Arthur Maundy Gregory was born at 9 Portland Terrace in 1877, the son of the vicar of St Michael’s Church. He attended Banister Court School (at the same time as Harold Davidson) and later went to Oxford University, but left before graduating. He became a teacher in Southampton, possibly at Banister Court School, until 1901 when he became the manager of the Prince of Wales Theatre in Southampton for a short time. The following year he started a touring company and in 1908 put an unsuccessful production on in the West End of London (Dorothy, part-funded by Harold Davidson). By 1914 he had become a private detective, and when the war began he is said to have worked for the Secret Service, though the evidence for this is mainly from his own papers.
After the war he started the Ambassador Club, a well-known meeting place for politicians, society figures, artists and even royalty. He also published Mayfair, a society magazine, and the Whitehall Gazette. He is best remembered for selling honours. In 1918 the Prime Minister Lloyd George needed money to fight the election of that year and embarked on a policy of selling honours for contributions to his party coffers. He needed an honours broker and Gregory, with his society contacts, fitted the bill perfectly. The sale of honours was made illegal in 1925 but Gregory continued attempting to sell them regardless. In the late twenties he diversified into selling Papal honours - he had earlier converted to Roman Catholicism - and to other dubious business practices. In 1932 his friend, the actor Edith Rosse, died in suspicious circumstances leaving him £18,000. Some people suspected that he had murdered her; the police investigator dismissed this idea though the pathologist thought that Gregory had deliberately ensured that her body was buried in conditions that would hide evidence.
Gregory was eventually convicted of selling honours in 1933, and served two months in prison. After being released in 1933 he went to live in Paris. When the war started he was sent to a labour camp and died in 1941, either at the labour camp or in a hospital in Paris.
Newspaper clippings (available from the Local Studies Library):
"Soton Vicar's Son Became … " - (Southern Evening Echo 29/07/1967). Detailed discussion of Gregory's life.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 23.
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p48-9. (HS/t)
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