In death, we only know her as a mother of five who fell four storeys, and as wife of a British diplomat posted at the UN in New York. The Telegraph’s news account is headlined “Lord Hurd‘s daughter-in-law plunges to death …” Her father-in-law was Douglas Hurd, a former foreign secretary for the UK’s diplomatic service.
The news stories also made mention of the apartment where the Hurds lived — “available for rent last year at $15,000 (£10,000) a month.” As if somehow, what — that an expensive rental should go with a perfect life? There was no mention where she had been, what she was like, what were her dreams — only that she was a wife of a diplomat, and is now dead.
Via the Telegraph:
Catherine Hurd, who is thought to have been a mother of five, fell the four storeys from the top of the building where she lived with the former foreign secretary’s son Thomas, a British diplomat.
Mrs Hurd, 46, left no note but New York police are believed to be treating the case as a suicide. “All we can say is that no criminality is suspected,” a spokesman told The Daily Telegraph.
It is thought Mrs Hurd was due to return to London next week as her husband, 45, is at the end of a stint working as a senior British official at the UN. He is described as a “political counsellor”.
Mr Hurd is a former investment banker and was a contemporary of David Cameron’s at Eton and Oxford, where he was two years ahead of the Prime Minister.
He read Arabic and Modern Middle Eastern studies at Oxford between 1983 and 1987 and worked for Credit Suisse First Boston before joining the Foreign Office in 1992.
For the past few years he has been in New York, where he is listed as working for the British delegation on the UN security council, specialising in the middle east, G20 and Africa.
His father was one of the Conservative government’s most senior figures in the 1980s and 1990s. He served both Lady Thatcher and John Major as foreign secretary, after also serving as home secretary.
This is not the first suicide of a diplomatic spouse in the FCO. In the early 1970’s a wife of a British foreign service officer committed suicide. According to Cynthia Enloe in Bananas, Beaches and Bases, a book making feminist sense of international politics (and where there is one large section just on diplomatic wives), the unnamed wife was believed to have committed suicide due to the loneliness and lack of support she encountered upon her return “home” to the UK. Her suicide shocked the UK Treasury’s Medical Officer that he set up networks of women volunteers in different parts of the country to help foreign service wives readjust to life in Britain.
No one can say why she walked off that ledge on Saturday. Catherine Hurd did not leave any note behind. Even in death, she appears to stay true to the ancient “never complain” ethos of diplomatic life.
Catherine Hurd, rest in peace.