Photo: Cecil Beaton
Photo: Cecil Beaton
This faintly cheesy You-tube clip brings together static images of some gorgeous moments of her life and some of the sadder ones too. Do enjoy it. (And click x to get rid of the advert)
I was in Brazil and found myself at a dinner as the No. 2 Guest of Honour. That’s not difficult, you just have to turn up in the company of the No. l G of H. I was happy to find that ten of us were on a round table - don’t start me on that top-table cruel joke where you stare glumly out at all the happy bastards chatting right left and centre and the hapless person each end feels like a pariah. The words coconut and shy come to mind.
What was I saying? Dinner was convivial, slightly hard work, but we were oiling the diplomatic wheels when it all imploded into embarrassment. Why was that? Because my wrists are too damn big aren’t they. My official gift was a beautiful bracelet of semi-precious geological specimens with a gold clasp. I opened the velvet lined box, admired it, oohed and ahhhed, felt sick to my stomach and put it by my wine glass. Phew. But uh oh, out of the corner of my eye, I see one of the wives pull her chair back and advance towards to me. I know what’s coming. I’m thinking ‘Off you fuck darling!’ but she has to wrap the bracelet affectionately round my wrist, it’s obvious. I could have told her it would leave a yawning gap that no amount of pinching the skin above my racing pulse would close.
The room temperature drops ten degrees. Hosts give each other panicky looks and then No. 1 G of H, my very own Sir Galahad, gallops to the rescue. ‘Ah you see, my wife has rather well-developed wrists from windsurfing’. What?? I grew out of my wetsuit in 1990. But I run with the ball. ‘Oh yes, definitely yes, from hanging off the boom. Like this’. To ease the embarrassment that has never quite left me, I thought I would share with you the idea of me in my evening dress from Harrods Fat Girl Department flexing my biceps, wrists clenched doing pull-ups in the air. It was absolutely horrible. Next day I was allowed to go and change the bracelet for an elasticated one. Huh.
All images © Rosie West
At today’s State Opening of Parliament peeresses in evening dresses crammed the red leather benches of the Lords’ chamber and gave some relief to the sea of red gowns with white fur collars tied with a black ribbon that the peers (male and female) wear on this one occasion a year. Some of the Queen Titanias who choose to wear a tiara will have left home by 9 am like that, startling commuters, but they had probably been up since dawn with their hairdressers. I know of one stylist who goes round to a string of clients on her motorbike to fix the ice on their pretty heads.
It’s a long wait for the Queen to arrive wearing the Imperial State Crown to take up her golden throne and read her speech that is written by the Government. Incidentally, darlings,it’s so nice to see it worn instead of having to jostle the crowds in front of the crown jewels at the Tower of London! Also, it's far better to sit on the Labour benches and look across to the Tory ladies, who clearly have the greatest tally of tiaras. I saw some whoppers and longed for binoculars to inspect them but then I didn’t want to get caught on telly snooping.
c 1996 Lady Haden Guest a.k.a Jamie Lee Curtis takes her seat. I remember the press photographs at the time showed that this was a simple gold laurel leaf design. Perfect.
I also spotted the fakes. What’s the point of that? I don’t know. I do know actually because once I wore one from Butler & Wilson myself. Try anything once (except folk dancing and incest) is my motto. I am embarrassed about it now. A lovely ancient aristocrat offered to lend me hers but I have a block head and this was far too dainty. Besides, she had told me in her crackly voice, unable to pronounce her ‘Rs’ that someone women wear a tiawa with all the gwace of a cart horse. I decided to wun a mile at that point.
No carthorse here. Loelia Duchess of Westminster photographed by Cecil Beaton in 1931 wearing a kokoshnik halo-shaped tiara. I have seen this, or something very similar, in action!