The story of the man who captained England at cricket and was offered the throne of Albania. John Arlott wrote of him \"a most incredible man... the most variously gifted Englishman of any age... the pre-eminent all-rounder, not merely of his own age,but, so far as is measurable, of all English history.\"
C.B. Fry was a phenomenon, possible the greatest sportsman of all time. He batted alongside W.G. Grace and Ranjitsinhji and captained England without losing a test. He also played soccer for England, and reached the FA Cup final with Southhampton. At rugby, he played for Oxford, Blackheath and the Barbarians, and could have played for England. He missed out on winning gold medals at the Olympics of 1896 (he didn't know they were taking place) and 1900 but held the world long-jump record and was still hurdling in his mid-fifties. At Oxford, he won twelve Blues and captained the university at soccer, athletics and cricket in the same year - an unprecedented achievement.
Fry was much more than a sportsman. He won a major scholarship to Oxford, where his friends numbered Max Beerbohm, Hilaire Belloc and F.E Smith, and his nicknames included 'Charles III', 'Almighty' and 'Lord Oxford'. He wrote several books, including a novel and a brilliant but selective autobiography, and became one of the most successful and influential journalists of his day. He was a friend of many promiment Labour and Liberal politicians but flirted with fascism, meeting Hitler in 1934, before reverting to Liberalism. He encounted Prime Ministers from Gladstone to Churchill, represented India at the League of Nations and came within a whisker of becoming an MP.
While Fry was pre-eminently a cricketing phenomenon, his was, by any standards, an outsize life. His ancestors were involved in smuggling and his wife was at the centre of a major Victorian sex scandal. Fry himself had an extra-martial affair and endured periods of mental illness. In the 1930's he visited Hollywood, hoping for a film career, and met Mary Astor, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff. He was involved with Baden-Powell and the Scout movement; he was a brilliant conversationalist. He was offered the throne of Albania but decided he hadn't quite enough money for the post. In a fitting tribute, Lord Cowdray praised Fry as \"the greatest athlete and sportsman England ever had.\"
** C.B Fry by Iain Wilton is also available in Hardback priced