Arts Arts & Books

In memoriam: Claus von Bülow

Claus von Bülow at a press conference in 1985 (Getty)

Claus von Bülow, the Catholic Herald’s former theatre critic, has died aged 92.

He made his debut on our books pages in 1998, with a review of Stalingrad by Antony Beevor. In 2002, he began to review plays, lacing his columns with pungent social observations. Reviewing six new plays from the Nordic countries, he criticised those who “believe that all Scandinavians, including their au pair babysitters, are indistinguishable” and claimed to be able to tell “even with my eyes closed which plays were written by Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders or by my fellow Danes”.

Bülow had stood trial in the 1980s for the attempted murder of his wife, Martha, known as Sunny. He was initially found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but was acquitted on appeal, thanks to a brilliant defence by Alan Dershowitz. Sunny von Bülow lay in a vegetative state for the remaining years of her life. She died in 2008.

He was born Claus Cecil Borberg in Copenhagen on August 11, 1926. In 1940 he moved to live with his mother in London, his parents having divorced. Claus took his maternal grandfather’s surname (adding the aristocratic prefix later) and went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, aged 16 to read Law. After graduating he tried the Bar and banking before working for J Paul Getty, who introduced him to the jet set. He met Princess Sunny von Auersperg in 1963 and they were married in 1966.

After his acquittal Bülow moved to Knightsbridge. A convert to Catholicism, he tended pilgrims at Lourdes, though this aspect of his life was little publicised. Cosima, his daughter with Sunny, remained devoted to him.