Saturday, 30 November 2013

Lucan ITV: week starting 7 December, day and time to be announced

Lucan is a thrilling new two-part drama based on the life of flamboyant aristocrat, Lord Lucan, and written by award-winning writer, Jeff Pope.

Rory Kinnear (Southcliffe, Loving Miss Hatto, Skyfall) will play Lucan whilst Christopher Eccleston (Song for Marion, Blackout, The Shadow Line) takes the role of John Aspinall. 

The drama will tell the story of Lucan’s exploits as a member of the infamous Clermont set and will focus on his marriage collapse to Veronica (Catherine McCormack), the Countess of Lucan. 

With his marriage disintegrating, Lucan became obsessed with regaining custody of his children.   Ultimately the drama will reveal what happened on that fateful night in November 1974 when his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett (Leanne Best), was cruelly bludgeoned to death in the basement of the family’s home in London’s Lower Belgrave Street.

To this day Lucan is thought to have mistaken Sandra for his wife Veronica, whom he blamed for the fractures in his family life.  His whereabouts and eventual fate have remained a mystery for nearly four decades, captivating and intriguing the public whose fascination with Lucan is undiminished.

The drama is inspired by and based upon the book, The Gamblers, written by author John Pearson who conducted exhaustive interviews with those most closely connected to Lucan at the time of Sandra’s murder.  Pearson gained unprecedented access to Lucan’s friends and acquaintances from the Clermont Club who helped him try to piece together the Earl’s movements on the evening of 7 November. Once the dreadful murder had taken place they speculated on how Lucan might have escaped the police search, and what might have ultimately been his fate.

Michael Gambon plays older Burke, Paul Freeman plays John Pearson, Rupert Evans plays Dominic Elwes, Jane Lapotaire plays Susie Maxwell Scott and Gemma Jones plays Lucan’s mother Dowager Countess.


Lord Lucan - Rory Kinnear
John Aspinall - Christopher Eccleston
Veronica Lucan - Catherine McCormack
Older John Burke - Michael Gambon
John Pearson - Paul Freeman
Older Susie Maxwell Scott - Jane Lapotaire
Ian Maxwell Scott - Alan Cox
Susie Maxwell Scott - Helen Bradbury
Dowager Countess - Gemma Jones
Lady Osborne - Ann Bell
Sandra Rivett - Leanne Best
Dominick Elwes - Rupert Evans
Jimmy Goldsmith - Alistair Petrie
John Burke - Rufus Wright
Susie Maxwell-Scott - Helen Bradbury
Annabel Birley - Annabel Mullion
Jane Hastings - Anna Walton
Charlie Benson - James Bradshaw
Ulrich -  Aleksandar Mikic

ITV commissions two-part drama Lucan

ITV today announced commission of a two-part drama, Lucan, based on the life of flamboyant aristocrat, Lord Lucan, and written by award-winning writer Jeff Pope.

Rory Kinnear (Southcliffe, Loving Miss Hatto, Skyfall) will play Lucan whilst Christopher Eccleston (Song for Marion, Blackout, The Shadow Line) takes the role of John Aspinall.  Acclaimed actor Michael Gambon will also appear in the drama.

The drama, produced by ITV Studios/GroupM Entertainment and from the department headed by Creative Director and Executive Producer for ITV Studios Francis Hopkinson (Wallander, DCI Banks, Married, Single, Other), will tell the story of Lucan’s exploits as a member of the infamous Clermont set and will focus on his marriage collapse to Veronica, the Countess of Lucan. 

With his marriage disintegrating, Lucan became obsessed with regaining custody of his children.   Ultimately the drama will reveal what happened on that fateful night in November 1974 when his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, was cruelly bludgeoned to death in the basement of the family’s home in London’s Lower Belgrave Street as she made her way to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

To this day Lucan is thought to have mistaken Sandra for his wife Veronica, whom he blamed for the fractures in his family life.  His whereabouts and eventual fate have remained a mystery for nearly four decades, captivating and intriguing the public whose fascination with Lucan is undiminished.

The drama is inspired by and based upon the book, The Gamblers, written by author John Pearson who conducted exhaustive interviews with those most closely connected to Lucan at the time of Sandra’s murder.  Pearson gained unprecedented access to Lucan’s friends and acquaintances from the Clermont Club who helped him piece together the Earl’s movements on the evening of 7 November. Once the dreadful murder had taken place they shed light on how Lucan escaped the police search, and ultimately his fate.

Lucan will be produced by Chris Clough (Dates, Strike Back, Skins) and executive produced by Francis Hopkinson, Jeff Pope and Quentin Curtis.  The drama will be directed by Adrian Shergold (Mad Dogs, Pierrepoint, Dirty Filthy Love).  Lucan is an ITV Studios/GroupM Entertainment co-production with Executive Producers for GroupM Entertainment being Richard Foster and Tony Moulsdale.

Francis Hopkinson, ITV Studios Creative Director and Executive Producer commented:

“This extraordinary and tragic event has fascinated people for 40 years. Jeff Pope's script, based on John Pearson's book The Gamblers, brings new insight and revelations, which will surprise the audience. We are delighted that a top cast and director have come together to tell this story."

Richard Foster, Managing Director, GroupM Entertainment:

“We are delighted to continue to build on our relationship with
ITV Studios and to be moving into drama with them - especially
when that drama is based on such an intriguing and ultimately tragic story and written by such a talented writer.”

ITV’s Director of Drama commissioning Steve November has commissioned the drama.

“The story of Lord Lucan continues to mystify and intrigue us,” said Steve.  “Jeff’s reputation for award-winning factual drama goes before him and these new scripts offer a compelling insight into the events surrounding Lucan’s disappearance.” 

Jeff Pope has devoted his career to writing and producing factual drama and has a formidable reputation within the genre.  Most notably he wrote and executive produced Mrs Biggs for ITV Studios, and was the executive producer of Appropriate Adult, See No Evil: The Moors Murders, This is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper and The Murder of Stephen Lawrence. 

Filming of Lucan will begin in August 2013 in and around London. 

Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan (born 18 December 1934), popularly known as Lord Lucan, a British peer and suspected murderer, disappeared without trace early on 8 November 1974. He was born into an Anglo-Irish aristocratic family in Marylebone, the elder son of The 6th Earl of Lucan and his wife, Kaitlin Elizabeth Anne Dawson. Evacuated during the Second World War, he returned to study at Eton and from 1953 to 1955 served with the Coldstream Guards in West Germany. Lord Lucan developed a taste for gambling and, skilled at backgammon and bridge, became an early member of the Clermont gaming club. Although his losses often outweighed his winnings, he left his job at a London-based merchant bank and became a professional gambler. He was known as Lord Bingham from April 1949 until January 1964.

Once considered for the role of James Bond, Lucan was a charismatic man with expensive tastes; he raced power boats and drove an Aston Martin. In 1963 he married Veronica Duncan, who bore him three children. When the marriage collapsed late in 1972, he moved out of the family home at 46 Lower Belgrave Street in London, to a property nearby. A bitter custody battle ensued, which Lucan lost. He began to spy on his wife and record their telephone conversations, apparently obsessed with regaining custody of the children. This fixation, combined with his gambling losses, had a dramatic effect on his general demeanour and personal finances.

On the evening of 7 November 1974, the children's nanny, Sandra Rivett, was bludgeoned to death in the basement of the Lucan family home. Lady Lucan was also attacked; she later identified Lucan as her assailant. As the police began their murder investigation he telephoned his mother, asking her to collect the children, and then drove a borrowed Ford Corsair to a friend's house in Uckfield, Sussex. Hours later, he left the property and was never seen again. The Corsair was later found abandoned in Newhaven, its interior stained with blood and its boot containing a piece of bandaged lead pipe similar to one found at the crime scene. A warrant for his arrest was issued a few days later and in his absence, the inquest into Rivett's death named him as her murderer, the last occasion in Britain a coroner's court was allowed to do so.

