Juliet Elizabeth Burnand 1944-2017

Juliet Burnand

The service of Thanksgiving held at St. Peter’s Church in Winchester for the life of Juliet Burnand was incredibly well attended, but for those few who would have liked to attend, but were unable, with Geoffrey’s permission we are publishing the tributes given about our wonderful friend and neighbour in Itchen Valley

The first tribute was given by Sally Fitzharris

Juliet was of the generation that wrote letters. And reading  those letters,  written to her family in the fifties and sixties,  you are blown away  by their sheer exuberance and high spirits and humour. This was someone whose letters from school were written on bits of paper two inches wide, and several yards long, to discourage the nuns from reading them.   Despite an English boarding school she grew up mostly in Paris and Rome – where her father worked for NATO. The family of six lived for six years on a Dutch barge opposite the Eiffel Tower.   She and her sister Nicola for over 5 decades wrote, emailed, texted, Whats Apped each other in 4 languages. She never seemed to think this an accomplishment

The grown up Juliet set off for two years on a round the world Grand Tour, travelling mostly by sea,  and visiting four continents. Geoffrey, an ADC, flew after her, catching her only for a short while in Sydney. 

Eventually she came to rest in Rome, where Geoffrey was invited by her parents to stay,  He was given a scrubbing brush and acid and asked to clean out the swimming pool. Job done, the couple departed to Florence for the week end and returned engaged.

The antique engagement ring, a family heirloom,  was then flown cargo, to Rome, courtesy of Alitalia the romantic airline. In the cargo hall, staff demanded an extortionate sum for its release: Geoffrey said to Juliet: “ Burst into tears”.  Juliet said: “ I will NOT “ and burst instead into angry Italian. The ring was released for a few lira.

This for Geoffrey,  was the first example of what a friend wrote after her death: ‘Juliet’s appearance belied an inner core of steel’. This was to be proved again and again.

Juliet adored babies and children: family was always her absolute priority.  The creativity and sparkle seen in those early letters were poured into the family years.  If ever the high spirits failed, it was that she gave of herself to the point of total exhaustion.

She was an inspired party giver, concocting almost impossibly themed birthday cakes and fancy dress outfits. She could be competitive:  George won the Easton Village Fete Fancy Dress, disguised as a Post Box, designed, created and painted by Juliet.  As the children grew older the Juliet Burnand Cookery School came into being followed by the Juliet Burnand School of Driving. She believed, with some reason,  that having learned to drive in Rome she was qualified to teach anybody. Teenage Burnands were instructed at a road junction: don’t go fast,  go immediately. Word precision and decisiveness mattered to Juliet. When she did something, she did it.

She was an adored and adoring grandmother: had no favourites, was always loving, stood no nonsense and was fun. Her 4 children in law adored her equally, one of whom wrote:

“Juliet was the family corner stone, our standard bearer, charitable, cultured and worldly wise.”

Juliet’s passion for gardening started early: way back on her Grand Tour, she had spent time usefully collecting elephant dung for her hostess’s garden. Her plants were called  by their Latin names. When she organised 30 of her friends to visit Highgrove, she was told by an official that Highgrove only admitted groups from a recognised society. Immediately the Martyr Worthy Horticultural Society was born. The bus sailed through the gates. The Society was disbanded next day. She organised weekly bridge parties,  packed in a History of Art degree and for a decade was Chairman  of the  Hampshire NADFAS, raising substantial funds. If she said she was off to visit her old ladies, this was code for a shift at  Samaritans HQ. 

For all her formidable organising skills, Juliet never entirely lost the anarchic streak of her youth. A mixture of confidence and charm led her to break the rules she saw no point in keeping. Hence she became the first member of the public to drive on the newly minted M3.  She simply drove down the slip lane past Freefolk House, and continued unchallenged until Junction 9, explaining to her children: ‘If you just get on and do it people assume you are meant to be there……’

In an impossibly busy life, she somehow found the time to be the kindest friend anyone could have.  If you wanted to dump a couple of children on her, preferably without having the favour called in, ( a fact she might remark on, but forgive) she was there. She was there for our joys and our sorrows,  practical, compassionate, and straight talking.   Even in her illness, she was always interested in other people – something remarked on, among others,  by fellow dog walkers in the Itchen Valley and her hospital nurses.

This may help to explain why a person who was always,  always returning sub- standard goods to Tesco,  was quite so loved by Tesco staff. 

