Under the Black Flag

Death Benefits

Having been caught out by the demon memory gene of the sainted editor—I tried to recycle a Paris nostalgia piece—I shall nevertheless return to my brother-in-law’s funeral in Paris a few years ago, which prompted the recycle, and this time write about death.  François de Caraman was a marquis whose father, the duke de Caraman, had the ghastly bad luck to attend his son’s funeral.  Throughout his life François womanized, drank to excess, married much too often, and died prematurely in Guatemala, where his last wife came from.  (His beautiful sister was my first wife.)  I remember the service well because everyone inside the church, including the family priest who conducted the service, knew that François had overdone things.  Instead, we heard how the Almighty had decided to take him prematurely, and that was that.  Afterward we had a riotous party at Chez Lipp and told stories of the deceased.  I was very close to François throughout his short life and loved him dearly, but since his death he has undergone a great transformation in my mind, one close to sainthood.  I suppose death does that to many a soul, especially one as sweet and irresponsible as my brother-in-law.

Take, for example, another death last year, that of a dress designer called Alexander McQueen.  Half of London shut down after he was found hanging from his ceiling, with weeping socialites fighting...

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