A True Companion
Have you seen the little grave of Carlton Terrace?
©Matt Brown, 2012. The epitaph is the title of this week’s blog
Carlton Terrace is the site of a long-demolished home of George IV – it was his playboy mansion before he decided to settle for the much larger Buckingham Place (then House), as it was far better suited for his lavish parties.
When it was demolished, the columns of its portico were recycled for use at the National Gallery and certain fixtures and fittings installed in Windsor Castle – the site of the former Royal abode was rebuilt as dwellings of ‘the first class’. Designed by George IV’s favourite architect John Nash, these buildings now house institutions such as the Royal Society, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Anglo America.
But look behind the iron railings to the right of the Duke of York monument and you’ll see, protected by a wooden casing, a little headstone. This is the last resting place of the Nazi dog, who died 84 years ago this month. It’s also a potent reminder of deeply uncertain political times.
Firstly, let’s dispel the myth.
Giro was not a Nazi dog. He’s been written about countless times on other websites and it’s simply a Buzzfeed-type title that’s designed to grab your attention. It is wrong. Giro was the pet of Leopold von Hoesch, the ambassador to Britain when Number 6 was the embassy for the Weimar Republic. Hoesch was definitely not a Nazi, too.
Hoesch, on the left in 1932.
Hoesch was a truly brilliant ambassador who had all the qualities that allowed him to do his job superbly well. A member of a notable Rhineland family, he was born in June 1881 and studied law at Leipzeg before going on to serve in Peking, Paris and Madrid. He was also a cavalry officer on the western front: recalled to the Foreign Office in 1915 and assigned to Sofia, followed closely by completing assignments in Oslo, Madrid and Constantinople.
Beginning his political career in France in 1923 and working for the liberal government of the time, he was involved in the Locarno Treaty of 1923, which was designed to guarantee peace in Western Europe. It was in 1932 that Hoesch was posted to Britain and his affable nature saw praise from the likes of Antony Eden and messages of condolence from Prime Mininsters Ramsay Macdonald and Winston Churchill upon his premature death four years later.
Hoesch in 1934, the year of Giro’s death. © British Newspaper Archive 2018.
The parties the embassy held echoed the ones George IV held on the same site almost a century beforehand and made him well known on the social scene. Impeccably dressed, one of his nicknames was ‘the man with the most suits in London’.
Accompanied by Giro, he was often seen in Court and in the Republic. What makes von Hoesch so interesting was that he was certainly no Nazi; he took an immediate suspicion of Hitler and was surprisingly vocal in his dismay of the policies the Nazi Party were beginning to launch in his homeland.
The story goes that his beloved Giro was chewing on an exposed wire during renovations to the building, which led to his untimely end. He was buried in what was once the grounds of the embassy and from what I can tell, the headstone was moved to its present location following building works in the grounds. Whether poor Giro was exhumed, is still where Hoesch buried him or was removed elsewhere I’m unable to find out.
Hoesch and a funeral of bad taste
Hoesch would survive his beloved pooch for another two years. Associates of the time commented that he had become increasingly withdrawn and strained; his obituary comments that he had been working exceedingly hard during the last few months of his life in connection with the ‘European situation’; his criticism of his eventual replacement Joachim Von Ribbentrop and his amassing of power in the government gave him considerable cause for concern. When Hitler invaded the Rhineland in 1936, Hoesch denounced the act as he saw it as a provocation of the French and ultimately, the British.
Dying of a heart attack in his bedroom in 1936, he was given a funeral which gave one of the most stunning sights of London in the 1930’s. His coffin was draped in a Nazi flag and the sieg heil from the balcony of the embassy. Giro’s replacement – Martin, a Bedlington Terrier, was taken with Hoesch’s sisters who accompanied his final journey. Although Hitler was not present at the funeral, a wreath he sent was placed atop his coffin.
Make no mistake, Hoesch would have been absolutely horrified at this.
His body was taken to Victoria Station, then on to Dover, where HMS Scout conveyed it to the continent. He was buried on the 20th April 1936 in Trinitatiskirche, Dresden, miles away from his beloved Giro. The church itself was bombed during the raids during the Second World War and its ruins have been repurposed as a youth centre.
Giro’s grave is more than just the final resting place of a dog; it’s a reminder of a political and social time experiencing upheaval I can’t begin to even contemplate. Hoesch was a man of peace and had the unenviable task of trying to defend it in the face of a horror which would manifest itself into a situation the likes of my and future generations will hopefully never have to experience.