Finally getting into the Christmas spirit thanks to the glorious gang known as The Tiara Club. The Tiara Club was formed when Sam ‘Lucas Rarities’ Loxton and his glamorous assistant Francesca invited Andrew Prince and I to lunch. Andrew’s knowledge of historic jewels is unrivalled. He also happens to be a very talented maker of tiaras as worn by Dame Maggie Smith et al on Downton Abbey.
Andrew happened to have a box of tiaras at the lunch and allocated one to each of us. Of course Andrew got the Queen Mary-style fender and has done ever since but I do adore the ritual of choosing a tiara and then having it set by Mr Prince. Anyway, the Tiara Club has now become a quarterly affair and we had our Christmas lunch at the Heddon Street Kitchen, one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, the other day.
Now, if I were to be a mistress I’d vote for being Mr Loxton’s. At the end of the lunch, he presented each of us with our very own Andrew Prince tiara. I have only taken mine off to sleep so far. A tiara is like The Red Shoes for me. I was born to wear one in another life I feel. As Christmas presents go, Sam’s sparkling little ornament has beaten everybody else hands down: no competition.
I am still saddened not to be packing my Deanna Durbin (turban) and yards of cashmere scarves destination India this Christmas. But health won’t allow me to travel. Apropos of this, I have been rather irritated by the debate about benefits being withheld from migrants to the UK for four years. As one who has never claimed a benefit in my life, I am appalled that my hard-earned taxes are frittered away on any Thomasz, Diego or Hassan who decides they want to live off the UK as well as in it.
I know darling, I am turning into Alf Garnett but where was the State when I couldn’t work over the past few months? I could have been signed-off by the docs but where is the sense in that when all I want to do is resume duties as Bloomsbury’s local flaneur and haul my tired, battered old body to J Sheekey’s Oyster Bar for a bit of tlc. Actually, I am being a bit of a Joan of Arc because I’m feeling so much better.
Last night I attended Emma Willis’s annual Style for Soldiers party at Spencer House in St. James’s. Emma’s charity is admirable. She makes bespoke shirts and walking sticks for servicemen and women injured in the field. It is truly humbling to be in the company of these ladies and gentlemen who risk lives and lose limbs protecting you and I from those who wish the UK ill.
Emma was on super form and I have to confess becomes more like Lady Penelope with every passing year. I’d popped out for a cigarette with George Glasgow so didn’t catch all of the note from Chancellor George Osborne but I got the gist that he wanted to financially support a charity that is close to everyone’s hearts. I do adore Spencer House. It now belongs to the Rothschild family who have brought it back to its former glory with great respect and style. It was the childhood home of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire for whose father the 7th Earl Spencer the house was originally built.
The architecture courtesy of John Vardy, James ‘Athenian’ Stuart and Robert Adam was described by Arthur Young in 1766 thus: ‘nothing can be more pleasingly elegant than the park front which is ornamented to a high degree. I know not in England a more beautiful piece of architecture, superior to any house I have seen’. I find Spencer House the most satisfying of the St. James’s palaces. Lancaster House is much grander but is essentially a series of vast staterooms. It is hard to imagine Marlborough House as it was when King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra lived there as Prince and Princess of Wales now it is a commonwealth office.
I would sell a kidney to see Bridgewater House but it belongs to the Latsis family and is rarely open other than for the occasional private party. I would absolutely kill to be given the keys to St. James’s Palace and allowed to wander at will but seeing as it is still a royal residence, this dream is highly unlikely to be realised. I have never been inside Clarence House though one never knows now the Prince of Wales has consented to write a foreword for our Turnbull & Asser book.
Speaking of Prince Charles, weren’t you enchanted by his Christmas card. No, darling, I didn’t get one. It was in the papers. The card depicts the Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall in a rather relaxed, intimate and happy pose. Says it all really about true love coming through in the end. I recall saying to old mother Balding one Ascot on the Beeb that the Duchess of Cornwall was looking increasingly like a Queen Consort. The newspapers have since caught-up and are saying precisely the same thing.
Terribly nice to be seeing a little bit more of the Duchess of Cambridge. I have been rather harsh about she wanting a private life with her young family at the expense of duties. But that might just be tiara envy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to whip out the Cartier halo tiara at any given opportunity and leave the kids with nanny? Here speaks a ‘confirmed bachelor’.
I am having urges for a dog again of late having met a very well-behaved greyhound on Savile Row recently. I think it was the sight of Carrie Fisher – another card carrying manic depressive – with her dog on the red carpet for the new Star Wars film that got me thinking how much comfort and joy a dog brings. We shall see what we shall see.