Thursday 30 March 2023

 




Architecture

French home of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson to become a museum

Published 23rd March 2023

The Villa Windsor in the Bois de Boulogne near Paris is expected to open to the public in the summer of 2024.

Credit: Wolfgang Kuhn/United Archives/Getty Images

Written by

Lianne Kolirin, CNN

https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/windsor-villa-museum-scli-intl/index.html#:~:text=The%20run%2Ddown%20Villa%20Windsor,a%20multi%2Dmillion%20euro%20renovation.

 

The French villa where the former British King, Edward VIII, lived with his American wife Wallis Simpson will open to the public for the first time.

The run-down Villa Windsor in the Boulogne woods of western Paris will open as a museum next year to coincide with the Paris Olympics, following a multi-million euro renovation.

Only days before King Charles III and the Queen Consort are due to make their first state visit to France, Paris city council signed the villa over to a charitable foundation committed to preserving and promoting French heritage.

Set in gardens stretching to 1.5 hectares, the 14-room mansion was where the former king, who scandalized British society after abdicating in 1936, lived out his later life with his wife.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the lounge of the Paris mansion.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the lounge of the Paris mansion. Credit: Robert Siegler/INA/Getty Images

Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich and Aristotle Onassis were among the many rich and famous who partied and socialized at 4 route du Champ d'Entraînement, after the then Duke and Duchess of Windsor occupied it in 1953.

The couple lived there until they died -- the duke in 1972 and the duchess in 1986. In the days before his death, the duke was visited by his niece, Queen Elizabeth II. Her son, then Prince Charles, had also previously visited -- an encounter dramatized in series three of "The Crown."

The truth about Wallis Simpson, the woman accused of stealing a king

Albéric de Montgolfier, president of the charitable organization Fondation Mansart, told CNN Wednesday that the city council leased the run-down mansion to his organization for 32 years.

"This house has never been open to the public before," he said, as he outlined plans to update the property in time for the Olympics in the summer of 2024.

Viewers of "The Crown" will have seen a recreation of the villa in the blockbuster Netflix show, but none of the episodes were filmed at the Paris location.

The house was built in 1928 and has always been owned by the city of Paris, according to de Montgolfier.

In 1944, it opened its doors to the exiled General Charles de Gaulle, who moved in with family following the liberation of Paris for two years.

De Montgolfier said: "It was a very interesting period because lots of France's laws were signed there, including the one giving French women the right to vote."

Members of the public will be able to visit the house for free from next summer, following an extensive renovation project.

Members of the public will be able to visit the house for free from next summer, following an extensive renovation project. Credit: Manuel Litran/Paris Match/Getty Images

Following the death of the Duchess of Windsor, the lease was taken over by Mohamed Al Fayed, the Egyptian billionaire businessman.

De Montgolfier said: "Al Fayed originally intended it as a home for his son Dodi and had planned an engagement lunch there for Dodi and Diana."

But tragically the lunch never took place, said de Montgolfier, as it had been scheduled for the day after the couple were killed in the city in August 1997.

"Four years ago Mohamed Al Fayed decided to give it [the villa] back to the city of Paris," said de Montgolfier.

Episodes of "The Crown" -- including this one from season three -- have been set inside the house, but were filmed elsewhere.

Episodes of "The Crown" -- including this one from season three -- have been set inside the house, but were filmed elsewhere. Credit: Des Willie/Netflix

Part of why the foundation was entrusted with the house is because it has successfully restored the Château de Bagatelle, just meters from Villa Windsor in the Boulogne woods.

Koh-i-Noor diamond to be recognized as 'a symbol of conquest' in exhibition

Work on the villa, expected to take more than a year, will include installing a new heating system as well as measures to ensure it meets 21st century health and safety standards. There will be a cafe and small restaurant on site and admission will be free.

As well as a museum with a permanent exhibition detailing its history, the newly renovated villa will also be used to stage events.

"It is a luxury house with a big, big dining room, a beautiful hall, a library and one and a half hectares of gardens," de Montgolfier said. "It is just 10 minutes from the Place de l'Étoile in a really great location."

 


WINDSOR'S PARIS HOME TO BECOME MUSEUM

 

By Alice Furlaud

Dec. 25, 1986

December 25, 1986, Section 1, Page 37

https://www.nytimes.com/1986/12/25/garden/windsor-s-paris-home-to-become-museum.html

 

This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.

 

MOHAMMED al-Fayed, an Egyptian businessman who owns the Ritz Hotel in Paris and Harrods department store in London, has taken a 50-year lease on the former home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Le Bois, in the Bois de Boulogne.

 

The house, a graceful 19th-century villa of 14 rooms surrounded by a large tree-filled garden, belongs to the City of Paris. Although he refuses to say how much he is paying, Mr. Fayed calls it ''a peppercorn rent.''

 

The City of Paris is equally taciturn. Bernard Niquet, a city official, said, ''The city rented the house to Mr. Fayed because it was absolutely neccessary that it remain a private residence and be well kept up.''

 

Not everyone acquiring such a residence would want to live there with the personal possessions of the former occupants, right down to the last pair of socks. But Mr. Fayed, who says he will spend about $2 million to rehabilitate the house, plans to keep about two-thirds of it intact as a private museum of Windsor memorabilia, to be visited only by ''historians, members of the British royal family, personalities, friends and important guests of the Ritz.''

 

When not in his town house in London, his castle in Scotland or his country house in Surrey, Mr. Fayed will occupy the seven-room top floor of the Paris house, ''two or three times a month,'' he said. His wife and three youngest children will join him during the school holidays.

 

In an interview in London, Mr. Fayed said his interest in the house and the Windsors was part of a lifelong fascination with history and romance. ''I come from Alexandria - that's where Antony fell in love with Cleopatra.'' he said, ''It's the most romantic city in the world.'' The Duke and Duchess moved into Le Bois in 1953 after Jansen, the Paris decorating concern, redid the home under the supervision of the Duchess.

 

It was the Paris home of the peripatetic couple for the rest of their lives.

 

The Duke died in 1972 and the Duchess last April.

 

Mr. Fayed met the Windsors only once, when he attended a party at Le Bois about 20 years ago. He says he remembers ''the way they danced and their sense of fun.''

 

''It was the romance of the century,'' he said. ''Here was a great king of a great empire, saying goodbye to it all for a beloved woman. And I had the chance to preserve the house where he lived and all these objects. They're the heritage of Britain, which is my second home.''

 

According to Mr. Fayed, the Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, approached him as a possible tenant for the house even before the Duchess died. But it was Mr. Fayed's idea to buy the entire contents of the house, which were to be sold by the Duchess's executors.

