panelling I propose removing and substituting with something more appropriate. I also propose to furnish the place in period style, cheifly Gothic and to bring some fine old tapestries here. I have a lot of beautiful things which I shall put in. My first object of course is to make the place habitable as the former owner took everything out. Two or three of the rooms are already habitable."

Asked if he intended to identify himself with Welsh life or movements in any way Mr Hearst said he would see how things developed. At present he did not know how he could be of service to Wales but if there were developments in which he were interested he would be only too happy to take his part in them. (Roughly translated this means "no")

And on the question of Prohibition in America? "I don't think Prohibition is a success. I don't mean to say that the people are not in favour of temperance but they are beginning to doubt the effectiveness of Prohibition as a temperance measure. It has practically eliminated light wines and beers which could make no harm to anyone and has substituted them with illicit drink, not stronger alcoholic drinks. The American cocktail is the most pernicious thing conceivable and it is not confined to our own country."
*Ironically, there has been much recent speculation that the obscenely rich and powerful newspaper magnate was once involved in an alcohol-fuelled murder on board his luxury yacht. Get the low down here.