Justin Llewelyn, an FEI Steward and the familiar and distinguished voice of horse trials in Great Britain, passed away at the weekend after a year of ill health. His health deteriorated on Saturday night (8 December) and he died at his home in Lincolnshire. He was 59. Born in London to Celtic parents – his father was Welsh and his mother Irish – Justin was an FEI Steward, and was also Steward General for all disciplines in Great Britain for many years. In his role as FEI Steward, he was in charge of the mixed zone – where athletes are interviewed by the media post-competition – at the last three Olympic Games in Athens, Hong Kong and London. He was already seriously ill when he was working in Greenwich, but was determined not to miss the chance of officiating at his home Games. Justin's day job was as brand ambassador at the champagne house, Taittinger, and he was the British Consul General for the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, the official fraternity of the champenoise.
He was well known as a knowledgeable and authoritative commentator at all the major British horse trials, including Badminton, Burghley, Bramham, Blenheim, Gatcombe and Chatsworth, and was never happier than when he was in the commentary box with his regular colleagues Mike Tucker, Giles Rowsell and Richard Clapham.
Justin's father was the much-loved actor, Desmond Llewelyn, who played Q in the James Bond films for more than 30 years. Justin went to the same school – Radley College – as his famous father, and was a leading light in the school’s stage productions, but in later life he often said that commentating was the nearest he got to realising his theatrical ambitions.
“We have to stay calm and reasoned and not get over-excited, which can be quite a skill,” he said in a media interview in 2008. “But my father was an actor and commentating is the nearest I get to my own theatrical career. I think I’ve taken all the acting knack from my father and transferred it to the commentary box.”
He was a generous sponsor of equestrian sport through his contacts in the champagne industry. His last major appearance on the international competition scene was at Burghley last September.
“Justin was a larger than life character in every way,” FEI Eventing & Olympic Director Catrin Norinder said. “He was such a familiar face, and a familiar voice, on the Eventing circuit and was incredibly generous, both with his time and with sponsorship. The Eventing scene in Britain and internationally won’t be the same without him, and nor will the mixed zones at future Olympic Games. He will be much missed.”
Justin Llewelyn is survived by his wife Claire, and daughters Charlotte and Rosamund. Claire shares Justin’s love of Eventing, and gave a home to the retired top event horses Shear H20, Shear L'Eau and Ringwood Cockatoo and rode them in Dressage competitions.
His funeral will be held this week and a memorial service is planned for early 2013.
The FEI expresses its sincere condolences to Justin Llewelyn’s family and his many friends in the equestrian world.