• Joanna Seldon

  • The hardest chapter of all: Grieving historian Anthony Seldon reveals his author wife finished a book about her famous doctor father just ten days before she died

    Sunday 11th December 2016 | Mail on Sunday

    Top political author and head teacher Sir Anthony Seldon has spoken of his love for his 'beautiful, brilliant' wife Joanna, who died last week aged 62 after a long illness.

    Dr Seldon, former Master of Wellington College, opened his heart after his latest book lifting the lid on UK politics was published.

    Both Dr Seldon, 63, and his late wife were as devoted to their art as they were to each other.

    Joanna and Anthony Seldon

    He cared for Joanna while she completed her book – a work paying homage to her father – and she encouraged him to press ahead with his, even though she was dying.

    Dr Seldon revealed that his wife completed her biography of her famous doctor father from her hospital bed just ten days before she died.

    Dr Seldon, who pioneered Chinese and 'mindfulness' lessons in British schools, and who has written acclaimed biographies of every Prime Minister since John Major, gave up his Wellington post last year. 

    The publication of his book, The Cabinet Office – a history of 100 years of 'Sir Humphreys' – will be followed in the New Year by the posthumous publication of his wife's book.

    Her biography marks the 50th anniversary of the successful campaign by her late father, Maurice Pappworth, to stop medical experiments on human guinea pigs.

    Dr Seldon was asked, in his wife's dying days, if he had ever had a prayer answered. He replied: 'I prayed as a young man for a wife I could love all my life and who would make me happy. I never thought anyone would share their life with me, so often had I been chucked by girls. In Joanna my prayers were answered 100 times over.'

    Three days after her death on Tuesday, he spoke of her in similarly moving terms, in an interview with The Mail on Sunday at the HQ of his publisher Biteback, overlooking the Thames at Westminster. The HQ is almost within sight of Cleopatra's Needle, the Egyptian obelisk where he first proposed to Joanna in 1980.

    'She didn't reply, either because she didn't hear or didn't want to,' he smiled. 'I proposed again a few months later when we went for a walk in cathedral gardens by a bridge with two swans gliding by.'

    This time she said yes. The couple have three grown-up children – Jessica, Susannah and Adam.

    Dr Seldon, who is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said: 'I loved her courage, honesty, vulnerability, brilliance, beauty, kindness and innocence. She completed the last draft of the book about her father ten days before she died.'

    His own book marks the 1916 launch of the Cabinet Office, set up to prevent a repeat of the political and military shambles that led to the disastrous Battle of the Somme during the First World War.

    The book launch came 100 years to the day after the Cabinet Office was formed. Dr Seldon added: 'It might seem odd to be publishing a book so soon after Joanna died, but she fully supported it and all profits are going to a charity in honour of Chris Martin, a great civil servant who worked in No 10 and who also died of cancer.'

    Dr Seldon said Theresa May's task in making a success of Brexit was the biggest challenge to any British Government since the Somme.

    He also defended current Cabinet Office chief, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood – labelled 'Sir Cover-Up' by critics – saying: 'The idea that he is dodgy or out for himself is simply not true.'

    Dr Seldon, dubbed the 'Whitehall insider's insider', said mandarins were often cleverer than their political masters, and was scathing about 'flash Harry Ministers who have never run anything and snark, castigate and leak against each other' – a thinly veiled sideswipe at Tories such as Boris Johnson.

    He said: 'Ministers need to grow up and live up to the honour and dignity of their office.

    'Boris is talented but running the Foreign Office is different to running London [as mayor].

    'He has a lot to learn about representing Britain across the world.'

    Original article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4021364/The-hardest-chapter-Grieving-historian-Anthony-Seldon-reveals-author-wife-finished-book-famous-doctor-father-just-ten-days-died.html#ixzz4XFLv3xqU