 

''They'd started to make a catalogue - most of the things still have numbers on them,'' said Mr. Fayed, who declined to say what he paid for the contents. ''But you'll find the place exactly as if the Duke and Duchess had just gone out to dinner.''

 

Indeed, the house has an almost eerily personal atmosphere, with photographs of royal relations signed with nicknames, a pastel portrait of the Duke's last pug, Black Diamond, in the Duchess's bathroom, and the Duke's hats in the hall closet.

 

Sidney Johnson, 63 years old, who was the Duke's valet for 32 years, was the person who restored these possessions to their places. Mr. Johnson may be the most important treasure of all the Windsoriana. He has been installed at Le Bois as valet for Mr. Fayed and as a kind of house curator, moving over from the Ritz, where he had been a waiter.

 

''Sidney is a dictionary,'' Mr. Fayed said. ''He's a very cultured man. He got all these things out of boxes and safes and storage rooms, and he knows their history.''

 

Mr. Johnson, a Bahamian, began working for the Duke in 1940 when he was 16 and the former King was Governor of the Bahamas.

 

On a tour with Mr. Johnson through the elegant rooms, full of the glitter and gold of mirrors, chandeliers and ormulu, he recalled the house's past.

 

''This is where they always had their big, tall Christmas tree,'' Mr. Johnson said, standing in the two-story front hall under the trompe l'oeil ceiling of a painted blue sky and balconies in the Venetian style. ''On Christmas Day they'd always be alone, just with us, the staff and our families. The dogs would be running around getting presents, too.''

 

Pug dogs are a main theme of the decor at Le Bois. There are photographs and sketches of the Windsors' dogs, as well as small china pugs and pug-patterned cushions.

 

The formal parts of the house seem in good shape. Missing are the 18th-century French furniture, bibelots and china that the Duke and Duchess gave to Versailles and other French museums 20 years ago, retaining their use during their lifetimes.

 

The furnishings at Le Bois appear sparse in contrast to Mr. Johnson's recollections of the many antiquing trips the Duchess took with a friend, Lady Mendl (the decorator Elsie de Wolfe). ''If she hesitated,'' Mr. Johnson said, ''Lady Mendl would say:

 

'Go on! Buy it! It might come in useful someday.' ''

 

In the main drawing room, the pale blue 18th-century paneling that the Duchess bought from an old chateau is more striking than the remaining furniture - except for the almost theatrically simple leather-topped desk on which the Duke, when he was Edward VIII, signed his abdication in 1936. Mr. Fayed has offered the desk to the British Government, which has not yet accepted the offer.

 

Below stairs, in the huge, primitive kitchen, tiles are missing and paint is peeling. According to Mr. Fayed, much of the money for repairs will be spent in the kitchen and on new heating and air-conditioning systems, plumbing and roofs, all of which slid into disrepair during the Duchess's 10-year illness.

 

Most evocative of the couple's presence is the second floor, where their bedrooms are separated by the cosy boudoir that they used as a dining room when alone. The Duchess's bathroom is spacious, but has a small, shabby porcelain tub under a regal trompe l'oeil canopy. In the Duke's bedroom is his favorite possession, a chimney sweep doll. It sits next to a pincushion on which, according to Mr. Johnson, the Duke's mother, Queen Mary, had cross-stitched the motto ''What Is Home Without Pleasure?''

 

Behind the bed in which the Duke died is an ornate velvet hanging embroidered with the royal coat of arms and the motto of the Order of the Garter. Another strikingly personal note is the host of kilts, plaid suits, dinner jackets and shoes, some of which date from the 1920's, in the Duke's dressing-room closets. Glass-fronted drawers are full of neatly laundered shirts made for him by the London haberdashers Turnbull & Asser -now owned, incidentally, by Mr. Fayed.

 

In the Duchess's closet hang carefully tended dresses, including the navy linen coat dress by Dior that she wore when Queen Elizabeth came to tea just before the death of the Duke, her uncle, in 1972. In a linens room are a dozen red footman's livery jackets edged with tarnished gold braid that the Duke brought with him from Buckingham Palace. ''I always used to wear one of these when I served at one of our big dinners,'' Mr. Johnson said.

 

Mr. Johnson said his favorite garment was a long beaver-lined overcoat with an astrakhan collar that belonged to the Duke's father, George V. ''He wore that every winter I knew him,'' Mr. Johnson said. ''Her royal highness used to say, 'David, the fashion is short this year; you must cut that coat off.' But he'd say: 'No, this was my father's. I'm not going to shorten it.'

 

''I looked everywhere for this coat,'' Mr. Johnson said. ''I finally found it in the Duchess's closet. She kept it with her all that time.''

Remembering 1939 LIFE Calls on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor‏

 LIFE July !939
ON Page 66 LIFE Calls on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor‏


















 After Deaths, Delay in Sale Of Windsors' Possessions
By CAROL VOGEL
Published: September 03, 1997 in The New York Times
Sotheby's announced yesterday that it was postponing its auction of more than 40,000 objects belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor from the couple's famous Paris home. The announcement came as Sotheby's experts were putting the finishing touches on the objects' installation in preparation for the nine-day sale that was to begin at the auction house's York Avenue headquarters on Sept. 11. Sotheby's said the decision had been made in accord with the wishes of Mohamed al-Fayed, owner of the Windsors' villa and its contents, after the death on Sunday of Mr. Fayed's son Emad and Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car crash in Paris.

''As a mark of respect, I believe there should be an appropriate interval before the auction takes place,'' Mr. Fayed said in a statement issued yesterday. No new date has been set, but officials at Sotheby's said they were hoping the sale would occur early next year.

Mr. Fayed acquired the long-term lease for the turn-of-the-century Louis XVI-style stone villa on the fringes of the Bois de Boulogne along with its contents after the Duchess died in 1986. She had left the villa to the Pasteur Institute, the major beneficiary of her estate, which transferred the lease to Mr. Fayed.

The contents of the house, which were assembled by the Duke and Duchess with the help of Stephane Boudin of Maison Jansen, the Parisian decorators, have been restored by Mr. Fayed. He and his family have been living on the top floor of the house, and the rest has become a private museum. In July, when Sotheby's announced the sale, it said Mr. Fayed had decided to auction the couple's possessions primarily to gain space: he and his family needed more room and plan to take over the rest of the house.

Proceeds from the sale, projected at $5 million to $7 million, are to go to the Fayed International Charitable Foundation, which supports pediatric research.

