Obituary: Thanksgiving service for Queen's racing advisor Sir Michael Oswald
- Credit: ARCHANT
A special thanksgiving service to the Queen’s racing advisor has been organised following his death last year.
Presiding over her racing interests from 2003, Sir Michael Oswald became the national hunt racing advisor to Queen Elizabeth II, and prior to that, the racing manager to the Queen Mother.
It latter role was one he carried out between 1970 to 2002, before Queen Elizabeth’s death in March of that year.
Looking back over his career and relationship with the royals, he described himself as lucky.
“Having been paid to do what I would have done for fun had I been a rich man, I must be the luckiest of all chaps, because there was never a better and more knowledgeable owner to answer to."
Born William Richard Michael Oswald in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on April 21, 1934, he was the elder of two sons of Lieutenant-Colonel William Oswald and Rose-Marie Oswald, nee Leahy.
During the Second World War, his father served on the staff of Earl Alexander of Tunis and on the staff of General Eisenhower after America entered the war in 1941.
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Educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, he was commissioned into the Scots Guards before serving in the Korean War with the 1st Battalion, The King’s Own Royal Regiment.
During his time at school, he became a competent rower and it was during this period of his life he developed an equine passion from another student.
Returning to civilian life in 1954 he rowed and read history at King’s College. He then served as a captain in the 8th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (TA) and worked briefly for a merchant bank in London before joining a subsidiary of Fisons, the pharmaceutical and horticultural conglomerate.
He first met his future wife Lady Angela Cecil, daughter of the 6th Marquess of Exeter, at Royal Ascot, before bumping into him at a dance a few days later.
They married in 1958 at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, on his birthday, a date he shared with the Queen.
In 1969, he was recruited as manager of the Royal Studs and eventually moved to the Sandringham estate, west Norfolk, where the family lived in a former vicarage.
Recalling his time there, he remembered having some printed paper made up especially for the Queen to write on once.
Speaking at the time, he said: “I got answers back on some very inexpensive paper torn off a pad, the cheapest sort of paper you could get, and I soon got the message.
“She deplores any form of extravagance and left to her own devices would live a far simpler life, eating plain food and wandering about with horses and dogs in the countryside.”
He also insisted that the Queen did not gamble and had “never known [her] ever to have had a bet herself.
Outside of his career, he enjoyed painting and military history, taking several battlefield tours across the globe.
During his final year at the Royal Studs, he was promoted to director before his official retirement in 1999. However, he continued working as racing manager to the Queen Mother before becoming the national hunt adviser to the Queen. He was also involved in several industry bodies including the Jockey Club.
In the 2020 New Year Honours, Sir Michael was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO). This dynastic order of knighthood was established in 1896 by Queen Victoria to recognise distinguished personal service to the monarch of the Commonwealth realms, members of the monarch's family, or to any viceroy or senior representative of the monarch.
Sir Michael had previously been appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1998, Commander (CVO) in 1988, and Lieutenant (LVO) in 1979.
Following a long illness, Sir Michael died on April 17, 2021, just days before his 87th birthday and also the day of Prince Phillip’s funeral.
Lady Angela, who was woman of the bedchamber to the Queen Mother, survives him with their daughter Katharine and son, William.
A thanksgiving service for Sir Michael will be held on Friday, March 25 at 11.30am at St Clement Danes Church, London. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain an admission card and confirm attendance.