Kate, Duchess of Cambridge pays secret visit to Mayfair's gay row hot, The Dorchester
Sun 01 Jun 2014
While celebrities including Stephen Fry, Sir Richard Branson and Vogue supremo Anna Wintour call for a boycott of the Dorchester over its owner the Sultan of Brunei's anti-gay laws, the luxury hotel group has received a timely fillip from the Duchess of Cambridge and her family. I hear that Kate was the guest of honour at a wedding held at the Dorchester on Friday.
Acutely aware of the sensitivities over her presence at the controversial hotel, she avoided the front door and sneaked into its underground car park in a blacked-out people carrier. 'The wedding was a big boost for the hotel,' says my man with the silver salver. 'It shows that the royals will not let the Brunei business keep them away.' The civil marriage of the Duchess's first cousin, Adam Middleton, to interior designer Rebecca Poynton was held in the hotel's penthouse and pavilion. Kate was joined by her parents, Carole and Michael, brother James and sister Pippa. Adam, who is the son of Michael Middleton's brother, Richard, advises senior business executives in his role for the Mayfair firm Manchester Square Partners. While James drove to the hotel with his parents, Pippa and her boyfriend, banker Nico Jackson, Kate arrived separately, accompanied, so I am told, by an astonishing nine police protection officers.
The Dorchester has been the focus of a worldwide boycott over its ties to the Sultanate of Brunei, which recently imposed a series of harsh Islamic laws that increase the punishment for homosexuality from a ten-year prison sentence to death by stoning. The Dorchester Collection hotel group is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the country's finance ministry. Kate's attendance was not the only royal endorsement for the luxury hotel chain. On Saturday, Princes William and Harry played polo at Coworth Park near Windsor, which is also owned by the Dorchester Collection.
Last week, I reported that Prince Charles had been dragged into the controversy after the hotel decided to decorate its rooms with his paintings. Royal sources deny that Prince William also attended the wedding. A Kensington Palace spokesman declined to comment. Prince Charles is bracing himself for a potentially embarrassing encounter with President Vladimir Putin - whom he famously likened to Adolf Hitler - at the 70th anniversary cerebrations of D-Day in Normandy. So I am intrigued to hear one of the Royal Familys former protection officers is playing the Fuhrer on screen.
Ex-Royal Marine Jack McKenzie, who guarded the Queen and her family at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and later became an actor, has just finished shooting The Love We Seek, set in Hitlers Berlin bunker in the dying days of the Third Reich. This movie challenges accepted history, says McKenzie. It depicts Hitler as hating all women, including Eva Braun - except for his mother. I am anxious for Prince Charles to see the film, and I would also like to send a copy of it to President Putin. He turns 93 next week and was recently seen with a heavily bandaged wrist after undergoing surgery, but Prince Philip is determined to pursue the lifestyle of a man half his age.
At the weekend, he was driving a carriage in the Long Walk at Windsor Great Park, accompanied by two young women grooms (right). He was out for about an hour, Im told. He looked as focused as ever. The Duke underwent the surgery at Buckingham Palace last month, and four years ago had an operation on his left hand for carpal tunnel syndrome. It was a sartorial challenge at the Audi Polo at Coworth Park, Berkshire, over the weekend. Actress Anna Friel opted for a 2,600 Peter Pilotto dress, which featured what appeared to be a bib on the bodice swamping her slender frame. And Wellington-educated Pop Idol winner Will Young turned up in a mismatched blazer and shorts combo paired with shoes but no socks. Luckily, Princes William and Harry, who were also in attendance in dapper matching polo uniforms, rode in on their steeds to save the event from being a total fashion disaster. Funerals are normally occasions when grudges are put aside. Not last week, however, at the magnificent requiem mass at the Brompton Oratory for David Abbott, founder of the worlds third largest ad agency, Abbott Mead Vickers, whose bluechip clients include Guinness and Walkers.
A conspicuous absentee was Michael Baulk, who was hired by Abbott and his partner Adrian Vickers in 1986 as chief executive, becoming chairman of AMV in 1997 - much to the fury of the agencys third partner, Peter Mead, who allegedly never spoke to Baulk, despite working alongside him for ten years. And last Thursday was payback time. Mead informed Abbotts widow, Eva, that if Baulk went to the funeral he would not attend. In the event, Baulk graciously uninvited himself.
However, Meads victory was short-lived as Vickers did not appear to speak to his former partner at the wake in the Oyster Bar of the Michelin Building. Today, Baulk is chairman of estate agents Marsh & Parsons and BBDO Europe and chairman of The Mill Group, the worlds leading film visual effects company. Mead was chairman of Millwall FC when it was put into administration. Now that Richard Ingrams, 76, has stepped down as editor of The Oldie after 22 years - following his refusal toattend a disciplinary meeting today with publisher James Pembroke - there is mounting dissent among the magazines contributors. Medical columnist Dr Tom Stuttaford tells me: Im flabbergasted. Richard is a genius. I like James, but its a bit cheeky summoning Richard for a disciplinary meeting at his own magazine. Its his baby. Music journalist Mark Ellen, 60, who played guitar with Tony Blair in Oxford pop group Ugly Rumours, is tipped to take over.Few actors get to play their parents.
But now that old charmer Nigel Havers may be on the verge of morphing into his distinguished father in a new movie. Havers, 62, is seeking backing for a script about the infamous Rolling Stones drugs bust at Keith Richards Sussex home and subsequent trial at which Keef and Sir Mick Jagger were defended by Nigels father - former Attorney-General Sir Michael Havers. The two Stones were sentenced to jail, which led to a leader article in the Times with the famous headline: Who Breaks A Butterfly On A Wheel? On appeal, Jaggers three-month stretch was quashed and Richards 12-month internment reduced. Havers (left) says that as a 15-year-old schoolboy he became friendly with Jagger and Richards. When my father defended Mick and Keith, it was the first major celebrity drugs case, he recalls. They came to our flat and I got to know them. But I was sworn to secrecy. I couldnt tell my school friends because it would sound as if I was showing off. The death of Mary Soames, Sir Winston Churchills daughter, is being mourned by writer Celia Lee, who penned a book about the family. When I interviewed Mary for my Churchill book, we stuffed ourselves with tea and chocolate cake served on her late mothers treasured Victorian china.
Mary said to me in relation to Lord Randolphs death: Can we talk about something other than syphilis!? How to embarrass the in-laws. Socialite Poppy Delevingnes nuptials to James Cook in Morocco were attended by 250 guests - including Joan Collins, Sienna Miller and the brides younger sister Cara - who were seated at tables of ten named after rehab clinics. One was called Clouds after Clouds House in Wiltshire, which treated Robbie Williams and Kate Mosss former boyfriend Pete Doherty. Poppy, 28, has said of her mother Pandora, a former heroin addict: I watched her struggling with addiction, in and out of rehab, desperately striving to overcome it. Yesterday, Poppys father Charles denied the tables were named after clinics Pandora had been treated by. Which other family members might have visited them, I wonder?