My friend George: Jack Charlton on Lord Harewood (with video)

LEEDS United legend Jack Charlton inspired laughter through sadness yesterday as he paid tribute to his friend “George” – the late Lord Harewood – at a thanksgiving service attended by around 800 people.

Prince Michael of Kent was among those celebrating the extraordinary life of the Earl – a first cousin of the Queen and a man who survived a direct order from Hitler demanding his execution.

The service was held at All Saints’ Church, Harewood, Leeds, the venue that was used for his funeral service in July.

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Charlton told the gathering he had not been looking forward to this week, finding it hard to find the right words to describe a man he had known for more than 55 years.

Lord Harewood took a keen interest in football and was president of Leeds Utd for several decades during which time he became firm friends with Charlton.

“We all know George was a keen football supporter,” he said. “One of my first memories was that George would come into the dressing room where the language was not always the cleanest.

“We were well aware of the fact that having royalty amongst us we had to watch what we said. No one let any bad language slip up.”

He said Leeds was one of the first clubs where players would meet up for a pre-match meal and his priority was always to seek out George in the boardroom for some urgent chit-chat.

To laughter, he said this tactic did not always go down too well with manager Don Revie, who would have to send someone to remind him they had a football match to play.

But it was not just the football field where their friendship was sealed. The men shared a keen interest in shooting and Revie was occasionally prevailed upon to allow his star player to take the day off for an enjoyable day with their guns. “He was not too keen but given the respect he had for George he let me go,” Charlton added.

“George was an exceptional man. Fifty years as president of the club must have been some sort of record.

“We were all treated as friends when we came here [Harewood].

“I remember him with fondness and miss him deeply. He was more than president of Leeds Utd, he was my friend.”

Earlier, David Lascelles, the new Earl, gave an affectionate reminiscence, beginning by reminding guests of his father’s great love of cricket and trips to Briggate every new season to buy a new bat from the shop owned by the Yorkshire legend Herbert Sutcliffe.

He recalled them sharing the excitement of the England World Cup win in 1966 and his unfailing support of Leeds, “through thick and thin”.

“We had our moments as son and father but he was inspiring and full of surprises,” he said. “He was radical on some issues and conservative on others.”

When he had asked him what were the “coolest” – a term he acknowledged his father would have hated – things he had ever done Lord Harewood had replied, dancing with Ginger Rogers on a visit to Hollywood in 1947 and inviting the highly controversial American comic Lenny Bruce to this country – an invitation which eventually foundered.

But it was his father’s unwavering opposition to the death penalty – a subject on which he gave his only speech in the House of Lords – of which his son was most proud. “He was a great man and a great dad.”

The Earl’s younger brother, the Hon James Lascelles, performed a piece of music he had composed for Lord Harewood’s 80th birthday, and another brother, the Hon Mark Lascelles, read Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day.