Siblings agree compromise in High Court dispute over mother’s burial


The strains of the song 'If You Were the Only Girl in the World' will ring out after Iris Freud's warring children finally agreed on how she should be buried.

Mrs Freud died, aged 92, at West Middlesex University Hospital in October, and her body has been kept in storage as a “'biblical” High Court battle was waged over her funeral.

Daughter Susanna Levrant was adamant that the service should include secular songs, including the 1916 classic which was a favourite with troops in the trenches.

However, her brother, David Freud, argued the service should be a more sombre affair in line with his and their deceased father's Jewish faith.

Although he agreed the ceremony could be carried out by a Church of England vicar, he insisted that popular, non-religious, songs should not be heard.

Now, after two days in court, the siblings have each made concessions - following much prompting by Mr Justice Arnold.

Mrs Levrant, 66, said outside court that it had now been agreed that the ceremony will take place in two parts.

The first portion of the service will be solemnly traditional and Mr Freud and his family can leave after the burial if they wish.

However, Mrs Levrant and her supporters may then return to the chapel to sing 'If You Were the Only Girl in the World'.

The funeral service, eulogy and burial will be conducted under the neutral auspices of the the Master of the Inner Temple Church, in central London.

And Mrs Freud will find her final resting place at Mortlake Cemetery, close to Putney, in West London, where she lived for 66 years.

The settlement came after the judge said he would not relish exercising the "judgement of Solomon" and forcing a compromise on the siblings.

He told them that, if they didn't reach terms, he would have to impose "the nearest equivalent of the biblical solution" - a third way which neither side would welcome.

Mrs Levrant, from Chiswick, said "If You Were the Only Girl in the World" was her mother's favourite and Mrs Freud's husband used to sing it to her.

But David Freud, a financial consultant from Oxford, argued such secular songs would affront the memory of their devoutly Jewish father.

He was determined to observe shloshim, a period during which Jewish mourners are forbidden from, among other things, attending concerts or listenening to music.

Mr Freud said his mother should be buried on consecrated ground at Kensal Green cemetery, where it could be guaranteed that she would not be exhumed for 999 years.

But his sister said she found Kensal Green "actively unpleasant" and wanted her mother buried at East Sheen cemetery, close to her beloved Richmond Park.

Mr Freud told the judge: "My mother's body is decaying and being kept in a morgue. It is already in a dreadful, dreadful state, and the sooner she is buried the better."

After negotiations outside court, the siblings heeded the judge's call for compromise and agreed on Mortlake.

Mrs Freud grew up in Tottenham, north London, in a "large working class family," and met her husband Gideon Freud in the 1940's.

He was a Czech jew who fled to Paris, then Britain, during World War Two, but his wife never converted to his faith.

He worked as a film scriptwriter and journalist, corresponding on art and theatre for German language newspapers. He died in 1974.

Mr Freud described his father as "a brilliant, wise man, and a delight to talk to".

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive