Barbara Amiel

Barbara Joan Estelle Amiel, Baroness Black of Crossharbour DSS (born 4 December 1940) is a British conservative journalist, writer, and socialite. She is the wife of former media baron Conrad Black.[2]

The Lady Black of Crossharbour

Barbara Amiel at the 2013 CFC Annual Gala & Auction
Barbara Joan Estelle Amiel

4 December 1940 (age 78)
Watford, Hertfordshire, England
ResidenceToronto, Ontario, Canada
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
London, England, UK
EducationUniversity of Toronto
OccupationWriter, columnist, socialite
Known forWife of Conrad Black
Home townHamilton, Ontario, Canada
Spouse(s)Gary Smith (1964–1964)
George Bloomfield (1965–1971)
George Jonas (1974–1979)
David Graham (1984–1988)
Conrad Black (1992–present)

Early life

Amiel was born into a Jewish family in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, the daughter of Vera Isserles (née Barnett) and Harold Joffre Amiel.[3] Her parents divorced when she was eight, after her father left her mother for another woman. Her mother subsequently remarried and in November 1952, the couple emigrated with Barbara, her sister and half-brother, to Hamilton, Ontario. Her father committed suicide in 1956.

While in England, Amiel attended North London Collegiate School in Canons Park, Harrow, Greater London, an independent girls' school. Family difficulties — including some financial hardship — during the early years in Canada, precipitated her living independently for periods of time during her adolescence during which she held a variety of jobs to support herself. In 1959, she entered the University of Toronto, where she attended University College and took a degree in Philosophy and English. Amiel was an active communist, and was a delegate in 1962 to the Soviet-organised World Festival of Youth and Students in Helsinki, Finland.[4]

Married life

Amiel has been married five times, with four marriages ending in divorce.

She entered a brief marriage to Gary Smith in 1964 when she was 23 years old. Her second marriage was to George Bloomfield from 1965 to 1971. Her third marriage was to poet, broadcaster and author George Jonas from 1974 to 1979. A fourth marriage was to cable businessman David Graham in 1984, but they were divorced by 1988.

In July 1992, she married Conrad Black (who was granted, in 2001, a life peerage as Lord Black of Crossharbour), a Canadian mining and media baron. Black renounced his Canadian citizenship to accept the peerage. He was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007. Amiel stood by her husband throughout the lengthy trial and afterwards.

Career in journalism

Amiel has been a longtime columnist for Maclean's magazine (1977–present) noted for her conservative political views. In the late 1960s Amiel was a story editor and on-camera presence for CBC TV Public Affairs. In the 1970s she was intermittently on contract with both CTV and TV Ontario. By Persons Unknown: The Strange Death of Christine Demeter (1978), which she co-authored with her third husband, won The Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Fact Crime book. She was a columnist for the Toronto Sun in the 1980s and 1990s, also serving as the daily's editor from 1983 until 1985 (making her the first female to edit a daily metropolitan newspaper in Canada) before returning to Britain.

From 1986 to 1994, Amiel was a columnist for The Times and The Sunday Times. In 1994, she moved to the Daily Telegraph, owned by her fifth husband. She has served as vice-president, editorial of Hollinger International, the holding company Conrad Black controlled.

In December 2001, she caused a small sensation by reporting, in The Spectator, remarks alleged to have been uttered by the then-French ambassador to the UK, Daniel Bernard. He was shown by Amiel as having described Israel as "that shitty little country."[5] Amiel has also been criticised[6] for writing articles that portray Arabs and Islam in a derogatory fashion.

In 2003, she attacked BBC current affairs coverage, claiming that it has been seen as a "bad joke" for decades.[7] Amiel lost her position as a columnist on the Daily Telegraph in mid-2004 after civil suits were exchanged between her husband and The Telegraph's parent company in the wake of a corporate battle which led to criminal charges being laid against Black in late 2005 and a trial in Chicago in 2007. In 2005, she rejoined Maclean's as a columnist under its new editor, Kenneth Whyte.

A biography of the couple by Tom Bower, Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge,[8] featuring an unflattering portrayal of Amiel, was published in November 2006. The book was denounced by Black in The Daily Telegraph and Black filed a suit in Canada in 2007 against Bower.[9] Black claimed the biography described Amiel as "grasping, hectoring, slatternly, extravagant, shrill and a harridan".[10] The suit was frozen when Black was convicted of fraud and imprisoned. At the time of Black's release from prison in 2012 the case was described as a "$2.5-million suit" and Bower said that "How can a convicted fraudster find a jury who will say that his reputation has been damaged by a book that says he's a fraudster?".[11]

Conrad Black's fraud trial

At the origin of Black's troubles with his shareholders and justice, is a 2002 interview his wife granted to Vogue magazine in her London mansion, where she said that her "extravagance knows no bounds." Amiel displayed "a fur closet, a sweater closet, a closet for shirts and T-shirts and a closet so crammed with evening gowns that the overflow has to be kept in yet more closets downstairs." There were also a dozen Hermes Birkin bags, thirty to forty handbags made by Renaud Pellegrino and more than 100 pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes. Amiel's 'extravagance' was not only confined to clothes; she also had a large collection of jewellery, mostly diamonds and pearls.[12] After this interview, Hollinger International began legal action in Illinois against the couple and other executives, seeking $1.25 billion in damages.

