Ted Morgan, Sanche de Gramont, has left us

parisdiaBooks11 Comments

Ted Morgan at home in New York in 2006

Ted Morgan was a giant and he just died on December 13,  at 91, after four years of illness, in a retirement home in New York. His wife Eileen Bresnahan and his daughter Amber were angels with him to the end. His son Gabriel is also a writer in New Mexico. A Pulitzer Prize winner, he wrote twenty books mostly biographies or historical studies like the recent “Mc Carthyism in Twentieth Century America” or his confession in a Memoir, “My Battle of Algiers”, when he was drafted in the French army in 1957 and forced to torture prisoners. Born in Switzerland in March 1932, he was the son of Mariette Negroponte and Gabriel de Gramont, whose mother was Princess Maria Ruspoli, who lived in New York during the war as Mrs François Hugo. His father died in Norfolk in 1943, after joining the RAF, when his plane had a gas failure very near the base. They were living in Washington at the time and his mother remarried a Belgian diplomat, Jacques de Thiers, who took him and his two brothers to New York. He was educated at the French Lycée, then attended Yale University and Sciences Pô in Paris. He became a journalist soon after the war.

The French translation of “My Battle of Algiers” came out in 2016

The first time I met my cousin Sanche was  the evening I successfully passed my Baccalaureate. My uncle Henri de Gramont was always hosting him in Paris and he invited me to the new horribly modern Hotel PLM Saint Jacques where we celebrated my graduation. Sanche was very intimidating and strong in speech. But I loved celebrating with “a famous writer”. Later, when I attended Yale University, he took an interest in me, and as a member of Manuscript, I became acceptable to him. He was soon to publish  his book “On Becoming American” (in 1978) and was giving up his family name to become Ted Morgan, the anagram of de Gramont. He would later appear on “60 minute” saying how much he despised his French past. Ted was full of contradictions and being his friend, or a member of his family was not easy. Yet he was the most generous uncle to me and shared all his New York connections including his agent Lynn Nesbit and his close friend Barney Rosset, the publisher of Samuel Beckett in America.

Published in 2010, this book is all about the French disaster in Dien Bien Phu

Ted expressed himself in perfect French and had the Greek charm of his mother’s. He was first cousins to the diplomat John Negroponte. He wrote a book on “The French: Portrait of a People” in 1969, where he was intensely critical of his country. He was fearless and travelled to Africa to write “The Strong Brown God: the Story of the Niger River”  but also covered the Klaus Barbie trials in Lyon which led to a book “An Uncertain Hour” in 1989. He wrote almost 25 books working so hard that he always had two simultaneous projects. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. His wife Eileen helped him greatly do the research on the later works. His last unfinished memoir dealt with love in old age.

He hosted great dinner parties at home on 25 West 54 th Street with food that he prepared himself and always lots of wine. The guests all had been involved in literary New York. And towards the end of his life he became more interested in family matters wanting to meet his younger French nephews.

His two younger brothers died before him. But his wife Eileen Bresnahan, daughter Amber and son Gabriel are here with each two grand children…

Share this Post

11 Comments on “Ted Morgan, Sanche de Gramont, has left us”

  1. Dear Laure,
    if I had had the pleasure of meeting your uncle, I would have told him, respectfully but firmly,
    that there are more reasons to be proud of being French than the contrary, and whatever he could think,
    I stand personnally, however feeling more French than English, for the good old:
    “Right or wrong, my country”.
    Je t’embrasse.

  2. Everyone is a lighthouse for someone else.

    Your uncle brought light to many people in his life. My condolences for you and your family.

    Thank you for sharing I now have his oeuvre to dive into for my next reading adventures.

  3. Hi Laure, my father was a good friend of Ted’s. He and Eileen would come out to the Hamptons for weekend visits when I was also there, so I also got to know him. Please keep me informed of any memorial service in New York.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *