Pogson, Lt Cdr Frank Pogson Doria

Pogson, Lt Cdr Frank Pogson Doria

Lt Cdr Frank Pogson Doria Pamphilj, who died in 1998 aged 75, married into one of Rome’s richest and most important noble families.

In September 1944, Pogson then a young sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy was stationed in the port of Ancona, which had recently been captured by the Allies. A Roman Catholic, he was coming down the steps of a church he had visited on leave when he met a girl whom at first he took to be English. Orieta Doria Pamphilj was the heiress to one of Italy’s great fortunes. Founded in the 16″ century by the Genoese Admiral Andrea Dona the family had by the Second World War accumulated 14 titles; immense lands and a chute in the Piazza Navona, Rome that allowed them to appoint their own Cardinal Protector. Among their houses was the villa Algardi built in the Janiculum Hills on the site of the villa Julius Caesar created for Cleopatra.
The baroque Palazzo Doria Pamphilj itself has more than 1,000 rooms and is the third largest palace in Rome bettered only by those of the Pope and the President. It also houses a magnificent collection of paintings, among them works by Titian, Holbein, Caravaggio and Raphael and a portrait by Velazquez of the family.

Orietta Doria Pamphilj’s father, Prince Filipino, was a staunch opponent of fascism and during Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia the palace was the only building on the Corsonot to fly a flag. An enraged mob burst through the gates and swarmed up the stairs six abreast, only to encounter Princess Doria. who had been baking and was wearing an apron Taking her for a cook, the mob contented itself with smashing a few windows before leaving. When Rome was liberated in 1944, Prince Doria became the city’s mayor, while Orietta Doria Pamphilj went with the Catholic Women’s League to Ancona to work as a volunteer in canteens. There she met Frank Pogson, who then came to visit her in Rome. But it was nine years before they met again in London, as Orietta Doria Pamphilj felt that her parents were not well enough for her to leave them. She and Frank Pogson were eventually married at the Brompton Oratory in 1958, shortly after Prince Doria had died.

It was put about by gossips in Rome that Prince Doria had been opposed to this Anglo-Italian match, which was untrue, for the family had strong English connections. Prince Doria himself had married the Scots nurse who had looked after him when he was injured in a sculling accident at Cambridge, while his grandmother had been a daughter of the 6th Duke of Newcastle. He asked, however, since Orietta was his only child, that Pogson add ‘Doria Pamphilj’ to his surname, so that the name should not die out. This Pogson did. Roman society nevertheless divided into two camps, with half supporting the newly-weds, the others taking the side of a relation who had hoped to inherit the Doria fortune and was much piqued by the marriage.

Pogson Doria Pamphilj quickly proved an able steward of the family estates, in particular selling and letting property to pay the £1 million owing in death duties. The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj had been open to visitors since the 18th century but taking a lead from the English nobility, from 1960 Frank Pogson Doria Pamphilj also opened the family’s private apartments. These were reopened again three years ago after extensive rewiring, with the pictures re-hung according to the original 18′” century scheme.

Francis George Wignall Pogson was born a Maidenhead, Berkshire on 6 September 1923. His father was an electrical engineer, and Francis spent his early years in Mexico, where his father worked for Shell. At the age of six he returned England to go to boarding school, and was later educated at Hurstpierpoint.

During the Second World War he served in the Royal Navy, partly inspired by having read C F Forester’s tale of naval heroics. Brown on Resolution. Pogson rose, at the age of 22 to command a minesweeper in the Adriatic and continued in the Navy after the war. He left with the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the RNVR to follow in his father’s footsteps at Shell and worked in Argentina. He then returned to the Navy for two years, serving in Korea.

In later years, he was known principally in Britain for his ecumenical work, both with the Anglican Centre and as a director of the Tablet a Roman Catholic weekly, which he helped to rescue from several crises in which it found itself. He was also involved with philanthropic causes in Rome, including a home for the impoverished elderly.

Frank Pogson Doria Pamphilj had both a great sense of his responsibilities and immense integrity that allowed him easily to meet them. His friends prized his hospitality, sense of fun and joie de vivre. Despite his years in Rome he remained English in style and an Englishman to the end. His funeral was held in the Dona family’s parish church, Santi Apostoli.

He is survived by his wife, Orietta, and by the son, Jonathan, and daughter, Gesine, they adopted.


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