Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Allan Warren and the Dukes of Britain

 Michael Allan Warren (born 26 October 1948) is an English portrait photographer, primarily known for his images of members of high society.

After growing up in post-war London with his mother, Warren attended Terry's Juveniles, a stage school based in the Drury Lane Theatre. It was during this period that he attended auditions through which he received several assignments. One such piece of work was as a child presenter in "The Five O'clock Club", which afforded him the opportunity to associate with a variety of people, including a young Marc Bolan (then performing as "Toby Tyler") who would later employ Warren as his first manager.

Warren started his photographic career at the age of 17 when he was acting in Alan Bennett's play Forty Years On with John Gielgud in the West End at the Apollo Theatre. Around this time Warren bought his first second-hand camera and began to take photographs of his fellow actors. His first major assignment was when his friend Mickey Deans asked him to cover his wedding to Judy Garland, which marked the beginning of Warren's work as a professional photographer. When in New York for personal reasons, he attended an audition for the Broadway production of Minnie's Boys. However, he later declined the role offered to him in favour of returning to London and pursuing photography as his vocation.

After this decisive event Warren embarked on his photography career, throughout which he took portraits of personalities including many actors, writers, musicians, politicians and members of the British Royal Family. In the early 1980s Warren embarked on a quest to photograph all 26 non-royal and four royal dukes. Together with the 12th Duke of Manchester he set up the Duke's Trust, a charity for children in need.

In the early '90s Warren embarked on writing plays. One of his works, The Lady of Phillimore Walk, was directed by Frank Dunlop and critics went as far as comparing it to Sleuth, a thriller written by Anthony Shaffer. The cast of "The Lady of Phillimore Walk" consisted of Zena Walker and Philip Lowrie; and saw productions in the United States.

Warren invented the Hankybreathe, a handkerchief which allows the user to inhale air through a carbon filter at the mouth, to filter out the noxious effects of exhaust emissions. The invention, which is meant to be dabbed in eucalyptus oil, harks back to the nosegay and stems from Warren's experience with asthma in heavily polluted London.

"The British hereditary peerage (barons and above) today numbers some 900, not counting the four royal duchies -- but of the four dozen or so dukedoms created, only twenty-six survive today: eighteen of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom; six of Scotland; and two more of Ireland only. Of these, only three -- Norfolk, Somerset, and Hamilton -- predate Charles II, who created four dukedoms for his illegitimate sons. Nevertheless, the present hereditary dukes bear the names (and subordinate titles) of the great medieval and Tudor families: Fitzalan, Howard, Seymour, Vere, Douglas, Montagu, Mowbray, Percy, Beaufort, and Fitzgerald, among others. Moreover, only two of the surviving dukedoms -- Marlborough and Wellington -- were conferred originally on men who held no hereditary title of any kind at the start of their careers. And with present sentiment regarding hereditary peerages at its lowest ebb in centuries, there are unlikely to be any new creations. Some dukes lived like potentates with miniature courts, others made shrewd marriages, many were active Whigs, some heeded the warnings of the Industrial Revolution and established philanthropies and learned societies. But all have shared in what Trollope called "the ancient mystery of wealth and rank." An engrossing, well illustrated, sometimes titilating book which does not spare its subjects the foibles of their ancestries."

Allan Warren

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