Black was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice in a Chicago courtroom on 13 July 2007. Amiel was with him every day of the trial from its beginning in March 2007. Lord Black was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison in December 2007. He reported to Coleman Correctional Facility in Florida on 3 March 2008. Black's appeal against his convictions was turned down by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on 24 June 2008. On 18 May 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear an appeal of his conviction.[13] In 2011, two of the charges were overturned on appeal and he was re-sentenced to 42 months in prison on one count of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice.[14]

Personal jurisprudence

In August 2008, Amiel published a five-page defence of her husband first in Maclean's magazine then in The Sunday Times in which she portrayed herself as the victim of a gross injustice. "My life was wiped out in Chicago— at least all that mattered in it," she wrote. "What does it matter if one well-off elderly white woman with too many pairs of expensive shoes now finds her social life largely limited to visiting her dearly missed husband in a U.S. federal correctional institution." Amiel went on to argue that gross defects in the American judicial system matter to everyone. "If ostensibly privileged defendants like us can be baselessly smeared, wrongfully deprived, falsely accused, shamelessly persecuted, innocently convicted and grotesquely punished, it doesn't take much to figure out what happens to the vulnerable, the powerless, the working-class people whose savings have been eaten up trying to defend themselves."[15][16] Conrad Black was released from Florida Penitentiary, in the United States on Friday 4 May 2012.


Amiel is a cousin of the late oncologist, broadcaster and humorist Rob Buckman, whom she hosted when he emigrated to Canada in the 1980s.[17]


  • 1977: By Persons Unknown: the strange death of Christine Demeter; George Jonas with Barbara Amiel. (Jonas and Amiel were married at the time.)
  • 1978: East and West: selected poems; with a profile of the poet by Barbara Amiel, by George Faludy and Barbara Amiel Toronto: Hounslow Press
  • 1980: Confessions; by Barbara Amiel, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Macmillan of Canada ISBN 0-7705-1841-9
  • 1983: Celebrate Our City ... Toronto ... 150th Anniversary; Barbara Amiel and Lorraine Monk, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart ISBN 0-7710-6085-8

See also


  1. ^ Association Members
  2. ^ CBC News. Conrad Black gets bail., CBC News, 19 July 2010. [1].
  3. ^ International Who's who of Authors and Writers, Volume 23, Europa Publications, Taylor & Francis Group, 2008, page 22
  4. ^ For richer, for poorer?, James Robinson, The Observer, 25 January 2004
  5. ^ Israel seeks head of French envoy, Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, 20 December 2001
  6. ^ William Dalrymple, Islamophobia, New Statesman, 19 January 2004
  7. ^ Disinfect the BBC before it poisons a new generation, Barbara Amiel, Daily Telegraph, 7 July 2003
  8. ^ Bower, Tom. The Fast Lady. Times Online. 2006
  9. ^ Black, Conrad. Lies, lies, lies. 30 October 2006
  10. ^ Press Gazette (21 February 2007). "Conrad Black sues Bower". Press Gazette. Archived from the original on 16 June 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  11. ^ Simon Houpt and Paul Wilde (18 June 2012). "Conrad Black's trials not over". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  12. ^ Arrogance and insecurity of 'Miss Amiel' was sub-plot in complex tale
  13. ^ US Supreme Court agrees to hear Conrad Black appeal
  14. ^ BBC News "Conrad Black ordered back to prison",, 24 June 2011.
  15. ^ Amiel, Barbara. This is humiliating. Maclean's, 4 August 2008, p.46
  16. ^ Conrad and I were betrayed. Sunday Times 10 August 2008
  17. ^ Trapper, Josh (11 October 2011). "Dr. Robert Buckman, renowned oncologist, comedian and Star columnist, dead at 63". Toronto Star. Retrieved 12 October 2011.

External links


Amiel is both a surname and a given name. Notable people with the name include:


Barbara Amiel, writer and wife of Conrad Black

Gausbert Amiel, troubadour

Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Swiss philosopher, poet and critic

Jack Amiel, American screenwriter

Jon Amiel, British director

Reuven Amiel, Grammy Winning Mixer. Music Producer

Thierry Amiel, French singer

Stephanie Amiel (born 1954), British physician and academicGiven name:

Amiel Daemion, Australian pop singer

Christine Demeter

Christine Demeter (1940 – July 18, 1973) was murdered in the garage of her home in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, at the age of 33. The case attracted much attention in Canada because Demeter, a model, was young and beautiful, and her murder had been mysterious.

The case was investigated by Detective William Teggart (who would later rise to police chief) of the Peel Regional Police. Demeter's husband, Peter Demeter, was subsequently convicted of hiring a killer to murder her to cash in on a million-dollar insurance policy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. As of May 31, 2010, Peter Demeter (now 77 years old) is still in prison in Ontario.