''This will be the first major sale Sotheby's has ever postponed, but it was absolutely the right thing to do,'' said Diana D. Brooks, Sotheby's chief executive worldwide. ''There are times when commercial considerations have to be put aside, and you have to do what your moral compass tells you is right. Mr. Fayed was sensitive to the situation, but in his heart this obviously is what he was most comfortable with.''


Fayed to sell Windsors' Paris treasures
DAVID USBORNE NEW YORK    TUESDAY 08 JULY 1997 in The Independent
Pleading lack of space for his family in the former Paris home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor where he lives, Mohamed al Fayed is to sell the entire array of the couple's goods and chattels that have until now remained inside it.

The collection, which includes the desk at which the then King Edward VIII signed the papers of abdication in 1936, as well as a piece of the wedding cake from his marriage to the American-born Wallis Simpson, is to be auctioned by Sotheby's in New York over nine days from 11 to 19 September.

The largest single sale to be undertaken by Sotheby's, it is sure to generate excitement among the legions of devotees of all things British and royal, in the United States especially, and eclipse the Christie's sale of 79 dresses from Diana, the Princess of Wales, here two weeks ago.

Mr Fayed bought the Bois de Boulogne residence of the Windsors from the City of Paris in 1986 on a 50-year repairing lease. He moved with his family into what had been the servants' quarters on the top floor. At the same time, he acquired all of the couple's possessions from the Pasteur Institute to which they had been bequeathed by the Duchess, who died in 1986.

While the collection's value has been set at about pounds 3m, Diana Brooks, president of the auction house, said yesterday that she expected the final tally from the sale to be "well in excess" of that sum. Some are already valuing the entire batch of 40,000 items at pounds 30m.

Mr Fayed, the owner of Harrods and of the Paris Ritz hotel, said that the entire proceeds from the sale would be distributed to children's charities in Britain, continental Europe and North and South America. "You will understand that this has been a very, very difficult decision for Mr Al Fayed," his spokesman, Michael Cole, said in New York. However, he added that with his wife, Heini, and his four children, Mr Fayed could no longer live in the house without expanding into the lower floors.

Insisting on the uniqueness of the sale, Mr Cole added: "Never has there been, probably since the reign of King Charles I, this number of possessions of an English king come at once on to the market for sale."

Experts at Sotheby's were also adding their assessments of the importance of the auction. "Every object tells a story," declared Joe Friedman, director of English furniture. "Through the collection it is as if the Duke and Duchess themselves were telling their own story. There could be no more intimate or poignant a record."

Under the gavel will be items ranging from paintings by Munnings and Degas, coins, military pieces, and, perhaps above all, the full array of the couple's wardrobes which, in some eyes, set them apart as important arbiters of fashion and taste in the middle of the century.


January 08, 1990  in People 
Egypt's Al Fayed Restores the House Fit for a Former KingBy Joyce Wadler, Fred Hauptfuhrer


The stately villa, in Paris's Bois de Boulogne, has an intimate feel: The clothes of the late master and mistress of the house, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, still hang in the closets. A portrait of the duchess, painted by Cecil Beaton shortly before the King of England renounced his throne for her in 1936, hangs over her tub. On the duke's bed is the rag doll given to him by his mother, Queen Mary. Even the man polishing glasses in the kitchen is a hand-me-down: Valet Sydney Johnson, 66, worked for the Windsors until the duke's death. 

And if you think owning a residence with the previous occupants' linens still on the beds seems a little peculiar, the new tenant, Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, knows what you mean. "It's like a mausoleum," says Al Fayed, who spent $12 million for the furnishings and a just-completed renovation of the villa as a private museum. "It sometimes gives you the creeps—both of them having died here. But it's still a happy place, a great fantasy which I love to live in." 

For the Anglophile Al Fayed, 60ish, adding the Windsor villa to an inventory of properties that includes a castle in Scotland, a country house in Surrey, a chalet in Gstaad and a penthouse on London's Park Lane fulfills a lifelong dream. "The impression of a great empire and a King dropping everything because of his love for a woman—this is what I lived with as a child," he says. 

Leased from the city of Paris in 1952 by the duke and duchess for about $28 a year rent, the three-story villa became the site of life in the highest style. The royal crest of Edward, Prince of Wales, was emblazoned in brass upon the front door and carried as a theme throughout the interior. The staff numbered up to 19. Toilet tissue was unrolled and folded into squares by the servants. The couple's beloved pugs, tended by a footman, ate from silver bowls. For dinner parties, the duchess demanded the lettuce leaves be the same size and shape. 

The guest list in the '50s and '60s was all glitter: Marlene Dietrich, Aristotle Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, the Aga Khan. But there were times even the duke seemed to realize how empty such nonstop indulgence could be. "Do you know what my day was today?" he once asked a friend. "I got up late and then I went with the duchess and watched her buy a hat." 

The duke died in 1972. Johnson, who had been in the duke's service since age 16, stayed on, but when his wife died the following year, the Windsors' loyal retainer was forced to resign. The duchess would not allow him to leave at 4 P.M. to look after his children, and his obstinacy on the issue made her bitter. "I never want to see you again," she told him. 

"I have four children," he snapped. "Let me take care of my four children. And you take care of your four dogs." The duchess died 13 years later, at 89, after a series of strokes. 

By then, the villa had fallen into disrepair. Furniture was marked with pug teeth marks; the roof was leaking. The sovereign's banner from Edward VIII's brief reign was tissue-thin and flaking. The duchess, so exacting about her possessions in life, was indifferent to their fate after her death. Her will stated that the Windsors' treasures should be disposed of by the executors and most of the proceeds given to the Pasteur Institute. Possession of the villa was to revert to the city of Paris. 

Mohamed Al Fayed had other ideas. Known in France for his elegant restoration of the famed Ritz Hotel, he had made headlines in Britain the previous year by purchasing the 102-store House of Fraser retail chain—including the famous Harrods—for $842 million. 

In the art of luxury living, Al Fayed, whose wealth is conservatively put at $7 billion, might have taught the Windsors a few things. He owns a helicopter and a 12-passenger Gulfstream jet. He is surrounded by an entourage of bodyguards, advisers and several decorous young female assistants. His first wife, Samira, sister of Adnan Khashoggi, was well connected; his second wife, Finnish-born Heini, is beautiful. (Al Fayed has one grown son, Dodi, a movie producer, from his first marriage and four young children from his second.) 

Al Fayed—who made his first millions in construction and shipping—acquired a love for all things English as a child in Egypt. He dresses in Savile Row suits and need never fret about matching them up to the proper shirt—he owns Turnbuil & Asser, a blue-blooded haberdashery. Al Fayed met the duke and duchess just once, at a cocktail party at the villa in the '60s. "I was completely taken by their manner and their warmth," he says. 

