Humphrey, the Cat from 10 Downing Street Who Once Read His Own Obituary, Passes Away at 18
Humphrey, the long-haired tuxedo stray who once lived at 10 Downing Street (See photo on the right), has passed away. He died approximately three weeks ago at the home of a Cabinet official who had adopted him after the ailurophobic Cherie Blair had driven him out of the prime minister's residence back in 1997. He was eighteen-years-old.
While still a stay, Humphrey wandered into 10 Downing Street back in 1990 while the "Iron Lady" was still in charge and stayed on as "First Mouser of the British Isles" throughout John Major's tenure. He lasted only six months, however, with the Blairs and Cherie reportedly tried to have him exterminated. Once the media got wind of what was afoot, she was forced to back down and even made to pose with Humphrey (See photo below).
In this context it is important to remember not only that old Irish proverb which warns against people who hate cats but also the petit fait that the Countess of Wessex once referred to Cherie as "horrid, horrid, horrid." In the photograph below even poor Humphrey looks like he is frightened to death of her.
Nonetheless, because of Mrs. Blair's antipathy, Humphrey's tenure at 10 Downing Street ended at that point. His supporters within the Conservative Party continued, however, to champion his cause and one MP even demanded proof from the Labor government that the Blairs had not done in the celebrated moggy. The media were then summoned to Humphrey's new south London residence where he was photographed, hostage style, surrounded by a jumble of the day's newspapers. Commenting upon Humphrey's new digs, a spokesman for the Tories could not resist making some political hay: "Humphrey is voting with his paws. After eight happy years under a Conservative government he could only take six months of Labor."
Humphrey, who was named after Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Machiavellian civil servant in the BBC sitcom, Yes Minister, and its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, reportedly liked cookies and spent a disproportionate amount of his time at 10 Downing Street sitting atop a hot-air vent. He was also known as a proficient mouser. "He has caught numerous mice and the odd rat. By a perhaps unfair comparison, Rentokill have (sic) been operating for years and have never caught anything," a Cabinet report released last July said. (See The Times of London, March 20, 2006, "Political World Mourns a Killer Named Humphrey.")
The same report described Humphrey as "a workaholic who spends nearly all of his time at the office, has no criminal record, does not socialize a great deal or go to many parties and has not been involved in any sex or drug scandals that we know of."
Humphrey also enjoys the distinction of being perhaps the only cat in history to ever have had the opportunity to read his own obituary. When he temporarily vanished from Downing Street back in 1995, his obituary in The Times of London alerted the staff at the Royal Army Medical College that the cat they had adopted and christened PC was in fact Humphrey! This made him instantaneously famous and the fan mail poured in from all over the world.
Humphrey did have one close brush with death while at Downing Street and that came when he was nearly run over by a limousine carrying Bill Clinton. The former president, it might be recalled, not only mutilated his cat Socks before dumping her on his former secretary but he has also allowed two of his dogs to be killed by autos. It would therefore appear that both the Clintons and Blairs are lethal to cats and dogs. Other than a chronic kidney ailment, Humphrey enjoyed relatively good health throughout his long life.
When he died his obituary appeared in, inter alia, The Times of London, on the BBC, and in the Washington Post. Sadly, this time around it was the genuine article and Humphrey will most definitely not be reading it unless it is from the Rainbow Bridge. No funeral plans have been announced and it is not known how his guardian plans to dispose of his body.
Humphrey was a great cat and he will be sorely missed.
Photos: BBC (Humphrey outside Downing Street) and Fiona Hanson of the Associated Press (Humphrey and Cherie Blair).