7th Earl of Onslow dies at 73

AP News
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Posted: May 18, 2011 2:15 PM
7th Earl of Onslow dies at 73

The 7th Earl of Onslow, a cheerful advocate of removing nobles such as himself from the House of Lords, has died at age 73.

Michael William Coplestone Dillon Onslow died Saturday following "an illness most courageously borne," his family said.

Onslow was one of 92 legislators who survived the purge the bluebloods from the House of Lords in 1999.

His death came just as Britain's government is again struggling to find a formula for a permanent reform of the 700-year-old upper chamber of Parliament, which does not make laws but has the power to amend legislation.

He described himself as "a hereditary peer who sees the illogicality of having any power over his fellow citizens just because his forebear got tight with the Prince Regent." He advocated a mixture of elected and appointed members.

Like more than a few of the nobility, Onslow indulged an eccentric side.

He presented a series of programs in 1994 on the BBC's snooty classical music station to acquaint listeners with thrash metal, rap, jungle and acid jazz, asking them to listen to a Venom record played forward and backward in search of satanic messages. "It's time to get tripping with the funkiest O you will ever know," he said, introducing the show.

The Daily Telegraph's obituary also recalled the occasion when the young Onslow signaled his arrival in the financial district "by losing his pet monkey by the Underground line at Aldersgate, from which a policeman retrieved it."

In an article for The Guardian in 2003, Onslow accepted an opponent's gibe that the was "a walking advert for parliamentary reform."

"I am there by the House of Lords Act 1999. I am there as a pustule on the rump of the body politic to remind Mr. (Tony) Blair of unfinished business," Onslow wrote.

The House of Lords is now composed largely of former members of the House of Commons, retired civil servants and other political appointees.

"I will take any measure that I can think of, novel or traditional, to make sure that the house's future membership will be more legitimate," Onslow wrote.

Onslow was born on Feb. 28, 1938. He was educated at Eton and the Sorbonne, and served with the Life Guards in Aden and Oman.

He is survived by his wife, the former Robin Bullard, a son and two daughters. His son succeeds to the earldom. A funeral was set for May 25 at St. John the Evangelist church in Merrow, England.