Some time before the death of the duchess, Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac, impressed by Al Fayed's work at the Ritz, spoke to him about leasing the villa. Al Fayed liked the idea of restoring the house—he had, after all, begun reclaiming the Windsors' realm in 1977 by hiring Johnson—but he suggested to Chirac that he also purchase the villa's contents. Keeping the Windsors' belongings together appealed to the executors of the estate as well. In 1986 Al Fayed leased the villa for 50 years for a nominal rent and set about restoring it. 

But accounting for all of the villa's lavish furnishings soon put him at odds with the Windsor estate. On the estate's side, executor Maitre Suzanne Blum and historian Michael Bloch, who edited the Windsors' letters, claim that Al Fayed tried to obtain the duchess's jewels for a rock-bottom price. (These and other valuables were later sold at auction for $50.3 million.) "Haggling isn't the word for it," says Bloch. "It was like the grand bazaar at Constantinople." Al Fayed, who denies this charge, claims that executors swiped the Windsors' love letters and that a trustee spirited away the dining room table and chairs. 

Still, Al Fayed managed to acquire most of the villa's contents for several million and spent several more refurbishing them. The Chippendale table at which the duke signed his letter of abdication was sent back to English furniture experts who reglued its joints and rejuvenated its tooled leather top. The duke's polo trophies and his ceremonial sword were sent to silversmiths to be reburnished. The tattered sovereign's banner was rewoven by French craftsmen. 

Last month the work was completed, and Al Fayed chartered a 737 to fly 120 guests from London for an opening afternoon tea (and caviar) party. "Very tastefully done," said Earl Spencer, Princess Di's dad, who was among the guests. The party over, Al Fayed says two floors of the villa will be opened to "historians, members of the British royal family, personalities, friends and important guests of the Ritz." The extensively remodeled third floor he will use as a private apartment. 

He does not see himself sleeping in the duke's bed or squeezing into one of his old dinner jackets. But he does plan to succeed where the Windsors failed, by keeping the villa in the family "as a good example for my children and grandchildren to follow in my path." 

Joyce Wadler, Fred Hauptfuhrer in Paris 





OUTSIDE LOOKING IN -Mohammed al Fayed-
By ROMESH RATNESAR Sunday, June 24, 2001 in Time Magazine World

For a few weeks this summer, much in the world seemed right for Mohammed al Fayed. In July, at his villa in St.-Tropez, the Egyptian tycoon personally set in motion a romance between the Princess of Wales and his eldest son Dodi by plucking him off one family yacht to join his father on another one nearby, where Diana was tanning. As the romance blossomed into the possibility of an engagement, al Fayed feigned nonchalance. "Normal people fall in love," he told an interviewer. "That's it." But al Fayed surely exulted inside. His battles with the British establishment--over his 1985 purchase of Harrods, his unrewarded quest for citizenship, his hand in bringing down Tory ministers--had left him embittered. In Diana he picked up the jewel both prized and tossed aside by the English elite, a diamond with an edge that could cut. Snaring her, and perhaps even installing her in the former residence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (which al Fayed holds), would simultaneously concoct an alternative monarchy and remind the real one of a time when it had faltered.

But al Fayed's world collapsed that Sunday morning in Paris, when he lost the son he loved and the princess he sought, and, too, the chance for acceptance from the country he adopted. From the start of the fated relationship, the force that pulled Diana toward the Fayeds was powerful: beyond sharing their sense of rejection, the princess undoubtedly craved the cocoon made possible by Dodi's family planes and mini-palaces, as well as the glamour of his Ritzy life. And after years in a family repelled by emotion, here was a family driven by it, whether in its public vendettas or in its private Mediterranean moments. To embrace all this, Diana, having left one dynasty that had used her, was ready to enter another. The Fayeds and she would find redemption together.

The union of Diana and Dodi would have culminated three decades of exhaustive and expensive attempts by the sixtyish Mohammed al Fayed to prove his British bona fides by collecting some of the nation's trophies. In addition to Harrods, he owns the famed humor magazine Punch, the Fulham Football Club and Balnagow castle in Scotland; his millions have sponsored the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show, where he has shared the royal box with the Queen. Al Fayed's younger brother Ali owns Turnbull & Asser, the prestigious tailor used by Prince Charles and his sons William and Harry. And al Fayed has long courted Diana and her parents; he put her stepmother Raine on the board of Harrods. Diana's father Earl Spencer, while dying, reportedly told al Fayed to "keep an eye" on the family.

Despite these ingratiating efforts, and his considerable commitments to various charities, acceptance within the British elite has eluded al Fayed. In France his restoration of two fabled Paris properties, the Ritz Hotel and the Bois de Boulogne villa of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, earned him La Legion d'Honneur. But in Britain al Fayed could recite--and often did--a list of the many slights directed at him by the Establishment. After he poured $50 million into restoring the Windsor villa, he grumbled to the New York Times, "Not one single official said, 'Mohammed al Fayed, thank you. We are grateful.' Not one single letter."

From the start, al Fayed has portrayed himself as the victim of English arrogance, xenophobia and racism. Elites, he contends, resent him for owning Harrods. "It sticks in their throats," he told the Times. But the Fayeds have also inflicted much damage on themselves, starting with their unsuccessful attempts to rewrite their history. In 1985 the largely unknown Fayed brothers paid $689 million in cash for the House of Fraser retail chain (whose flagship was Harrods). Two years later, the Department of Trade and Industry--at the instigation of al Fayed's chief rival for control of Harrods--began investigating the family. Its report, published in 1990, concluded that the brothers did not hail, as they had claimed, from "an old Egyptian family" with a 100-year history of landownership and shipbuilding. "The image created...of their wealthy Egyptian ancestry was completely bogus," the report said. The government further concluded that the money al Fayed used to purchase Harrods could not have come from an inherited fortune, as he claimed, but was probably put up for al Fayed by his associate, the Sultan of Brunei, the world's wealthiest man.

Al Fayed was not accused of breaking any law, and he and the Sultan denied the charges. Al Fayed bitterly attacked the report as a smear. "They could not accept that an Egyptian could own Harrods, so they threw mud at me," he once said. But acquaintances of his in Alexandria also describe the Fayeds as a modest family: al Fayed's father was a language teacher, and al Fayed grew up on the rougher side of town. He started as a small-time trader there, selling Singer sewing machines and Coca-Cola. In the early 1950s the future Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi offered al Fayed a share in a Khashoggi business that exported Egyptian-made furniture to Saudi Arabia. The company took off, and not long after, al Fayed married Khashoggi's sister Samira, who gave birth to Dodi in 1955. He divorced her after two years and went into the construction business in the United Arab Emirates. After befriending Dubai's ruler, al Fayed won big development contracts for British firms prowling the Persian Gulf. "Of course," says Khashoggi, "there were fees and commissions." This brokering was the foundation of the Fayed family fortune.