George Jonas and his then-wife Barbara Amiel, published a book about the case, By Persons Unknown: The Strange Death of Christine Demeter (1976).

The Demeter case served as the basis for the fictional 1978 film I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses, directed by Murray Markowitz. The victim is renamed Magdalene Kruschen and is played by German actress Elke Sommer.

Conrad Black

Conrad Moffat Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, KCSG (born 25 August 1944) is a Canadian-born British former newspaper publisher, convicted US felon, and author. In 2007, Black was convicted on four counts of fraud in U.S. District Court in Chicago. While two of the criminal fraud charges were dropped on appeal, a conviction for felony fraud and obstruction of justice were upheld in 2010 and he was re-sentenced to 42 months in prison and a fine of $125,000.

Black controlled Hollinger International, once the world's third-largest English-language newspaper empire, which published The Daily Telegraph (UK), Chicago Sun-Times (U.S.), The Jerusalem Post (Israel), National Post (Canada), most of the leading newspapers in Australia and Canada and hundreds of community newspapers in North America, before controversy erupted over the sale of some of the company's assets. Black's conviction resulted in preventing him from gainful employment.

Dancing on the Edge

Dancing on the Edge may refer to:

Dancing on the Edge (TV series), a 2013 BBC drama by Stephen Poliakoff

Dancing on the Edge (album), a 1986 album by Roy Buchanan

Dancing on the Edge, a 2005 American documentary with Alan Tafoya

Dancing on the Edge, a 1997 novel by Han Nolan

Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge, a 2006 biography of Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel by Tom Bower

Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook

Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook, CM, O.Ont (7 November 1913 – 23 February 2009) was a Canadian portrait sculptor, medal designer and liturgical artist.

George Jonas

George Jonas, CM (June 15, 1935 – January 10, 2016) was a Hungarian-born Canadian writer, poet, and journalist. A self-described classical liberal, he authored 16 books, including the international bestseller Vengeance (1984), the story of an Israeli operation to kill the terrorists responsible for the 1972 Munich massacre. The book has been adapted for film twice, first as Sword of Gideon (1986), and more recently as Munich (2005).

Jewish-Canadian authors

This is a list of key Jewish-Canadian authors, with an article and critical history to follow.

Lara Flynn Boyle

Lara Flynn Boyle (born March 24, 1970) is an American actress and producer. She is best known for her role as Donna Hayward in the ABC cult television series Twin Peaks (1990–1991). After portraying Stacy in Penelope Spheeris's comedy Wayne's World (1992), Boyle had a lead role in John Dahl's critically acclaimed neo-noir film Red Rock West (1993), followed by roles in Threesome (1994), Cafe Society (1995), and Happiness (1998). From 1997 to 2003, Boyle portrayed Assistant District Attorney Helen Gamble in the ABC television series The Practice for which she was nominated a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

Lorraine Monk

Lorraine Althea Constance Monk (née Spurrell; 1922) is a Canadian photographer.

Mount Everest in 2012

The Mount Everest climbing season of 2012 included several hundred summitings and the highest fatality total since 1996. 683 climbers from 34 countries attempted to climb the mountain, and 547 people summited. A record was set in May when 234 climbers summitted on a single day. There were 11 deaths, some of which were attributed to overcrowding near the peak.

North London Collegiate School

North London Collegiate School is an independent educational institution with a day school for girls in England. Founded in Camden Town, it is now located in Edgware, in the London Borough of Harrow. A sister school was opened in South Korea, on Jeju Island, and is a coeducational day and boarding school offering the British curriculum. It is a member of the Girls' Schools Association.

Peter Demeter

Peter Demeter (born 19 April 1933) is a Hungarian-born Canadian former real estate developer convicted in 1974 of arranging the murder of his wife. It was the longest trial in Canadian history and revealed that both husband and wife may have been plotting to murder the other to collect a $1 million insurance policy. The assailant was never found.

While serving his sentence and living in a convicts' halfway house, in 1983 Demeter was charged on two counts with trying to arrange the kidnapping and murder of the son of his cousin; the latter was managing his financial affairs. In 1985 Demeter was convicted of the charges and given a second life sentence.

The Robber Bride

The Robber Bride is a Margaret Atwood novel first published by McClelland and Stewart in 1993.

The Way It Is (TV program)

The Way It Is is a Canadian public affairs television program which aired on CBC Television from 1967 to 1969.

Tom Bower

Thomas Michael Bower (born 28 September 1946) is a British writer known for his investigative journalism and for his unauthorized biographies, often of business tycoons and newspaper proprietors. His books include unauthorised biographies of Robert Maxwell, Mohamed Al-Fayed, Conrad Black, and Richard Branson. A book about Richard Desmond remains unpublished. His book, Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football, won the 2003 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

Toronto Sun

The Toronto Sun is an English-language daily newspaper published in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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