Lucan's fate remains a fascinating mystery for the British public. Hundreds of reports of his presence in various countries around the world have been made since Rivett's murder, although none have been substantiated. Despite a police investigation and huge press interest, Lucan has not been found and is presumed dead.

Fred Dinenage Murder Casebook . lord lucan

the lord lucan story part 1 (+afspeellijst)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon

What happened off the page was often a lot spicier than what was written on it...

 Why did Norman Mailer stab his second wife at a party?  Who was Edith Wharton’s secret transatlantic lover? What motivated Anaïs Nin to become a bigamist?

Writers Between the Covers rips the sheets off these and other real-life love stories of the literati—some with fairy tale endings and others that resulted in break-ups, breakdowns, and brawls. Among the writers laid bare are Agatha Christie, who sparked the largest-ever manhunt in England as her marriage fell apart; Arthur Miller, whose jaw-dropping pairing with Marilyn Monroe proved that opposites attract, at least initially; and T.S. Eliot, who slept in a deckchair on his disastrous honeymoon.

From the best break-up letters to the stormiest love triangles to the boldest cougars and cradle-robbers, this fun and accessible volume—packed with lists, quizzes and in-depth exposés—reveals literary history’s most titillating loves, lusts, and longings. /

Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads
by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon

Virginia Woolf once said: “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” Well, one might argue, it’s written even larger in their lives. Most fans of fiction remember what Emma Bovary got up to in that carriage, or what drunken debauchery Hemingway’s characters took part in. But did you ever wonder where the creators behind these great works of fiction got their inspiration?

Wonder no more. Finally, we know exactly what happened to Agatha Christie during her mysterious disappearance in 1926, which prompted a nationwide manhunt. We have the answers to questions like: Why did Marilyn Monroe compare meeting Arthur Miller to “running into a tree”? Did Norman Mailer really stab his second wife at an all-night party? (And why the heck did she go back to him, however briefly?) Was Zelda Fitzgerald as crazy as literary legend would have you believe? These are just a few of the questions that get answered in this unputdownable volume of literary scandals and chagrins. The writers and stories are broken down into seven sections, each highlighting the scandalous love lives behind the writers in question, and punctuated by short sidebars with fun factoids about each topic.

Lord Byron was the closest thing to a rock star his age had seen. Dubbed “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” by one conquest, with all his bed-hopping and carousing, one might wonder how he had time to write at all. The Times called him “the most remarkable Englishman of his generation,” but it wasn’t just his literary prowess that was remarkable. He was the classic “love ‘em and leave ‘em” lothario, quickly getting bored and moving on to his next conquest. After an ill-fated marriage, rumors of incest (with a half-sister) and homosexuality (a fondness for young boys) began to surface, making him persona-non-grata in London. He fled to Europe, never to return again.

Never was the battle of the sexes more clearly illustrated than with the long-standing relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The woman who once declared that “love for the woman is total abdication for the benefit of a master” decided to rewrite the rules when it came to her love life. Considering herself a feminist and feeling that marriage, for a woman, was “drawing the short straw,” she repeatedly turned down Sartre’s marriage proposals in favor of a more open relationship. They would remain devoted to each other but were also free to see other people, with the caveat that they would tell each other everything, never lie, and share every detail of their extracurricular activities.

This arrangement fostered a competitive environment between the two intellectuals when they both began vying for the affections of one of de Beauvoir’s young female students: “No matter how progressive de Beauvoir thought herself when it came to relationships, the green-eyed monster once again had her in its grip when faced with Sartre’s unabated desire for another woman. Working through her conflicted feelings, she used the love triangle as the basis for her first novel, SHE CAME TO STAY.” Despite their unorthodox situation, she remained devoted to Sartre until his death.

But it’s not all predilections and wanton sexuality. Many writers used their art as a means of working out the difficulties they could not in life. Tennessee Williams believed his writing was an absolute necessity, claiming “his craft was his way of coping with, and keeping in check, his vast emotional issues. According to Gore Vidal, the playwright ‘could not possess his own life until he had written about it.’” So much so that he devoted most of his memoir to his personal life instead of his professional one, stating, “I could devote this whole book to a discussion of the art of drama, but wouldn’t that be a bore?” Through his plays, he challenged his audiences to open their eyes to real issues like drugs, alcoholism, homosexuality, rape, sexuality in general, and mental illness. Virginia Woolf fans owe a great debt to her devoted husband, Leonard, who took tender care of his fragile wife, keeping her from “heeding the call of the river Ouse” as long as he could.

More often than not, the stormiest of relationships produced the best art. Just look at Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Flaubert, Mailer and the Beats. Competition between writers (Hemingway and Gellhorn, Fitzgerald and Zelda, Anais Nin and Henry Miller) often spurred on some of the greatest works of literature. In some instances, as in the case of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, this competition proved fatal. When his wife’s literary ambitions threatened his own, Scott did whatever he could to quash her attempts: “He became more enraged when he learned that Zelda had sent her novel to his editor, who wanted to publish it. Along with demanding that half the royalties be applied to debts he owed the publisher, Scott took a heavy hand in editing the story, including reworking the portrayal of the fictional husband (based on him) to make him more sympathetic.” One must never forget that often with great talent comes great ego.

Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon, authors of NOVEL DESTINATIONS: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, have more than succeeded in bestowing readers with a compulsively readable, juicy assemblage of scandalous true-life tales that sheds light on some of the great works of literature, and the behavior that inspired it. WRITERS BETWEEN THE COVERS is not just for English majors; it’s for anyone who loves the written word, those who create them, and those who want to know the hidden inspiration behind their favorite novels. (Isn’t that everyone?) It also makes a terrific gift for that hard-to-buy-for book lover on your holiday list, or an interesting change-of-pace selection for your book club, guaranteed to give you hours of scintillating discussion.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The chap meets the rap . Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer.

Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer performs at the National Arts Club, on New York's Gramercy Park. Photograph: Erin McCann for the Guardian

A very English man in New York: Mr B pays homage to hip-hop's roots
The Gentleman Rhymer explains how he came to bring chap-hop – and its raps about tea, toilets and CB Fry – to America

Martin Pengelly in New York

"I'm not going to break America," said Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, tuning his banjolele on the first night of his short tour. "I'm going to fix it."

His statement prompted intriguing questions. Does America know it needs fixing? Does America, which gave hip-hop to the world, know it also needs chap-hop? Does America know it needs raps delivered in precise RP about toilets, tailoring and the correct manner in which to shoot one's cuff?

These and other posers – which have been asked by afficionados of chap-hop since the movement's beginnings in London, five years or so ago – may also have occurred to the US customs officials who briefly detained Mr B. But while your average rap star might be held for, say, transporting narcotics across international lines, Mr B was merely packing a tempting selection of cufflinks and club ties. He was waved through, leaving said officials no doubt more perplexed than concerned.

On record, Mr B himself seems rather more concerned than perplexed. On his new album – Can't Stop, Shan't Stop – he ponders the glorious history and sadly misogynist/materialist present of the music he loves ("Hip-hop chose the cult of me/Hip-hop chose to ignore Chuck D"), states firmly that (I've No Wish To) Keep it Real, then takes aim at the palsied state of pop in general. Witness the withering Brit School: "Strummer would rage but he's six-foot under/ Rotten doesn't care, he's too busy selling butter."

The timeless concerns of the chap are present, of course – Shelltoes or Brogues?, why it is that Ladies Have Friends Who They Hate, the dolorous fact that It Doesn't Pay To Turn Up Late to an Orgy – but it seems that four albums in, and after the amicable conclusion of an internationally reported scrap with the more steampunkish Professor Elemental, chap-hop has, in some ways, grown up.

This may be because Mr B – aka, but only sometimes, Jim Burke – has too. Now music editor at The Chap magazine and a Fringe and festivals mainstay, he arrived in America on the back of a 20-year musical career. It all began with Collapsed Lung and a hit, Eat My Goal, indelibly associated with Euro 96. There was also a spot of big-beat pioneering, as Sgt. Rock, and a dash of something called dandy punk. But less of that.

"I had the idea of Mr B in my head for a few years," he says, when asked how his chap-hop career came about. "I had this whole idea of chap-hop, and being a musician I didn't do anything about it.

But eventually I just recorded something one afternoon and put a MySpace page up, as you did in those days, and after a couple of weeks someone asked me to play at a festival. So I thought, 'I'd best write a few more.'

"I did a 20-minute set and the chap who was doing my sound said, 'I think this is the best thing you've ever done.' So I did some more, and it's all just gone on from there."

In America, it went down very well at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park, where a suitably elegant crowd gathered to celebrate I am Dandy, a book by the writer Nathaniel Adams and photgrapher Rose Callahan. It seemed appropriate that a representative of the sartorially concerned chap movement was there to entertain.
There is, however, more to the Mr B persona. Much of his trip to America is about paying homage to the origins of the music he loves and which his recordings treat with scrupulous respect. Asked about his influences – available in list form in The Corinthians, a new song which brackets the man who invented hip-hop, DJ Kool Herc, with the Edwardian sporting star CB Fry and PG Wodehouse – he says:

What I'd like to do is go to 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, and play Hip-Hop Was To Blame After All. That would be fun, although I'm not quite sure what that part of town's like these days.

"I like playing hip-hop, I like playing about with words… I like playing the banjolele. I like being a bit silly and I like chappishness. And all those things have kind of come together and, surprisingly, seem to work. Whenever anyone asks me about Mr B and the whole vintage thing, though, I always think, 'Well, no. It's more Vivian Stanshall, things like that.'"

Burke's reference to the man behind the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a true English eccentric who died in 1995, reveals a key to chap-hop's appeal which is also, to some, its achilles heel. Chap-hop, though embedded in hip-hop culture – as Mr B's Attack of the Show-boosted first YouTube hit, Chap-Hop History, ebulliently demonstrates – is meant to be funny.
"Yes, music and humour," he says. "The general reaction to this from radio, press and the 'biz' has been a thorn in my side for years. It seems that in pop music as soon as something is considered 'funny', it no longer has artistic merit. I myself think rather the opposite. Humour is one of the most important traits a human possesses and if one employs it in a song I don't see how in any way it denigrates the music. But maybe that's just me."

Guests at the I am Dandy exhibition opening sport vintage clothes – and hairstyles. Photograph: Erin McCann for the Guardian
Mr B is also wary of being pigeonholed as "vintage", whether with regard to fashion or music. If it's understandable that the author of such songs as Let Me Smoke My Pipe and Brushed Tweed in the Hour of Chaos should attract such labels – presumably steamed off old suitcases bought at Radio Days in London or Udelco in New Jersey – it's also his privilege to wriggle a little uncomfortably beneath them.

"Vintage is fine," he says, "but I'm off at a tangent. I want to take it in other directions. That's the thing with various scenes – like steampunk as well. I tend to like to skirt around scenes and never actually get fully involved. It's a surefire way to get squashed creatively, to have a sound that is supposed to sound a certain way. I found that with the Sgt Rock stuff I was doing years ago, because it became the big-beat scene and that took over. Everything sounded like it was worked out by mathematical formula."

Such determined individualism accounts for the unusual array of sounds to be found on your average Mr B album – he plays piano, banjolele and trombone as well as laying down the beats and backing tracks. It may also, of course, be a good way to court obscurity. That, however, is a condition with which Mr B seems reasonably comfortable. On the new album an inappropriately barnstorming "ode to a lack of ambition", Reasons to be Unsuccessful (Part One), is a pendant to The Corinthians' amateurs who "do it because we love it". It's a very British attitude – very chappish – but fortunately enough, quite a lot of Americans seem to like that kind of thing.

"I suppose it's because there isn't so much of it here," says Mr B, "and it's because they're suckers for that particular type of Englishman. I say 'suckers', that's a bad word. I mean it in a good way, obviously.

But it's an ongoing miscomprehension about Englishness which is quite handy for me. Most of the attention to England over here is about royalty and the royal baby and so on, about how we're all gentlemen or peasants. It's not so, of course, but I hope I can play on it.

Once America has been played with, it will be back to Blighty and Brighton and concerts with the likes of The Correspondents, an enormously popular and similarly artistically inclined electro-swing duo. Among potential new projects lurks one which, as much as another of his YouTube hits, Songs for Acid Edward, rather gives away Mr B's early-1990s roots: "acid ragtime". For now that remains in the realm of theory, partly because Mr B's wife, a fashion designer, isn't too fond of the name.

As it happens, Mrs B may also have a role to play in Mr B's long-term future.

"The plan," he says, "should my wife and I ever have a child, is to record a fully psychedelic album and then to retire from playing live. Everyone does that – they record a psychedelic album and then retire, because it's far too complicated to play live.

"Of course, I use a backing track so that's not really an issue. But we'll try not to mention that."

Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer performs at the Slipper Room in New York on Wednesday and at the Gilded Festival in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, on Friday.

Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer (real name Jim Burke) is a parodist who performs "chap hop" — hip-hop delivered in a Received Pronunciation accent. Mr. B raps, or "rhymes", about high society, pipe smoking and cricket while playing the banjolele. The character is described as having grown up in Cheam and attending Sutton Grammar School for Boys.
Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer is an alter ego of Jim Burke, a rapper with the Britpop group Collapsed Lung. Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer started performing in late 2007, playing at cabaret clubs, and venues across the UK including the Glastonbury Festival and club NME in Paris, and performed as part of the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He has performed on radio including the Steve Lamacq show and "Introducing with Tom Robinson" for the BBC. He has also been named as a 'Band of the Month' on the Kooba Radio podcast.
His debut album "Flattery Not Included" was released in 2008 for the Grot Music label, which includes the track "Chap-Hop History" which is a Received Pronunciation reworking of some well known hip-hop classics. Its accompanying video has received numerous views on YouTube. Another track from the album, "Timothy", is about the unique vocal style of BBC Radio's Tim Westwood. Perhaps his best known track, "Straight Out Of Surrey", is a parody of N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton" and purports to be "the extent of his cricket knowledge."
Mr B. has appeared as a guest on the Zero Day album by MC Frontalot, playing the banjolele and providing additional vocals on the track "Better At Rapping".
Until recently, he was engaged in a feud with "chap-hop" artist Professor Elemental. However, Professor Elemental had a short appearance in Mr. B's music video for the song "Like a Chap", of which Professor Elemental said "Much as I hate to admit it, I bloody love that video and am jolly glad (Mr. B) let me gate crash." The "feud" was settled on Professor Elemental's 2012 album Father Of Invention on the track "The Duel," on which Mr. B appeared, and they have made occasional appearances together since.

Photo: Erin McCann for the Guardian

'Chap-Hop History' by Mr.B The Gentleman Rhymer

'Just Like A Chap' by Mr.B The Gentleman Rhymer

Professor Elemental - I'm British (Dir: Moog Gravett) (+afspeellijst)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Paul Smith. New exhibition of the his life's work opens at the Design Museum in London.

As a new exhibition of the his life's work opens at the Design Museum in London, the British designer talks about working without a plan. 'I never think about anything really,' he explains. 'We never had these huge aspirations'

Fashion designer Paul Smith poses in a recreation of his office at the Design Museum. Photograph: Luke Macgregor/REUTERS

Paul Smith design showcase is 'absolutely not a retrospective'
Second Design Museum homage to veteran British designer focuses not on trademark designs but all aspects of the business

Jess Cartner-Morley

"If you ask a question, I'll give you a pair of socks," announced Sir Paul Smith at the press conference to launch a new exhibition about his life, work and creative process at the Design Museum in London.

And with that, the stiffness in the room was punctured, and reporters jostled for the chance to shout their queries, and in return be lobbed a pair of stripey socks from the front of the room, by the fashion designer.

Smith, whose suits are worn by everyone from David Cameron to Tinie Tempah, Sir Mervyn King to David Beckham, has built a business with an annual turnover of £200m by making people smile. "What he does is create a pleasant experience out of very ordinary things," says Donna Loveday, the exhibition's curator. The Paul Smith brand has captured a combination of lighthearted wit, sophistication and British tradition which succeeds in turning cufflinks, wallets, socks, shirts and ties – the everyday essentials of the British man – into fun and desirable purchases.

Hello My Name Is Paul Smith is a second Design Museum exhibition for Sir Paul Smith. In 1995, the True Brit show marked 25 years of his company; in the 18 years since then his empire has continued to expand, making Smith the most consistently successful fashion designer in Britain and the only one to combine commercial success with critical credibility. A company which began in 1970 with one shop, now has more than 300 stores worldwide.

"Classics with a twist" is a dearly held Paul Smith motto, and the twist in this exhibition is that in an era when fashion exhibitions are increasingly in vogue, this one is not really about fashion at all. Clothes on mannequins play second fiddle to displays celebrating the creative process and the history of Smith's business. This is a deliberate move, intended to convey a message: that creativity and hard work are what matter, rather than money or glory.

"This exhibition is not just about fashion, it's about how Paul sees the world," says Deyan Sudjic, director of the museum. A film made on the day of Smith's most recent Paris menswear show puts the catwalk glamour within business, sales and marketing.

The exhibition includes a theatrical set remake of the Paris hotel room in which Smith showed his first collection to buyers, in 1976. Hiding his own suitcase and personal effects in the bathroom, Smith hung his wares in the wardrobe, and laid out shirts on the bed. But no one came - until 4pm on the last of the four days, when one buyer arrived, and placed an order. "That was what got me started," recalls Smith. "I want to encourage young people and to send a message that from a small beginning you can make progress. It doesn't have to be overnight. Young designers come to me now and they think they need catwalk shows, they need 20 shops straight away. But there was no great turning point in my career, no one moment when I suddenly became famous. It's important to be patient, to be humble, and to enjoy every day. This morning I went for a swim at 5.15am, and was in my office at 6am. The first thing I do in my office is put some vinyl on – today it was Talking Heads – and then I start work."

According to Design Museum staff, when Smith arrived for his press conference, he immediately began tidying the stock in the pop-up shop adjacent to the gallery. "I'm a shopkeeper at heart," he told them.

"Our first meeting about the exhibition took place in Paul's office, surrounded by cameras and bikes and books and toy rabbits and letters, and as we talked it became clear that we needed to recreate this room in the exhibition," says Loveday. The two largest spaces are devoted to displaying a tiny fraction of Smith's personal collection of art and mementos, and to a reproduction of his office, with art tomes, bolts of fabric and postcards from fans. By placing his fashion archive in a supporting role to his workplace and sources of inspiration, the 67-year-old designer makes it clear it is the ongoing creative process which interests him, rather than his legacy. "This is absolutely not a retrospective," he told reporters. "And as for retiring – I don't understand that word."

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Diana the Movie ... The worst film of the Year ? (Watch the Video)

Diana reviews 'devastating', says director
Oliver Hirschbiegel upset by British critics' reaction to royal biopic, but blames the country's ongoing 'trauma' over princess’s death
Ben Child

The director of royal biopic Diana has revealed his "devastation" after the film picked up derisive reviews, but blamed Britain's ongoing "trauma" with the late princess of Wales' death for the poor reaction to his film.

German film-maker Oliver Hirschbiegel, previously best known for the acclaimed historical drama Downfall about the last days of Hitler, nevertheless told the BBC he had "no regrets" about making the film. Diana's mauling was "devastating, but when you make a film you don't think about the reactions", he said, adding that he hoped people would make their own minds up about the movie rather than avoid it due to the widespread negative reviews.

"In all the other places where it's opened - in Poland, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Slovakia - it's been very strong," said Hirschbiegel. "I think for the British, Diana is still a trauma they haven't come to terms with."

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw labelled Hirschbiegel's film "an excruciatingly well-intentioned, reverential and sentimental biopic about her troubled final years, laced with bizarre cardboard dialogue", while the Observer's Mark Kermode called it "a film which has neither backbone nor teeth, swerving drearily between hagiography ('I just want to help people!') and hapless cod romance, interspersed with hokey landmine photo-ops and scenic cultural detours through Lahore".

The Telegraph, meanwhile, said the film was "a special class of awful" while The Mirror labelled it "cheap and cheerless". The Hollywood Reporter described the UK reaction as "some of the worst reviews for a British film in recent memory".

Diana stars Naomi Watts as the princess, with Lost's Naveen Andrews as her heart surgeon lover Dr Hasnat Khan. It opened in fifth place at the UK box office last weekend with £623,000 and this week dropped to No 9. Nevertheless, producers have sold the movie to distributors in more than 40 countries around the world and it is due to open in the US on 1 November.

Hirschbiegel also defended the film at the Zurich film festival earlier this week. He described Diana as "very un-British" and said the critical reaction "harked back "to what newspapers like the Daily Mail would write about her back then - really vile things. So I guess I succeeded."

“If the movie had set out with the intention of cruel mockery of its subjects, it would be a triumph.”

Diana, review: 'A special class of awful'
Diana, the new film about Diana, Princess of Wales, is terrible in every single way says Tim Robey

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel. Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Charles Edwards, Juliet Stevenson, Geraldine James; 12A cert, 113 min
“If the movie had set out with the intention of cruel mockery of its subjects, it would be a triumph.”

Whatever our apprehensions for a biopic about Diana, Princess of Wales, I doubt anyone expected it to turn her into a slightly more entitled Bridget Jones. The entire idea must be upsetting for her sons and those who care about her. But for the rest of us Oliver Hirschbiegel’s movie is a special class of awful - too frivolous for offence, too epically miscalculated to add to our understanding. On the plus side, it’s hysterical.
The span of what little drama we get is the two years prior to Diana’s death, principally encompassing Diana’s affair with Hasnat Khan, a Pakistani heart surgeon she met by chance while visiting a friend in hospital. Their series of dates is jolly enough – we begin with a wackily intrusive surgery tour, graduate to dodgy home cooking at Kensington Palace (“pretty hot stuff!”, he says of her efforts) and wind up, with a curious air of tacky inevitability, at Chicken Cottage.
Faced with conspicuously poor dialogue in the average script, most directors and actors might seek to disguise the shoddiness of what they’ve been given. Here the cast do the opposite: they milk every unintentional laugh in Stephen Jeffreys’ screenplay – and there are dozens – as if heaven-sent.
Take the line, “If you can’t smell the fragrance, don’t come in to the garden of love” – a quotation from the 13th century Persian poet Rumi, given to Khan (Naveen Andrews) to whisper to her in bed. It’s said with nary a splutter, not a hint of irony. If the movie had set out with the intention of cruel mockery of its subjects, it would be a triumph.

Naomi Watts, in fairness, is too hard-working an actress to botch her impersonation of Diana totally. What we get is the kind of bad performance that takes talent. It’s less a portrait of the Princess than a hokey send-up – close to a Jennifer Saunders skit, with every tic telegraphed, and head set to permanent tilt. When we see Diana rehearsing what she’s going to say on the legendary 1995 Martin Bashir interview – her line about there being “three people in this marriage” – it has an air of coy calculation that might seem apt for the moment, if it weren’t the constant, giddy top-note of this whole persona.
Andrews has the unenviable task of seeming charmed and smitten by this pixie madwoman, when most rational men in his position would swiftly contemplate a restraining order. For the rest of us, she’s close to a hoot – a hot mess whose comic potential, whether trying out brunette wigs to fool the omnipresent paparazzi, or adopting a crazed Liverpudlian accent to get past hotel minions, is seemingly limitless. It’s a fairly appalling testament to the movie that you don’t come away mourning any aspect of the real Princess of Wales. Whoever this one is, her demise is just flatly dismaying.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie

 Weekend residence of the Windsors
Le Moulin de la Tuilerie is best known as the former weekend residence of Edward, Duke of Windsor, and his wife, formerly Wallis Simpson. Theirs was one of the great love stories of the 20th century: in 1936, Edward VIII renounced the British throne in order to marry Mrs Simpson, an American divorcée.

Under English law at the time, a divorcée could not become Queen, something Edward could not accept. After the war, the Windsors settled in France, where they were offered tax free status. Their main Paris residence was 4, Champ d’Entrainement in the Bois de Bologne, but in 1952 they bought this site in Gif-sur-Yvette to be a weekend retreat. It was the only house they ever owned together.

However, the site clearly has an earlier history. There is thought to have been a mill here since before 1500, although the current main building (Le Moulin) can be dated by its sundial above the main entrance to 1734. The motto on the sundial, Lex His Horis Una Tibi, means ‘The rule of this sundial (or timepiece) is the only one you need.’ Until renamed Le Moulin de la Tuilerie by the Duchess of Windsor, the mill was known as the Moulin Aubert after an earlier owner, although the mill probably owes its current form to one Jean Guillery, who revived it around 1734. Guillery practised a specialised form of milling to extract the maximum amount of flour from the bran from the first milling. There was a working mill on the site until 1908.

Sometime after this, the Moulin Aubert was bought by the artist and illustrator, Adrien Étienne, who became known as Drian. Drian is well known as an illustrator of women’s fashions in the 1920s and 30s but was also an accomplished painter. Drian used the house as a weekend retreat from Paris. In the 1930s, he met Edward, then Prince of Wales, and also painted a portrait of his then mistress, Wallis Simpson, so the Windsors were already acquainted with the painter when they took a year long lease of the site in 1951. The Duke especially loved the place so much that in 1952 they bought it from Drian and sold it only after the Duke’s death in 1972. The site was then owned successively by a Swiss business man and a Lebanese doctor.

The Windsors at Le Moulin de la Tuilerie

After buying the site in 1952, the Windsors spent two years renovating the main house and creating guest accommodation in the outbuildings (La Maison des Amis and La Célibataire). The Duchess renamed the site Le Moulin de la Tuilerie after the group of nearby houses and oversaw the internal works under the guidance of Stéphane Boudin, a well known interior designer. Only a few traces of their work survive today. Almost every weekend when they were resident in Paris, the couple would make the expedition out to Gif, he in a Chevrolet, she in a blue Cadillac, preceded by their staff in a Citroën to get everything ready. Joining them most weekends would be a glittering guest list of nobility and celebrities of the day.

La Célibataire and La Maison des Amis

The Duchess called all her guest accommodation les célibataires (or bachelor’s quarters). The ground floor bathroom in today’s Célibataire (the unit for two people) has its original 1950s half bath and taps. The paneling in La Maison des Amis is also from the Windsors’ day. Guests were always impressed by the Duchess’s thoughtfulness – from a favourite cocktail to china that matched the bedspreads when the maid brought breakfast in bed

Live like a king in France
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor's former bolthole, just outside Paris, is the first property in France offered by the Landmark Trust. And quick and easy to get to on Eurostar

Charlotte Higgins

Staying at La Célibataire is a great tease for those of a republican persuasion. The old mill house – and the surrounding cottages that together form Le Moulin de la Tuilerie – were, from 1952 till 1972, the weekend retreat of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. In those days it was half an hour's drive from their main house in the Bois de Boulogne.

And, while none of the duchess's hectic decorative schemes survives, the Landmark Trust – which specialises in caring for endangered historic buildings and letting them as holiday homes – has ensured that it is difficult to forget them. The faces of the former king and his spouse leer, in the form of blown-up framed photographs, from almost every wall of La Célibataire, the sweet little guest cottage in which the artist, photographer and wit Cecil Beaton is said to have stayed when he visited the couple.

When my boyfriend disappeared into the downstairs bathroom, there came an excitable cry of, "This is definitely Cecil Beaton's hip-bath!" But then there was silence, and a gloomy eventual exit. "There's even a picture of them above the lavatory," he said. "Must we be confronted with the worst excesses of Britain's constitutional arrangement from every wall? Perhaps we could drape a tea towel over them, or something."
Though the Landmark Trust cares for many historic houses in Britain – and indeed has an apartment to rent on the Spanish Steps in Rome – Le Moulin de la Tuilerie is the first property it has taken on in France. There are plans under way to restore, and let out, further buildings in Britanny and near La Rochelle (the latter property, ironically enough, is a 19th-century fort built as a defence against the British).

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie is on the edge of a little town called Gif-sur-Yvette. About 35km south-west of Paris, Gif lies towards the end of the RER commuter line into the capital, in the Chevreuse valley. Its other distinction, aside from the duke and duchess, is that the artist Fernand Léger lived here – he was still alive, residing in a handsome village house down the road, when the Windsors bought the Moulin from the chic French illustrator Drian. History does not relate what the elderly cubist painter thought of the exiled former Edward VIII and his wife.

Gif is neither quite suburbia nor quite deep countryside – commuter-belt Surrey comes to mind – though when we took a walk in the Bois d'Aigrefoin to the west of the mill a pair of deer leapt and darted in front of us, and at night we heard owls from our roomy bedroom in the eaves. The Moulin itself is a delight: a cluster of mostly 18th-century buildings, handsome without being grand, and not quite what you'd expect, given the duke and duchess's well-known taste for the high life, and the splendour of their Paris residence, which had previously been inhabited by Charles de Gaulle.

La Célibataire (or bachelor's quarters, though it sleeps two) is the smallest of the Landmark Trust's three holiday lets here: La Maison des Amis sleeps four and the main house, Le Moulin, sleeps 11. Behind the buildings, running down to the little river Mérantaise, is the skeleton of the garden that the great landscape designer Russell Page created with the duke. I say skeleton, for the chest-deep pool of blue delphiniums and pink stocks that the duke nurtured is long gone, though Page's layout remains, and it is a lovely spot.

This garden was the former king's passion, and he liked nothing better than getting on his tweeds and having a good dig, bullying his guests into helping him lay a stone woodland path, or screaming orders in German to his Alsatian gardeners. (He never got his French up to scratch, but the family mother tongue was in excellent nick.)
Opening on to the lawn is a great barn of a room, which we peered into. Now rather bare, it was once where the duke and duchess foregathered with all their weekend guests, and you couldn't move for dainty tables and chairs, coffee tables made out of regimental drums, and elaborate knick-knackery of every kind, the more vulgar the better. Photographs of the decor show that the pièce de résistance was a carpet, designed by the duchess herself, in a particularly virulent, migraine-inducing shade of swirling emerald.

"I wanted to have a fling with rich, bright colours," she told a newspaper of Le Moulin's décor. "Every house should have a theme: then the decoration becomes something like a musical composition; each room carries the theme but with variations of mood and pace." Whatever the theme was, it found its apogee in the carpet of the drawing room in the main house: vermilion with a thick tartan ribbon detail writhing across it like a python in its death throes. That duchess worked a Schiaparelli frock and an expensive jewel with aplomb, but she let herself down with the decoration of Le Moulin. (May I reassure you that the Landmark Trust has decorated it in unexceptionable sober taste – with the exception of those photographs.)

The fact that the town of Gif is perfectly ordinary has its advantages. We visited the Sunday morning market, between the mairie and the railway station. Tables groaned with delights of all kind, from oysters and John Dory to ceps and those gloriously evil-looking purplish fungi, trompettes de la mort. "It's the only market in France not full of braying English people," said my boyfriend. (Leaving aside us, of course.)

Those with a car might try undertaking some proper sightseeing in Chartres or Versailles. Without one, we debated walking the 25 minutes to the RER station on the other side of Gif and taking the train to the end of the line where, in the town of Chevreuse, there is a magnificent medieval castle, Château de la Madeleine. Instead we took it in the other direction, and 45 minutes after hopping on it were sauntering happily around the Luxembourg Gardens in central Paris. The RER also takes you direct to the Gare du Nord, so the trip is fantastically easy and quick by Eurostar: with a sharp but not punishing early-morning start we were back in London by 11.30am on Monday after our three-night weekend stay. The canny weekender might consider a Friday-morning train to Gare du Nord, stashing bags in left luggage and lunching in Paris, before taking the RER in the late afternoon out to Gif.

The Windsors also let themselves down badly when it came to putting the property on the market in the late 1960s. Pressed for cash, and eager to maximise the price, they proposed a scheme on the land for 537 dwellings, 560 parking spaces and a tennis club, and pulled every government string they could to see it accepted. Fortunately, the good mayor of Gif stood up against them (vive la république!) and the scheme never came to fruition. No thanks to them, the surrounding area remains green. Even Diana Mosley – who lived a couple of stops up the RER line in Orsay, in a gorgeous little Revolution-era building called Le Temple de la Gloire – thought this was poor form, which is saying something.

The Landmark Trust (whose patron is the Windsors' great-nephew, Prince Charles) is an infinitely more reliable guardian of this pretty plot than the duke and duchess.

• La Célibataire at Le Moulin de la Tuilerie (01628 825925, sleeps two people and costs from £381 for a three-night weekend (Friday-Monday). Eurostar (08432 186186, fares from London St Pancras to Paris start at £69 return

Charlotte Higgins is the Guardian's chief arts writer
Overview of Le Moulin de la Tuilerie in Gif-sur-Yvette, near Paris, one time home to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

In Wallis's footsteps: The holiday home by royal appointment
A safe haven for a scandalous couple, the French country home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor is about to open its doors to paying guests for the first time. John Lichfield takes a tour

The Moulin de la Tuilerie is a paradise of warm stones and wooded slopes: an image of France at its most profonde. The 18th-century mill beside a chattering stream is also a paradox wrapped in a contradiction. It is a rural Eden which stands 35km from the Eiffel Tower. It is a corner of deepest France which will be forever England.
For almost two decades, the Moulin was the retreat of Britain's king over the water and his forbidden American bride. Here, from 1952 to the late 1960s, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – "David and Wallis" to their closest friends – entertained, casually or royally. Their house guests included, among others, Cecil Beaton, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlene Dietrich.

Here, the Windsors, the most photographed couple of their era, also liked to pretend that they were ordinary people. "David", the present Queen's uncle, gardened in muddy, baggy trousers and crumpled tweed jackets – as is every Englishman's right. Wallis played mummy to her surrogate family of pug dogs.

The former King Edward VIII (the only British monarch to abdicate in modern times) also had a more formal house in the Bois de Boulogne, which was let to him for a peppercorn rent by the city of Paris. The Moulin at Gif-sur-Yvette, a little to the south of Versailles, was the only house that the Windsors owned. Wallis once described it as "our only real home".

From July, the Moulin de la Tuilerie can be anyone's home – for a weekend or a week or a fortnight. The mill which was once the Windsors' pride and joy is to be the first cross-Channel venture of The Landmark Trust, the British charity which buys and restores historic buildings and lets them to weekenders and holidaymakers.

Landmark France, will, for the most part, be a partnership with the agency which protects the French coastline, the Conservatoire du Littoral. Plans are well advanced for Landmark – at the Conservatoire's invitation – to restore and let a series of abandoned, historic buildings along the French coast, starting with a sardinery on an island off Douarnenez in Brittany and a fort on an island off La Rochelle. These buildings should be ready by 2012.

However, Landmark's first cross-Channel excursion – to be formally announced today – is to be one of the charity's most spectacular sites. Holidaymakers will be able to take either the main mill house at Gif (which sleeps 12) or the two stone outbuildings converted by the Windsors (which sleep four or two).

Caroline Stanford, Landmark's historian and assistant director of Landmark France, said: "The Moulin triumphantly meets all our criteria for a Landmark site. It is a beautiful place in itself. The buildings have the simple, elegant charm of rural France – buildings with soul and purpose, made from local materials which blend perfectly into their surroundings.

"But the mill is also deeply entwined with one of the key moments in British 20th century history ... and not just British history. The Windsors were an important part of Paris society in the 1950s and 1960s. They also had a great influence on the style of the period. And because Wallis was American, they remain iconic figures in the US to this day."

King Edward VIII abdicated on 10 December 1936 after less than 11 months on the throne. The British, and Dominion, governments had made it clear that they would not accept Wallis Simpson, his twice-divorced, American, former mistress, as the Queen or even as the Royal Consort. Faced with a triangular choice between his throne, a constitutional crisis or "the woman I love", Edward VIII – always known to the Royal family as David – chose Wallis.

The couple spent the rest of their lives in exile from Britain, symbols of romance and style to some; wrong-headed, immature, irritating socialites to others. The Royal family always refused to acknowledge Wallis as an HRH. Edward's reputation never recovered from his playing footsie with Adolf Hitler, who cleverly offered Wallis full state honours to persuade the couple to visit in October 1937, soon after their marriage.

After the war, the Windsors accepted an invitation from the French government to settle, tax-free, in Paris. They bought the mill in 1952 from the French painter Etienne Drian to escape their grander but too-public house in the Bois de Boulogne. Most weekends, "David" and Wallis would drive the 30 minutes from Paris in his Daimler. The Duchess's luggage, pugs and two maids would follow in her light blue Cadillac station-wagon.

Externally, the buildings today remain almost unchanged since the Duke and Duchess's time: an island of rural charm in the green Chevreuse valley and national park at the edge of, but untouched by, the south western sprawl of the Parisian suburbs. The gardens straddling the stream still have the outline which was imposed – and sometimes personally hewn and dug – by the Duke. He spent much of his time at the mill "looking crumpled and happy", according to one guest. His beloved beds of showy flowers, which make the grounds look like an impressionist painting in contemporary photographs, have long since become lawns.

"It is a very tranquil place," the Duke once said, "where one can garden as one should in old clothes, with one's hands among familiar plants." The royal habit of describing oneself as "one" goes back at least two generations, it seems.

In her 1987 book, The Windsor Style, Suzy Menkes has a chapter on life at the Moulin. She says that the Duke employed five gardeners, two of them Spanish, two Alsatian and one French. "As the Duke's German is sort of better than his French, he likes to talk German with them," the Duchess is quoted as saying.

The graves of several generations of Windsor pug dogs – Trooper, Disraeli, Imp, Davy Crockett – can still be found among the trees and boulders of the hill that overlooks the house. This was known as "Cardiac Hill" to the Duke, who would force his overweight guests to climb to the crest.

At the end of the garden is a round stone hut, still divided into the original His and Hers changing rooms designed for the Duke and Duchess (blue stripes for him; red stripes for her).

Inside the main mill house, much of the original decoration was stripped out by the Lebanese millionaire who owned the house in the 1980s and 1990s. One amusing vestige remains.

The Duchess had a mural painted on the main wall of the upstairs reception room as a wry commentary on the poor treatment that she believed that she had received at the hands of the British establishment. The mural, as clear today as the day it was painted, shows a water mill wheel entwined with the words: "I'm not the miller's daughter but I've been through the mill."

To know how the rest of the interior looked in the 1950s and 1960s, you need to use your imagination or to consult the many pictures that were taken at the time. One large wall was occupied with a giant map of the world, marked with the Duke's 150,000 miles of Imperial journeys as Prince of Wales in the 1920s. Another carried a frame containing the regimental buttons of every British unit which fought in the trenches in the 1914-18 war – a war in which the young David had insisted on serving, briefly, in the front line. He was even mentioned in dispatches.

The interior décor was, judging by photographs, garish, verging on the dazzlingly ugly. "It was very bright with patterned carpets, lots of apricot, and really more Palm Beach than English or French," said Diana Mosley (nee Mitford), the wife of the British fascist leader, Sir Oswald, an unrepentant Nazi fellow-traveller and frequent visitor at Gif in the 1950s. The American interior decorator Billy Baldwin says in the Suzy Menkes book: "Most of the mill was awfully tacky but that's what Wallis had – tacky southern taste, much too overdone, much too elaborate and no real charm."

The upper northern wing of the house consists of the former, separate apartments of the Duke and Duchess (hers much grander than his). Although only the walls remain, it is easy to imagine the Duchess lolling in a tub in her stunning bathroom with picture window views of the countryside on three sides. The Duke had a tiny bedroom with upstairs bathroom, where, preferring to shower, he kept his books and papers in the bath.

The Landmark trust is in the process of restoring and refurnishing the mill's interior in comfortable appropriate style but will not (mercifully) attempt to recapture the interior Windsor look. The charity, founded in 1965, owns or manages 182 properties in the United Kingdom. It already has four " Landmarks" in Italy, which have connections with the British poets Shelley, Keats and Browning. In 2007, Landmark was approached by the Conservatoire du Littoral and asked to extend its work to France.

The Conservatoire was impressed by Landmark's work in Britain. It wanted an experienced partner to help to rescue scores of disaffected, but potentially stunning, buildings along the French coastline. The Landmark Trust's Director, Peter Pearce, told The Independent: "In many ways, we share the same values and aims as the Conservatoire. They have an obligation to preserve the beauty of the French coastline. We have experience, unique in the world, in identifying and restoring threatened buildings of historic value and giving them a new life by making them available for weekenders or holidaymakers. It seemed like a partnership made in heaven."

The Conservatoire will provide around 80 per cent of the funds for the restoration of French coastal buildings. The rest will come from sponsorship and appeals in France.

The French " Landmarks" will be let to both British and French holidaymakers and – it is hoped – inspire more cross-Channel visitors to stay in the charity's properties in the UK.

Work has now progressed to the point that Landmark has created a wholly French clone, Landmark France, which is non-profit-making like the UK parent. Two French coastal "Landmarks" are under development and should be ready for letting in the next couple of years. One will be based in old sardine fishery offices on an island off the Breton coast at Douarnanez, just south of Brest. There are plenty of British historical connections, as Caroline Stanford, Landmark's historian points out. Douarnenez was blockaded by the British fleet in Napoleonic times and was for centuries a base from which French privateers raided British shipping.

The second coastal "Landmark" in France will be the Ile Madame, an 18th- and 19th-century fortress off La Rochelle, built to protect France from ... guess who. A score of other French coastal " Landmarks" will follow.

The Windsors' mill – which falls outside the scope of the partnership with the Conservatoire du Littoral – became available just as Landmark France was taking shape. "It is, we hope, the perfect property to give a lift-off to the French venture," said Caroline Stanford. "We expect international interest and also an income to help fund development of our other French projects once it is ready to let from July."

There are three buildings on the site: the main mill sleeping 12, and the annexes Le Célibataire (The Bachelor Pad) sleeping two and La Maison des Amis (The Friends' House) sleeping four. They will be available separately or all together but each building must be let as a complete unit. Although details have not yet been finalised, Landmark says that holidaymakers or weekenders who take the whole of one, or more, of the three buildings on the site for at least three nights should expect to pay about £50 per day per head.

The Moulin de la Tuilerie had been empty and disused for four years when it was taken over by a British investment company in partnership with a Briton who had moved to France, Patrick Deedes.

"I was looking for a change of direction and wanted to restore a very special property in France," Mr Deedes, 50, told The Independent. "We looked at more than 80 places before we stumbled on this. It had been empty for four years and was in, well, quite a state but the basic buildings were still fine."

Last year, Mr Deedes and the investment company which owns the Moulin reached an agreement with Landmark to complete the restoration and manage the buildings from this summer.

Mr Deedes, his wife, Isabelle, a former model, and their two daughters, aged nine and five, live in the Moulin's gatehouse. Thereby hangs another tale, which links the mill to a second generation of forbidden royal romance.

Isabelle Deedes is the daughter of Group Captain Peter Townsend, the RAF officer and former equerry to King George VI who was refused permission to marry Princess Margaret in the 1950s because he was a divorcé. Group Captain Townsend later moved to France and fell in love with a Belgian woman – Isabelle's mother. He was a frequent visitor at the Moulin in the Windsors' time. They even named one of their pugs after him.

"This was pure coincidence," said Mr Deedes. "Isabelle was a little doubtful at first, because of the link with her father ... But we decided to take the plunge. We are very pleased that we did. It is very special place. Even without the history, it is a special place. The historical connections make it an extraordinary place." A corner of a foreign field which will remain forever ...

Strolling around the grounds where the Duke of Windsor once laboured, and gave orders to his Spanish gardeners in German, we spotted a small white object lying in a narrow watercourse. It turned out to be a ball belonging to the Deedes' daughters. It was marked with the red and white cross of St George and carried a single word: "England".

Official residence: The Windsors in Paris

The official home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor from 1950 was a 19th-century villa at 4, Rue du Champ d'Entraînement in the Bois de Boulogne, on the western outskirts of Paris. The house, belonging to the Paris town hall, was given to the Windsors at a nominal rent to encourage them to move to France.

They never liked the villa much. It was not theirs. It was too public. They felt, according to friends, like animals in a gilded zoo. Although they entertained, very formally, in the Paris house, they spent every weekend and every summer in their "only real home", Le Moulin de la Tuilerie.

When the Duchess died in 1986, 4, Rue du Champ d'Entraînement was leased for 50 years to Mohammed al Fayed, the owner of Harrods. In 1997, he irritated the Royal family, and the Paris Town Hall, by selling off its contents, including the remaining Windsor memorabilia, at auction.

On the morning before their fatal car crash in Paris in August 1997, Mr Al Fayed's son, Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales, visited the old Windsor villa in Paris. Mr Al Fayed has since suggested that, had they lived, they would have made it their home. The Princess's friends have disputed this.

One of the swimming pool changing rooms in Le Moulin de la Tuilerie in Gif-sur-Yvette, near Paris

Rural retreat: The Tuilerie garden where the Duke liked to potter around 'among familiar plants'

A refitted bathroom in Le Moulin de la Tuilerie in Gif-sur-Yvette

A mural painted by the Duchess of Windsor in Le Moulin de la Tuilerie in Gif-sur-Yvette

The house's abandoned swimming pool

The elegant official residence at 4, Rue du Champ d’Entraînement in the Bois de Boulogne

 Reliving a royal scandal at the French home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

There’s something irresistible about the Landmark Trust’s first venture on Gallic soil. The lush gardens, the chatty brook, the horses lounging in the fields, the proximity to Paris.
But perhaps what really makes it irresistible is that this is the house that once belonged to the
Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the only house they ever owned together.
And now that Madonna’s film about Wallis Simpson, W.E., is about to be released, it’s more irresistible than ever.
Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, about half an hour’s drive from the centre of Paris, sits in a dip near the village of Gif-sur-Yvette. The Windsors’ roomy country retreat comfortably houses 11 and can be rented for a weekend or a full week.
It’s a step into the past. The main house is spacious with glorious views out over the grounds where once the stream would have turned the mill wheels.
The only piece of furniture still in situ from when the Windsors lived there from 1952 to 1972 is a large regimental drum which is now a coffee table. But there is an undeniable atmosphere.
Neat steps lead up to a crest, which the Duke named Cardiac Hill because of the effort of climbing to the top (he smoked copiously, though).
It must have been quite a sight when the couple turned up at weekends in their own cars, a Daimler and Cadillac (no prizes for guessing who was in which), each with their own entourage.
The large collection of photographs of the couple displayed on the walls shows these international jet-setters in a domestic environment. The Duke sitting cuddling his favourite pugs, the Duchess in the garden giggling over some pug antic or other.
I managed to track down a French woman still living in Gif, now in her 80s, who was born at Le Moulin. Her father was the gardener during the early years of the Windsors’ occupation.
I hoped this woman, Ginette David, might offer a pro-Wallis view, but it was not to be.
She explained that Mrs Simpson always acted in a haughty way, obliging Ginette to curtsey, whereas the Duke was kinder and liked nothing better than wandering around the grounds chatting with her dad.
Period features have been retained by the Landmark Trust after they redid the decor, and they sit well with the stone building’s current neutral, more modern feel.
Otherwise Le Moulin is an ideal backdrop for holidaymakers to go rambling and imagine what went on between its four walls.
Two guest cottages can be rented either separately or together with the main house. Society photographer Cecil Beaton was a frequent guest at La Celibataire, the bachelor pad, which sleeps two.
Next door is La Maison Des Amis, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton stayed. Marlene Dietrich and Maria Callas were also visitors.
This small house, sleeping four, is upside down with the two bedrooms on the ground floor while the living areas are upstairs.
It looks out over the grounds where the Duke would spend hours recreating an English cottage garden with borders and dreamy delphiniums.
The Duke’s bedroom in the main house has just been repainted and Wallis’s quarters have been done up too, but none of this removes that subtle air of mystery that surrounds one of the most sensational events in British royal history, which all goes to make it the ultimate weekend retreat.
Travel Facts
Le Moulin costs from £1,285 for a three-night weekend, £907 for four nights midweek and £1,710 for a week (

 France: Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson, and their glitzy guests live on in Landmark Trust's first venture over the Channel.  Ian White reports

Shortly after Landmark opened the doors of Le Moulin de la Tuilerie – the weekend retreat of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on the rural edge of Gif-sur-Yvette, in the south-western suburbs of Paris – Colin Firth captivated cinema audiences as the Duke's stammering sibling, King George VI, in this year's runaway Oscar-winner, The King's Speech. Interest in King Edward VIII, who gave up his throne in 1936 to marry the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson, was rekindled.

The flames were fanned when Britain's newest royal couple announced plans to marry in April, and Channel 4 chimed in with a television adaptation of William Boyd's novel, Any Human Heart, in which the Windsors are portrayed. This renewed interest in the controversial couple is set to peak this summer when W.E. (Wallis and Edward), a biopic written and directed by Madonna, is due for release.

Certainly, anyone tempted to take the 40-minute trip down the RER B commuter line from the Gare du Nord to stay at the Windsors' refuge will find themselves burrowing deeper and deeper into their little-known private life. From the moment you set foot inside the 26-acre estate, with its collection of pretty 18th-century stone buildings set by a stream, beyond which lie abandoned tennis courts and the remains of a swimming pool (complete with his-and-hers changing hut), the urge to find out more becomes irresistible.

The Windsors bought Le Moulin de la Tuilerie in 1952, turning the mill into their "only real home", and a large stone barn into two cottages for guests, who included Cecil Beaton, Maria Callas, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Mosley (née Mitford). Another barn, with an enormous pitched roof, was converted into what they called the museum. It was filled with mementos of the Duke's official tours of the British Empire when he was Prince of Wales. An enormous map, almost covering one wall, showed where he'd been, while hunting trophies on the other walls showed what he'd shot on his travels. Regimental drums were used as coffee tables and some of these are now to be found inside Le Moulin, still serving the same purpose.

Newly refurbished by Landmark, Le Moulin sleeps 11, while the two cottages, named La Célibataire and La Maison des Amis by Wallis, sleep two and four respectively. In contrast to the Duchess's busy, garish and even perplexing décor, Landmark's approach has been to give the interiors a smart, modern feel while retaining some period features and furniture where appropriate. The ground-floor bathroom in La Célibataire, for example, has its original 1950s half bath and taps, and the panelling in La Maison des Amis is also from the Windsors' day. The museum, meanwhile, has been renamed The Orangerie and stripped bare, making it an ideal space for conferences and social gatherings.

The most remarkable original feature on site is a mural painted on the wall above the door to Le Moulin's reception room, now a breakfast/dining room. Commissioned by Wallis, it depicts a water-mill wheel, around which are inscribed the words: "I am not the miller's daughter, but I've been through the mill." Almost every room of Le Moulin, La Célibataire and La Maison des Amis has large framed photographic prints of Wallis and "David" (as Edward was known to his friends and family) posing for the camera in a range of often bizarre clothing. Many were taken by Cecil Beaton who regularly stayed at La Célibataire. As you return their stares and peer into the backgrounds, you get a feeling of life at the mill between 1952 and the late Sixties. You see Edward up to his eyes in blue delphiniums, indulging his passion for gardening, and some of Wallis's staggeringly awful interior design schemes. There are plenty of books about the Windsors on hand in each building to fill in the details.

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie signals Landmark's expansion into France and will help to fund its new division, Landmark France, but it is not typical of the type of buildings the organisation will offer in the coming years. Though it may take on projects such as Le Moulin with other property owners, Landmark France is essentially a partnership with the Conservatoire du Littoral, a public body, founded by the French State in 1975 to restore historic buildings along the French coast.

Its first two projects with the Conservatoire are La Maison de Maître (the Master's House) on Ile Tristan at the port of Douarnenez in Brittany, and Le Fort Ile Madame at the mouth of the Charente near La Rochelle. Both properties are due to open in 2013.

La Maison de Maître belonged to the master of the sardine-packing stations on Ile Tristan until 1910, when the island was bought by the family of the French poet Jean Richepin and the house was extended to accommodate their Bohemian friends from Paris. Landmark is working with the Conservatoire to improve access to the island and restore the house for hire to parties of eight. Part of the ground floor will be reserved for use as an exhibition room by the town.

Ironically, the main function of the imposing fort on Ile Madame, off the coast from La Rochelle and Rochefort, was to keep the British out in the 1860s when Anglo-French relations were unusually tense. Now Landmark is transforming its large and beautifully constructed stone barracks into two properties for eight people to stay in.

Compact facts

How to get there

Landmark Trust (01628; landmark offers La Célibataire at Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, sleeping two, from £381 for a three-night weekend; La Maison des Amis, sleeping four, from £741 for a three-night weekend; and Le Moulin, sleeping 11, from £1,403 for a three-night weekend. Ian White travelled to Paris with Eurostar (08432 186186;, which has return fares to Paris Gare du Nord from £69.