But even as he grew richer, al Fayed could not achieve his most cherished goal: to become a British citizen. The Fayed brothers' applications for citizenship stalled in the early '90s following the release of the report. It did not matter that they had paid millions of pounds in taxes annually, or that all four of al Fayed's children by his second wife are British. So al Fayed struck back in 1994 and revealed to the Guardian that for more than two years he had supplied Tory Members of Parliament with cash and free stays at the Ritz Hotel in exchange for political favors. Only afterward did the government officially turn down the brothers' citizenship request, without explanation--a decision al Fayed is appealing. The scandal, meanwhile, brought down two M.P.s and fueled a public outcry that contributed to the Conservatives' defeat in last spring's general election. Al Fayed seized the high ground, declaring he was "sick and tired of the hypocrisy that goes on at the highest level of government." But he failed to see that his revelations had brought to light his own culpability as a briber and that he would draw further resentment from Britain's power circles.

Al Fayed's public persona, all bluster, defiance and eccentricity, has done little to burnish his image. He is reportedly obsessive about personal security, employing a large number of bodyguards. He is litigious, and his dismissal of scores of Harrods' employees also invited litigation against him. And despite the riches he flaunts--a fleet of 64 Rolls-Royces, properties on London's Park Lane, a $32 million yacht--his record as an entrepreneur is very mixed. Last year the board of the weekly Observer rebuffed al Fayed's attempts to buy the paper, saying it was not for sale. In 1995 Rupert Murdoch shut down his Today newspaper rather than sell it to al Fayed. Bids to purchase the London News Radio station and the Daily Express have also failed. At Harrods profits rose 6% last year, but the company's debts increased to a staggering $264.3 million for the year ending January 1996. And financial sources told TIME that at least one international investment bank considered underwriting a public offering of Harrods' stock but harbored doubts because of continuing questions about al Fayed's reputation.

For his part, Emad ("Dodi") Fayed did not share his father's relentless pursuit of British approbation. From an early age he had a flair for the cosmopolitan, moving comfortably among Egyptian, French, Greek, American and British friends. He was educated at the St. Mark's school in Egypt, the Le Rosey school in Switzerland and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Childhood friends remember him as pleasant and well bred, and touched by loneliness, owing in part to his parents' divorce. Says Zizette Kishk, a family friend from Alexandria: "He was a very shy and quiet boy who had somewhat of a sad air about him."

Dodi's adolescence was spent shuttling among homes in Alexandria, Dubai and France. At 15 he was reportedly given his own Mayfair apartment, Rolls-Royce and chauffeur. He is said to have abandoned a fledgling career in the United Arab Emirates air force in favor of one in show business, establishing a London film-production company in the late 1970s. "He was financed by his father," Khashoggi says. With the elder Fayed's help, Dodi supplied $3 million of the $6.5 million total budget for the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire. In subsequent years he announced dozens of projects that he later dropped, and most of his investments were modest. "Dodi didn't work a day in his life," says an industry insider. "This is a guy who really enjoyed life."

He developed a reputation as a networking playboy who didn't always pay his bills. His father provided him with a reported monthly allowance of $100,000, but he allegedly owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to landlords in L.A. and New York City. Some of these accusations turned out to be ill founded, but at least one was still haunting him when he died. Kelly Fisher, the model who told tabloids in July that Dodi had pledged to marry her even as he squired Diana, accused him of writing checks to her that bounced. Yet along with these complaints, Dodi had plenty of associates willing to testify to his charm and affability. Khashoggi described his sister's son as "very quiet about life...a nice polite man, very courteous." Says a close friend: "He was with this one and that one, but he was very nice with them... Even when the story ends, he was very nice, acting like a gentleman."

Although they seemed to come from different worlds, Diana and Dodi were shaped by many of the same traumas--divorced parents, an unhappy first marriage and the death of a parent (Diana's father, Dodi's mother). The couple first met in 1986, at a polo match, but this summer, with the elder Fayed's prodding, the pair developed an intimate bond. "He was tres gentil, especially as Princess Diana would have seen him," says Dodi's friend. "All her life she was meeting very cold people. He was a big change for her." Al Fayed spokesman Michael Cole recalled speaking to Dodi in August, after news of the romance had broken. "Michael," Dodi said, "I will never, ever, have another girlfriend."

By the night of their death, the couple had decided to marry, according to some friends and relatives. Early in the summer, Mohammed al Fayed cleared out the Windsor villa in France and put 40,000 items on the auction block at Sotheby's. His family needed the extra space, al Fayed said, but some royal watchers breathlessly speculated that he was preparing a retreat for his son and the Princess of Wales. Few things would have proved more noisome to the royals than Diana, with an Egyptian husband and father-in-law, spending time in the former residence of another exile from royalty.

After the tragedy, al Fayed provided refreshments from Harrods to Britons waiting to sign Diana's condolence books. He chose not to return Dodi's body to Egypt, instead burying it at Brooklands Cemetery in Woking, an act that marked both his grief and his unrealized dreams of British belonging. There will be sympathy for him, but anger too from those who might blame the family for placing the princess in such mortal peril. Without prompting last Friday, Cole said al Fayed had "only wanted [Diana and Dodi] to be happy and to get to know each other. The Fayed family wanted nothing from the princess." The surprise was that those words needed to be said at all.



Tuesday 28 March 2023

Prince Andrew in ‘despair’ that the King has not shared £650million inheritance / Prince Andrew planning tell-all autobiography to 'fix reputation'


Prince Andrew planning tell-all autobiography to 'fix reputation'

 

The Duke of York wishes to write the book to fix his reputation, according to reports.

 

ByJames Rodger Content Editor

07:33, 26 MAR 2023

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/prince-andrew-planning-tell-autobiography-26561528

 

Prince Andrew planning tell-all autobiography to 'fix reputation'

 

Prince Andrew reportedly plans to write an explosive tell-all autobiography. The Duke of York wishes to write the book to fix his reputation, according to reports.

 

But friends have warned he risks looking "stupid". Andrew wants to launch a memoir after Prince Harry's Spare was released back in January of this year.

