She is the unsung heroine of the Royal Family, whose warmth has enhanced countless official engagements, but who rarely steps into the spotlight.
Now, I learn there is talk of unseating the Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra, from her role as patron of one of her favourite charities, and installing instead the newest royal — Prince Charles’s wife, Camilla.
New patron? The Duchess of Cornwall
The charity in question is the House Of St Barnabas, a former refuge for women in London's Soho.
While the upper floors of the building after which the good cause is named are retained by the charity as offices and as a centre to help the homeless find jobs, the lowers floors now have another use — as a private members’ club.
The restaurant, bar and meeting rooms are run by Elliot’s Quintessentially firm. The club’s occupation of the premises was initially temporary, but the charity has applied to Westminster City Council for permission to make it permanent. In return, the charity stands to benefit from rent and a proportion of the club’s takings.
This has prompted an outcry by residents, including the Soho Society. And there promises to be a bigger row if Alexandra is ousted.
Unsung heroine: Princess Alexandra
‘She has a natural empathy with people who are struggling in life, and she has been very generous with her time and support.’
But a Soho local tells me: ‘Recently, a visitor who was being shown round the premises was told that the long-term plan was for Ben’s aunt, Camilla, to become the new patron.’
Says charity chairman David Evans, who coincidentally once worked for Charles as deputy director of the Prince’s Charities: ‘All members of the Royal Family review their patronages all the time. I haven’t heard the Duchess of Cornwall’s name mentioned in this respect.’
The new lady in Tchenguiz’s life
Property tycoon Robbie Tchenguiz, the man who lost £1billion in 24 hours during Iceland’s banking crisis, has lost an even more valuable asset — his wife.
As I revealed, Tchenguiz and his American-born wife, Heather Bird, the mother of his two young children, have been experiencing some marital hiccups. Heather spent most of the summer with her family in the U.S., while her husband was on his yacht in the South of France.
The couple reunited for a 50th birthday party for Tchenguiz in September, but now Tchenguiz is telling chums he and Heather, 40, have officially separated.
At the weekend he was with an attractive blonde at Sir Elton John’s winter ball, held to raise cash for the singer’s Aids Foundation. With Heather in America again, Robbie was clearly enjoying himself with his companion. Says a friend: ‘I don’t think it is serious — but Robbie can’t go on his own to these events.’
Cosy: Robbie Tchenguiz with his date at Elton John's ball
Despite their separation, Robbie and Heather remain at the same address — an elegant four-storey building next door to the Royal Albert Hall.
Adds the friend: ‘They have decided for the sake of the children not to divorce and to continue living under the same roof for now.’
Among the Tory donors, back-scratchers and old friends due to be ennobled by David Cameron, there will be a little stardust. For I can reveal Julian Fellowes, screen-writer de nos jours and the man behind the excellent Downton Abbey, has been proposed for a peerage.
‘Julian will bring some elegant debate to the House of Lords — and some very good manners,’ says a chum.
Ampleforth-educated Fellowes, 61, who is married to Princess Michael of Kent’s lady-in-waiting, Emma Kitchener, won an Oscar for Gosford Park in 2002.
For Brodie, 80, is highly critical of the former trainee probation officer, these days dubbed ‘queen of the quangos’.
In a speech to the Institute Of Economic Affairs, he spelled out why he would like her removed as Charity Commission chairman.
No stranger to troublesome women — his ex-wife, leading judge Dame Elizabeth Gloster, 61, left him for retired fellow beak Sir Oliver Popplewell, 83 — Brodie says: ‘By law, the Commission has to be totally independent — she has turned it into a political instrument.’
Leicestershire roots: Emma Watson
Hermione and Ron’s
have watched them grow up together over the past ten years in the
hugely successful Harry Potter films — the latest of which premieres
But pouting actress Emma Watson, 20, and her co-star Rupert Grint, 22 — whose alter egos, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, are keeping fans entranced with their burgeoning romance — have a shared history that goes back much further . . . and which, until now, neither of them knew anything about.
For it has been discovered that, more than 200 years ago, the actors — who have each amassed a fortune of £20million from their roles in the Potter films — had great-great-great-
grandparents who were neighbours in rural Leicestershire.
The spooky coincidence was uncovered by Your Family History magazine, which tracked the young stars’ ancestors down to the twin hamlets of North and South Kilworth.
The duo’s more immediate family histories are rather different, however. While Emma is the daughter of international lawyers and went to the £24,000-a-year Dragon School in Oxford, Rupert’s father is a professional memorabilia collector.
PM’s birthday party politics
We hear a lot about the chumminess of the Cameron political family.
Whether it’s Nick Clegg rushing to No 10 to put together Florence’s Ikea cot, kitchen suppers cooked by Samantha or the texts that ping between Cabinet members, the suggestion is that the Cameroons are the best of friends.
Yet the guest-list for the PM’s birthday party, hosted last month at Chequers, tells a different story.Of the 40 guests at the dinner, I learn just one Cabinet minister was there — Education Secretary Michael Gove.
PSJohn F. Kennedy’s aide Ted Sorensen — who died on Sunday at the age of 82 — knew he would chiefly be remembered as the man who wrote the President’s ‘ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’ speech. But he was not just a speech-writer.
Interviewed earlier this year by documentary maker Michael Cockerell for a film about the General Election debates in the UK, Sorensen said: ‘I know that, when I die, all my obituaries will say that I was JFK’s speech-writer — when, in actual fact, I was so much more than that. I was his legal adviser and counsellor.’
So what did Ted want his obit to say? ‘Died aged 107 — killed by a jealous husband,’ he joked to Cockerell.