LONDON — Mark Shand, elephant lover, author, charity fund-raiser, auctioneer and all-round adventurer, died Wednesday at age 62 from a fall he suffered after a charity auction at Sotheby’s in New York for the Big Egg Hunt event organized by jewelry company Fabergé.
This story first appeared in the April 24, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
According to Clarence House in London, Shand died in a New York hospital as a result of a serious head injury that he sustained during a fall Tuesday night.
Shand was the brother of the Duchess of Cornwall and the brother-in-law of Prince Charles. He had one daughter, Ayesha, with his former wife, Clio Goldsmith.
“It is with deep sadness that we have to confirm that the Duchess of Cornwall’s brother, Mark Shand, has today passed away in New York,” said Clarence House. “The duchess, the Prince of Wales and all her family members are utterly devastated by this sudden and tragic loss. Mark Shand was a man of extraordinary vitality, a tireless campaigner and conservationist whose incredible work through The Elephant Family and beyond remained his focus right up until his death.”
Shand was in New York to oversee a Sotheby’s auction to raise funds for his charity, The Elephant Family, which seeks to preserve the Asian elephant, and the New York City charity Action for Children. The auction was the grand finish to the Big Egg Hunt, organized by Fabergé, which began April 1 and saw more than 250 different egg sculptures placed around New York’s five boroughs. The eggs were created by designers including Carolina Herrera, Cynthia Rowley, Marchesa and Olivier Theyskens.
Fabergé and Sotheby’s declined comment Wednesday on Shand’s death, referring calls to Clarence House.
Shand founded his elephant charity in 2002 with four partners and help from financial backers such as Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and Bruce Weber. Goldie Hawn, Diane von Furstenberg and Ben and Zac Goldsmith later came on board.
Shand established the charity after riding an Indian elephant, Tara, on an 800-mile journey across India, a journey he detailed in his book “Travels on My Elephant.” “Tara taught me more about myself than anything I’ve done before,” Shand told W magazine in 1991, when the title was still part of WWD’s parent, Fairchild. “Above all, she taught me humility. It’s difficult to be self-important when you’re riding a beast that could crush you at will.”
Shand was almost the stereotype of the English gentleman playboy, with a rugged movie-star handsomeness; a syrupy voice deepened by chain smoking, and a charm so effortless it immediately put everyone at ease. The son of a former military man, he spent the first part of his adult life traveling the globe, buying and selling antiques, vintage Cartier jewelry and objets d’art with his friend, Harry Fane. When the business turned serious, though, Shand said he couldn’t bear the thought of wearing a suit every day. He decided to keep traveling around Africa, India and Indonesia.
In 1987, he, Fane and photographer Don McCullin took a trip to the jungles of Indonesia because Shand wanted to buy a shrunken head. He succeeded — not without numerous mishaps that included his constant hypochondria, run-ins with cannibals and squabbles over everything from the itinerary to the food. Shand wrote about it all in “Skulduggery.” Asked why he took the trip, Shand told M magazine in 1988, shortly after the magazine launched for the first time: “I just like to travel to remote places and see cultures that few other people have seen. We certainly don’t do it for any macho reason because basically we’re terrified all the time.”