 

An insider said: “Everyone close to him is telling him it’s a stupid idea and he should just forget it.” The source told the Sun newspaper: “Andrew was the original spare and there’s plenty of material. Compared to Harry, he has a far greater depth of history to draw from.

 

“Writing a book would give him the opportunity to fully explain his association with Jeffrey Epstein and the resulting fall-out." It comes after Andrew was reportedly told to move out of Royal Lodge and move into Frogmore Cottage instead, with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle vacating the property.


'Arrogant' Prince Andrew thinks 'if Harry & Meghan can get away with it,...

Reports Prince Andrew Plans To Write Explosive Tell -All Memoir | Good M...

Monday 27 March 2023

DON’T MESS WITH MICHELANGELO


 

DON’T MESS WITH MICHELANGELO: A school board in Florida made news last week after forcing out a principal for showing Michelangelo’s David to her art students — after complaints from parents that it was “pornography.” On Saturday, the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, shot back at the “ridiculous” decision: “I will personally invite the teacher to Florence to give her a recognition on behalf of the city,” Nardella tweeted. “Art is civilization and those who teach it deserve respect.”

https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/brussels-playbook/russian-assets-scoop-cars-resurrected-tunisia-in-focus/

Saturday 25 March 2023

Exhibition Tartan Opening Saturday 1 April 2023 : Story of tartan through the centuries to unfold in V&A Dundee exhibition / 27-3-2023: Oldest tartan found to date back to 16th Century



Exhibition

Tartan

Opening Saturday 1 April 2023

A radical new look at one of the world’s best-known textiles

https://www.vam.ac.uk/dundee/whatson/exhibitions/tartan




UPDATED 27-3-2023: Oldest tartan found to date back to 16th Century

 

The Glen Affric tartan will be exhibited for the first time at V&A Dundee's Tartan exhibition from 1 April

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-65081312?at_link_id=3350B87C-CBF5-11ED-8DD3-9CADECABB293&at_ptr_name=facebook_page&at_link_origin=BBC_News&at_link_type=web_link&at_campaign=Social_Flow&at_campaign_type=owned&at_format=link&at_medium=social&at_bbc_team=editorial&fbclid=IwAR1q-HCR1BGD13oVa9GDhIIl5xZyNNg7AN3PuCGCz58buQ8ANN3mcKfJsPU

 

A scrap of fabric found in a Highland peat bog 40 years ago is likely to be the oldest tartan ever discovered in Scotland, new tests have established.

 

The fabric is believed to have been created in about the 16th Century, making it more than 400 years old.

 

It was found in a Glen Affric peat bog, in the Highlands, in the early 1980s.

 

The Scottish Tartans Authority (STA) commissioned dye analysis and radiocarbon testing of the textile to prove its age.

 

Using high resolution digital microscopy, four initial colours of green, brown and possibly red and yellow were identified.

 

The dye analysis confirmed the use of indigo or woad in the green but was inconclusive for the other colours, probably due to the dyestuff having degraded.

 

No artificial or semi-synthetic dyestuffs were involved in the making of the tartan, leading researchers to believe it predates the 1750s.

 

Experts have said the tartan was more than likely worn as an "outdoor working garment" and would not have been worn by royalty.

 

The STA said the textile was created somewhere between 1500 and 1655, but the period of 1500 to 1600 was most probable.

 

This makes it the oldest known piece of true tartan discovered in Scotland.

 

Four initial colours of green, brown and possibly red and yellow were identified in the tartan

 

Peter MacDonald, head of research and collections at the STA, said the testing process took nearly six months but that the organisation was "thrilled with the results".

 

"In Scotland, surviving examples of old textiles are rare as the soil is not conducive to their survival," he added.

 

"The piece was buried in peat, meaning it had no exposure to air and it was therefore preserved."

 

He said that because the tartan contains several colours, with multiple stripes, it corresponds to what would be considered a true tartan.

 

Mr MacDonald said: "Although we can theorise about the Glen Affric tartan, it's important that we don't construct history around it.

 

"Although Clan Chisholm controlled that area, we cannot attribute the tartan to them as we don't know who owned it."

 

Historical significance

He also said that the potential presence of red, a colour that Gaels consider a status symbol, is interesting because the cloth had a rustic background.

 

"This piece is not something you would associate with a king or someone of high status, it is more likely to be an outdoor working garment," he added.

 

John McLeish, chair of the STA, said the tartan's "historical significance" likely dates to the reigns of King James V, Mary Queen of Scots or King James VI/I - between 1513 and 1625.

 

Due to where it was found, the piece of fabric has been named the Glen Affric tartan and measures about 55cm by 43cm (approximately 22 by 17 inches).

 

It will go on public display at the V&A Dundee design museum from 1 April until 14 January next year.

 

James Wylie, curator at V&A Dundee, said: "We knew the Scottish Tartans Authority had a tremendous archive of material and we initially approached them to ask if them if they knew of any examples of 'proto-tartans' that could be loaned to the exhibition.

 

"I'm delighted the exhibition has encouraged further exploration into this plaid portion and very thankful for the Scottish Tartans Authority's backing and support for uncovering such a historic find."

 

He added that it was "immensely important" to be able to exhibit the Glen Affric tartan and said he was sure visitors would appreciate seeing the textile on public display for the first time.


What's On

Story of tartan through the centuries to unfold in V&A Dundee exhibition

 

It has been woven into Scottish culture and identity for centuries.

 

By Brian Ferguson

Published 6th Jul 2021, 23:59 BST

https://www.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/story-of-tartan-through-the-centuries-to-unfold-in-va-dundee-exhibition-3298822

 

Now Scotland’s national museum of design is to stage the biggest ever celebration of tartan and its global impact.

 

Billed as “a radical new look at one of the world’s best-known fabrics,” the V&A Dundee show, which opens in April 2023, will also “tell the story of Scotland through tartan.”

 

The five-month exhibition will explore how the patterned fabric – famously embraced by designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, the author Walter Scott and musical acts like Rod Stewart and the Bay City Rollers – has shaped, influenced and been reflected in advertising, fashion, film and fine art.

 

However it will examine how tartan has been both “adored and derided,” been seen as a symbol of being radical and rebellious for centuries, and is still making its mark around the world in modern times.

 

The exhibition will also explore the “sometimes painful” history of tartan, which was famously outlawed in Scotland following the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, but would go on to become a symbol of the British Army and Empire, and embraced by the Royal Family.

 

It first major in-house exhibition, which has been announced four months after the attraction secured national status and an extra £6 million in funding from the Scottish Government, will be staged nearly five years after the museum was unveiled.

 

V&A Dundee director Leonie Bell said: “Tartan is a ubiquitous and universally recognised fabric of Scotland, which is loved and loathed in equal measures, but lives on into new interpretation all the time. It is seen as a cliche, but is also seen as a really interesting fabric for contemporary designers.

 

“We're going to be telling its full design story for the first time – we don’t think any other exhibition has done that before. We will be looking at its history of attachment to tourism, tradition and the clans, how it was used across the Empire, how it has been subverted by punks and fashion designers, and how it has endured from quite simple beginnings to be something that is recognised by everybody.

 

“We will be going back as far as we can. It’s an ancient fabric that has not really changed very much but has continually been adapted again and again by people in all kinds of different sectors.

 

“It’s really fascinating when you start to get under the skin of it and you realise it’s something that we live with in Scotland all the time but maybe don’t understand the true story of it and the potency it still has – as a cloth that can be about being radical and rebellious, but also about tradition.

 

"It’s really interesting that the Tartan Army can own it at the same time as Vivienne Westood. It transcends ownership in a way that no other fabric does.

 

"The exhibition will be deeply about Scotland and our understanding of identity. But it will also be very much about V&A Dundee opening up to the world again in a way that we’ll probably be a tentative about this year and into 2022. It will tell the story of Scotland through tartan, but it will have a real internationalism to it as well.”



EXHIBITION

My ancestor modelled our tartan when George IV came to town

 

A show dedicated to tartan and its history opens next month at the V&A Dundee. Ben Macintyre considers its social and political significance and investigates his family’s relationship with the cloth

 

Saturday March 25 2023, 12.01am GMT, The Times

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/747e5316-c7ce-11ed-82d6-a363978c4bcb?shareToken=dc5846daa7ca7c89af40e9059e795f68

 

Tartan is tricky. It is the world’s most recognisable textile and pattern but also a subject of intense and intractable dispute: a national dress and a symbol of servitude, a fashion staple and a political statement, simultaneously traditional and rebellious, uniquely Scottish but wholly international, a fabric that unites and divides.

 

This tangled legacy has been teased apart by the V&A Dundee in a new exhibition devoted to tartan: the story behind the kilt.

 

Some insist that tartans are the visual index of the ancient Scottish clan system. Others argue, just as passionately, that the idea of clan tartans was a 19th-century socio-political invention, and largely bogus. A generation ago, the kilt was often seen as posh attire for sassenachs and foreign-born would-be Scots; today it is practically de rigueur at Scotland rugby matches, the chosen uniform of the Tartan Army football supporters’ club. In some Scottish nationalist circles it is a reminder of colonial (English) oppression; for others, equally nationalist, it represents independence itself.

 

Tartan was banned in the 18th century as a symbol of Jacobite sympathies. Less than a century later it came triumphantly back into vogue, partly thanks to one of my Macintyre ancestors: the first, and last, fashion model in the family.

 

Tartan is now ubiquitous and trans-national, inspiring architecture, graphic and product design, photography, furniture, glass and ceramics, film and art. But above all clothing: Chanel, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Comme des Garçons have all adopted and adapted tartan in various ways, along with contemporary designers such as Grace Wales Bonner, Nicholas Daley and Olubiyi Thomas.

 

Tartan wearers range from monarchs to the Sex Pistols, from the Doctor in Doctor Who to the Bay City Rollers. Idi Amin, self-styled Last King of Scotland, went through a tartan phase. Tartan has been deployed for political purposes by Bonnie Prince Charlie, George IV, Sir Walter Scott, the Windsors, and on Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid facemask. Hollywood dressed Mel Gibson in tartan as William Wallace in Braveheart. A fragment of the MacBean tartan was carried aboard Apollo 12 by the American astronaut Alan Bean.

 

I wear a kilt to weddings, christenings and parties in Scotland. My children started wearing kilts soon after they were born. The kilt-over-the-nappy look is particularly endearing.

 

There are three different Macintyre tartans: the dress tartan (a gaudy red); the ancient tartan (which is no more ancient than any other invented tartan); and the hunting tartan (in darker green, supposedly because prey was likely to spot the brighter coloured kilt fabric and run away). My branch of the clan wears the hunting tartan. I have no idea why.

 

Some clans went a step further and invented a “mourning” tartan, using the existing pattern of stripes and squares but in funereal black and white. Queen Victoria’s long mourning for Prince Albert was largely responsible for this craze.

 

Tartan is produced with alternating bands of coloured thread woven at right angles, both the warp and weft, producing a vast number of colour combinations and symmetrical patterns. The identifying sequence of each individual tartan is known as a “sett”. No one knows where tartan began, but since the earliest and simplest form of weaving using two colours of wool produces a checked pattern, it came from everywhere, and nowhere.

 

Even the origin of the word is debated. It is probably derived from the French tiretaine, and its Spanish equivalent tiritana, meaning a blend of linen and wool. But it may equally derive from tartarin meaning “Tartar cloth”, suggesting inspiration in central Asia, or the Gaelic word tarsainn, meaning “across”.

 

“Tartan” leggings were found on a 3,000-year-old mummy in the deserts of Xinjiang in China; he didn’t buy them in Dundee. Today anyone can design their own sett, and by applying to the Scottish Tartans Authority (and paying a fee) get it registered in the record of officially approved tartans.

 

The invading Romans appear to have encountered Highlanders wearing brightly coloured cloth. In the 1690s Martin Martin of Skye wrote: “The plaid wore only by the men is made of fine wool. It consists of divers colours: and there is a great deal of ingenuity required in sorting colours so as to be agreeable to the nicest fancy.”

 

The earliest surviving Scottish example is the Falkirk Tartan, a fragment of cloth dating from the 3rd century AD, used as the stopper for an earthenware vessel containing a hoard of silver coins discovered in 1934. It is more checked than tartan, two shades of natural wool, one light brown the other greenish, as warp and weft.

 

Early tartans did not denote clanship so much as geography, the colours reflecting whatever natural dyes were available in the different regions of Scotland. The early plaid, fhéilidh-Mor in Gaelic, was not a kilt as it would be recognised today but a length of woven cloth, some six yards long and two wide, that was wrapped around the body and belted at the waist, easily converted into a rustic sleeping bag at night. Early depictions of tartan suggest these were worn in a profusion of different patterns, some asymmetrical, often denoting fealty to a particular overlord rather than kinship.

