Byline: Aileen Mehle
“Oh, to be in England now that summer’s here.”
And, oh, to be in London right now, now that it’s revolving with the speed of light, a swelling city with as exciting a day life as its night life. This current plethora of Nineties British glamour evokes a pleasure almost physical, brought on by the sight of exclusive hotels teeming with rich-as-Croesus guests from all over the world, fine restaurants spilling with swells and smart shops overflowing with fashionable shoppers willing to buy almost anything in sight. Does it tell you a story when the most expensive shoes in London’s Manolo Blahnik shop are sold out? And if you really want to be snobbishly shod that badly, they’ll be glad to put your name on a waiting list with a mere hundred or so customers ahead of you.
This is a London revived to the point of giddiness, making that old Sixties ditty “England Swings Like a Pendulum Do,” seem quaint and old hat. It was fine for the times, but now with London whirling and swirling overtime, it’s little more than a snooze.
Beautiful Prince William, the heir to the throne once removed, has just celebrated his 16th birthday to much acclaim (though he may hate it, he is absolute catnip to women from eight to 80) and the popularity of his father, the Prince of Wales — soon to celebrate his 50th birthday — is growing and flourishing like the beautiful gardens he tends so lovingly at his country house, Highgrove. (Let me quote from the eminently perceptive editorial, “A Late Bloom,” published in the New York Times on June 22: “He [the Prince of Wales] is seen as a protective father, an innovative manager of his estates, a thoughtful man, a modest, candid future king. In the warmth of this summer…it seems that the Prince and his country are starting to graft. After such a long period of growing apart, it is a startling sight.”) Brilliantly said. And indeed the British media is coming around, and Prince Charles is, again quoting the New York Times, “being celebrated for integrity, modesty and good taste.” Bravo!
Added to these encomiums must come high praise for Prince Charles’s gifts as a host: easy, gracious, aware of his guests and greeting each one with a personal comment. This courtesy is, of course, bred into the Royals since birth, but it is so much a part of the Prince one feels he has absorbed it to his bones. It must also be mentioned that, as a future monarch, he is mindful of the welfare of his country and people, and dear to his heart is The Prince of Wales Foundation, the only one of his charitable organizations based in the United States and dedicated to Britain’s youth, health care, environment, urban and rural renewal. There are many rich and important Americans who support his ideas and ideals, and it was for these generous donors that the Prince gave a fabulous party in the magnificent confines of Kensington Palace.
Who would turn down a personal invitation like that from a future king in one of the most exquisite palaces in England? You may know someone who would. I don’t. It was glamorous enough to entice that beautiful couple, Carolyn and John Kennedy, into winging off to London on the Concorde. It was irresistible enough to lure Diane Sawyer — gliding about in drifting clouds of mauve chiffon — to make a special trip from New York to check it out. It was elegant and exclusive enough to draw Prince and Princess Pierre d’Arenberg and the beauteous Princess Helene of Yugoslavia and her husband Thierry Gaubert. It was grand from a gaggle of American tycoons and their wives, all of whom you will read about here in another column. They dined on halibut terrine with spinach and sweet peppers, herbed roast English lamb and caramelized lemon torte with blackberry coulis at horseshoe-shaped table laden with enough gigantic examples of royal silver to make your head spin, if the wines and champagne hadn’t already. But this is merely scratching the surface. A more detailed report can be read here in Friday’s column.
Have you ever been to Kensington Palace? You really don’t have to be invited by the Prince of Wales, you know. You may take a tour of this splendid seat of monarchs past the next time you’re in London. Of course, you won’t get the royal treatment, but you will see some of the most beautiful clothes worn by 18th- and 19th-century kings and queens, carefully cherished behind vitrines and some of the most astonishingly lovely rooms imaginable. If you’re not about to make the trip yourself, I’ll be your tour guide on Friday. It will be such a nice change from Sharon and Mira, don’t you agree?