Christopher Leaver was 2 years old when his parents sent him away. The bombs were falling on London, and they worried about his safety. His mother, an ambulance driver, and his father, a doctor in the Royal Navy, thought America would be the best place for their son and his 5-year-old sister. The family was separated three years.
The lord mayor of London, who has to wear silk stockings and black knickers at dinner, lives in a small palace called Mansion House where there are 42 servants and a ballroom big enough for his children's tricycle races. But yesterday he returned to a Warrenton, Va., country house that was his childhood home away from home.
"I'm rather conscious of things that have never been said in my family--but must have been true," said the lord mayor, Sir Christopher Leaver. "It must have been a very emotional time. So this is much more than me romping around, having a jolly time in Warrenton. I see it as a page in my family's history."
The 44-year-old, ruddy-cheeked mayor, who has an official lunch and multicourse dinner every day of his one year in office, seemed to enjoy a day off in the country. For one thing, he got to wear his own clothes--a lightweight summer suit and blue tie bearing the crest of the city of London--and not the usual morning suit required for work. For another, he was showing America to his wife, who at 32 is the youngest lady mayoress of this century. (He is the second-youngest lord mayor in recent memory; they appear more suited to Chelsea, their real home, than a mansion where they can't remember whether there are three or four assistants to the keeper of the plateroom.) The lord mayor's duties in the one-square-mile City of London are largely ceremonial, yet considered very important.
The lady mayoress thought the countryside looked familiar. "Funnily enough," said the lord mayor, "it's very English. Apart from the cars being American, and the fact that you chaps drive on the wrong side of the road, it's identical."
The two left the Madison Hotel in the morning, arriving at the home just before lunch. Called Clovercroft, it was rented by the Eugene Meyer family, then-owners of The Washington Post, to provide a home for children of war-torn families. There were 12 others living there at the same time as the lord mayor and his older sister, Gillian, and they were all kept in order by two English nannies. Now it is a 200-acre farm owned by the widow of a Swedish steel and forestry executive whose daughter, Maria Tufts, lives there with her husband, Maximilian. Maximilian was out looking for a water pump when the Leavers arrived yesterday, but Maria, her mother-in-law, the mother-in-law's cousin, two children, a modern-day nanny, the nanny's daughter and three dogs were waiting on the big porch.
"A welcoming party!" said the lord mayor.
They toured the grounds in the warm sunshine, took pictures under the cypress trees and wondered what had happened to the green shutters. The house, set on a hill overlooking a pond, is still white stucco. The front-yard maples have grown in 40 years, and there is a garden now full of iris and dahlias. Inside, the watered-silk wallpaper is gone, but the downstairs rooms are much the same.
"It's beautifully tidy," said the lady mayoress, whose name is Helen.
The Tufts took plenty of pictures themselves, including one of the lord mayor, in American-mayor style, holding their baby.