 

It was not until the Act of Union of 1707, uniting Scotland and England and ensuring the Hanoverian succession, that tartan turned political. Wearing the kilt became an expression of Scottish nationalism, Jacobite sympathy and support for the Stuart cause. The Jacobite rebellions of 1715, 1719 and 1745 were metaphorically and often literally clad in plaid. The tartanised Bonnie Prince Charlie still found on Scottish shortbread tins is wearing the clothes of rebellion, a direct sartorial Stuart challenge to the Hanoverian dynasty.

 

After the Jacobite defeat at Culloden, the Disarming Act of 1746 banned the wearing of Highland dress, including tartan, as part of a systematic attempt to eradicate remaining opposition to English rule. Some were exempt from the ban, notably the Highland regiments of the British army raised by the Hanoverian crown. Tartan went underground: Jacobite sympathisers still wore it, and secretly had themselves painted wearing it. Confusingly, the fabric became a symbol of both repression and rebellion, depending on the sympathies of the wearer.

 

But in 1822, less than 80 years after it was outlawed, tartan came back with a flourish, with the help of Sir Walter Scott, George IV and, in a small but significant way, my ancestor Peter Macintyre.

 

George IV’s state visit to Edinburgh in 1822 marked the first time a Hanoverian monarch had set foot in Scotland since the uprisings. A show of national unity was called for, a demonstration that the Scots were snappy dressers and not mere savages; the person chosen to stage-manage this display was Scott, bestselling novelist, president of the Celtic Society, and the inventor of a romantic conception of Scotland that persists today.

 

Aided by his technical adviser, Colonel David Stewart of Garth, Scott put on a dazzling tartan extravaganza. As Jonathan Faiers, professor of fashion thinking at Southampton University and consultant to the exhibition, puts it in his book Tartan, Scott “consciously used tartan as a primary visual component of a series of spectacular tableaux that succeeded in expressing, via clothing, a counterfeit connection between the Celtic Royal Houses of Scotland and the English Hanoverian line”.

 

The chiefs and their clansmen were encouraged to turn out in full Highland regalia, “all plaided and plumed in their tartan array”. The king himself was upholstered in what became known as Royal Stewart tartan. And the person deputed to greet His Majesty formally on landing at Leith was the leader of the Drummond Highlanders, Peter Macintyre.

 

For this purpose Macintyre got himself kitted out head to foot in an outfit he had surely never worn before: tartan kilt, jacket, socks, a bonnet with an eagle’s feather, and armed to the teeth with sword, dirk, shield and pistol. Even his sporran top and garter flashes are in matching, hi-vis scarlet. No subdued hunting tartan for this Macintyre. You can see him in most paintings of the event, a bright red figure in peacock plumage stationed immediately behind the king.

 

Soon after the event, Macintyre was painted in his finery by the portrait artist James Ramsay, on a vast canvas some 15ft high and 6ft across: a poster boy for the new tartan fashion.

 

Tartan became trendy. By the mid-century, a vast assortment of tartans were being created and artificially linked with Scottish clans, families, individuals or institutions who were (or wished to be seen as) associated with a glorious and colourful Scottish heritage.

 

The most influential promoters of the supposed links between specific tartans and the ancient clans were the Sobieski Stuart brothers, who arrived in Scotland in the 1830s and set up their own Jacobite court, claiming to be the grandsons of Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender. In 1842 they published the Vestiarium Scoticum based on an ancient manuscript and describing, in elaborate detail, the historical antecedents of the various tartans dating back to 1571.

 

The Sobieski Stuarts were fabulous frauds. They were Englishmen from Egham in Surrey, the sons of a Royal Navy officer named Thomas Allen. Their book of tartans was a strange mixture of make-believe, deliberate fakery and genuine scholarship. They may not have been brothers but lovers, a pair of gay Victorian fashionistas from Surrey who spotted in tartan a golden commercial opportunity.

 

The claims of the Sobieski Stuarts were comprehensively debunked during their lifetimes. Even Walter Scott, while avid for all forms of an imaginary Scottish past, pointed out that the “idea of distinguishing the clans by their tartans is but a fashion of modern date”. With typical acidity, the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper later described Vestiarium Scoticum as “shot through with pure fantasy and bare faced forgery”.

 

But the idea of clan-based tartans took permanent root. Demand for tartan exploded, and ignited a tartan taxonomy craze among Victorians, with new chemical dyes, romantic legends from Scottish history and a taste for social and familial distinctions.

 

The German Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had a particularly acute case of tartanophilia. Queen Victoria’s consort invented the Balmoral tartan, still worn by the royal family, and decked out the castle in no fewer than three (clashing) tartans: Royal Stewart and the green Hunting Stewart tartans for carpets, and Dress Stewart for curtains and upholstery.

 

There is still a certain sort of lip-curling Englishman, like Trevor-Roper, who cannot resist pointing out that tartan kilt-wearing is an invented Victorian fad; but that is to be blind to the power of myths, of which the Scots have many and the English not enough. As Kirsty Hassard, the curator of the V&A exhibition, points out: “The meaning of tartan is in the eye of the beholder.”

 

Peter Macintyre rolled up his painting a few years after it was finished and departed for Australia, never to return. I recently visited my cousins at their sheep station in New South Wales, where the original portrait still hangs: a long-forgotten 18th-century fashion plate to which every tartan-wearing punk and tweed-clad royal owes a small debt.

Tartan is at V&A Dundee from April 1 to January 14, 2024


Tartan: Revised and Updated - Textiles that Changed the World

Professor Jonathan Faiers (author)

 

“An outstanding and comprehensive contribution to the history of Tartan. - Telegraph Featuring new insights and an additional chapter on masculinities, this updated edition of Tartan revitalizes discussions about the fabric's traditional, sentimental Highland origins and its deliberate subversion by contemporary designers. Tartan's history has made it uniquely capable of expressing both conformity and subversion, tradition and innovation. Through positioning tartan within broader philosophical, political and cultural contexts, from the tartan-clad Highland regiments and Queen Victoria's royal endorsement, to the fabric's influence on Westwood and McQueen and a generation of Japanese designers such as Watanabe and Takahashi, Jonathan Faiers traces tartan's development from clanship to contemporary fashion and its enormous domestic and global impact. Beautifully illustrated and weaving together a story out of history, art, music, film and fashion, Tartan demonstrates that this most traditional and radical fabric has become one of extraordinary versatility and far-reaching appeal.”

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN: 9781350193772

Number of pages: 360

Dimensions: 246 x 189 mm

Edition: 2nd Revised edition

 

MEDIA REVIEWS

An outstanding and comprehensive contribution to the history of Tartan. * Telegraph *

Intriguing study ... mixes the serious with the saucy. * International Herald Tribune *

A rare treat; a readable, enjoyable academic text. * Selvedge *