Monday, June 27, 2011

A Waltz with a Princess

Quite by accident, I came across this odd, rather snide little anecdote about Princess Marie-Christine and her mother, Princess Lilian, from the relentlessly name-dropping memoirs of British designer Nicholas Haslam.
Another less fulfilling Parisian coup de foudre began at Isobel Goldsmith's exotic debutante ball, where all the girls were instructed to wear tête fleuriée. Next to me at dinner a towering tiara of flowers encircled the head of a rather pretty blonde named Marie-Christine. We danced frequently, and suddenly she held me very close, whispering that this moment was all she had dreamed of, waltzing with a handsome young Englishman; she would like it to last forever, and even hinted at something more permanent. Somewhat alarmed, I asked Isobel the name of this forthright friend. I was even more alarmed to learn she was a princess of Belgium, daughter of King Leopold III and Mme de Réthy. And within a few minutes I was bowing to that supremely elegant woman, who was clearly giving me the once-over. I failed her testing eye. But not, it turned out, entirely. A year or so later, at Patrick Lichfield's wedding to Leonora Grosvenor, there again was ma princesse, with the same intentions; so much so that I was asked to spend the night at Cholmondeley Castle, where she and Mme de Réthy were staying. I declined, I hope politely. Later I rather proudly told the story to Tom Parr. "Good God", he said."Just imagine being the Tony Snowdon of Belgium". (Redeeming Features: A Memoir, 2009, pp. 270-271)

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