Juliet became a Catholic over 30 years ago, saying with disarming matter-of-factness that she just thought the Catholics were right. Thereafter I don’t think she ever wavered in faith. And the people of this parish know the many, many parish roles she filled.

I don’t know who first called her the Mia Farrow of Martyr Worthy. But I do remember being struck by her beauty when we first met, some 44 years ago.  Youth goes:  but  Juliet’s beauty remained, even throughout her last and terrible illness, part of who she was, part of why we loved her.

Juliet was usually in favour of leaving a party on the early side though didn’t always manage to do so.  This, however,  was not a party she wanted to leave: with her large family she felt she had unfinished business.  But she gave way with her customary grace and enormous courage. She was marvellously, incredibly supported by all of her family,  devotedly nursed by Geoffrey,  and kept company by Nicola until the very end. Both Geoffrey and Nicola say  that when she died,  she was still beautiful, had a smile on her lips, and looked utterly at peace.

The second tribute was given by Goddaughter Alexandra (Zaza) Savile

Juliet was one of my mother, Janie’s, best friends. They met in London in their early 20’s and immediately became firm friends. This friendship was then sealed when they worked and travelled their way around the world together. Starting in South Africa with Sally Cadbury, they initially set out to go for 3 months, but actually returned some 2 years later having sailed to Singapore, Australia and South America as well. Soon after they returned, my mother got married and needless to say Juliet was one of her bridesmaids. I then came along and Juliet became my Godmother.

Whether it was holidaying together as families or the infamous fancy dress New Years Eve parties, I have a huge amount of happy, hilarious and fond memories of the several decades these events spanned.

Particular occasions that spring to mind are when “sparkle” was the theme for New Years Eve. Whilst most people put a sprig of tinsel in their hair or wore a sparkly top, Juliet had dressed her entire family from head to toe in green & yellow crepe paper – bottles of sparkling champagne, no less – and Juliet appropriately being labelled with the brand of “Mumm” champagne.

A major part of our Cornish holidays was the cowrie shell hunting – Juliet was the ultimate “Queen of Cowries”. It’s perhaps the only time Juliet showed a little competitive streak. No one ever found as many as her, probably because they never dared, or were actually allowed, to go near her hunting ground. Normally coming back from the beach with anything between 2 and 200, there was one particular occasion when she and her fellow hunters found over 6,000 – of course Juliet alone had found nearly half of those.

Juliet’s sense of humour shone through at all times – she was a light hearted disciplinarian, her rules were strong and sometimes quirky and her next movement was always unpredictable. Even when showing authority & responsibility, the humour was present.

I know of a number of men of my generation who whilst courting their respective girlfriends were purposefully but gently prompted about what they should do next.

And then there was the incident the day my parents moved house to Cornwall when Juliet took it upon herself to drive the 380 mile round trip between their houses to bring them a “welcome lunch” – an extremely nice, kind and thoughtful thing to do – but only Juliet would arrive wheeling in a tea trolley dressed as a removal man in a boiler suit and flat cap with a cool box full of food.

Juliet’s hospitality didn’t stop there. She constantly had a house full of people and was never phased by yet another meal for 15 – a huge homemade lasagne would miraculously appear with seemingly no effort whenever it was needed.

Even though Juliet was once spotted in the Spanish town of Seville for my father’s surprise 60th birthday celebration disguised as a nun, we do know that she did actually take her faith very seriously, and took an active part in the Catholic church, not only here but in other parts of the world too.

Juliet was a stickler for correct grammar and etiquette – “I” versus “me”, “fewer” not “less”, “should have” not “should of” and God forbid if ones thank you letter was late, especially if it ended in “hope to see you soon”. That said, Juliet did have her own unique sense of the English language, using words and phrases that were nonsense really, but cleverly delivered in such a way we all knew what she meant.

So whether she be dressed in unusual clothing, or with her bottom in the air on a Cornish beach, or surrounded by her now very large family – it is plain to see that Jules, as she became fondly known by many of the younger generation, was a devoted and proud wife, mother, grandmother and friend …. as well as a loving, interested, inspirational and fun Godmother to me – I mean who else would give their Goddaughter a cardboard box full of straw for her 7th birthday – and then leave “forgetting” to mention the fact that there was also a live tortoise inside that box.


This entry was posted in Tributes. Bookmark the permalink.