EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Last orders for Jeffrey and Mary Archer’s fabled Christmas parties as they are set to hold their last ever fizz and pie bash next month
The Christmas party season will never be the same.
I can disclose that Jeffrey Archer and his wife, Mary, are to give their last ever ‘champagne & shepherd’s pie’ next month.
The festive parties, at the best-selling author’s penthouse overlooking the Thames, became the stuff of legend, with Tory prime ministers and most of their cabinets in attendance.
‘I am 83,’ Lord Archer tells me. ‘Mary and I felt that, after 40 years, now was the right time to hold the last one.’
Among the guests at the couple’s first bash in 1983 was John Profumo, the defence minister whose affair with nightclub dancer and model Christine Keeler led to the scandal that rocked Harold Macmillan’s government.
I can disclose that Jeffrey Archer and his wife, Mary, are to give their last ever ‘champagne & shepherd’s pie’ next month
The festive parties have become the stuff of legends with politicians and stars in attendance. Dame Shirley Bassey, pictured with them here, is a friend of Jeffrey and Mary Archer
Jeffrey and Mary Archer seen leaving Joan Collins’ 88th birthday party
‘Jack Profumo came to our first party,’ Archer says. ‘Who will come to our last one? Margaret Thatcher never missed one. We’ve had five prime ministers and several members of the Royal Family here over the years.’
When asked for directions to the lavatories at his sumptuous flat, which is decorated with expensive paintings, Archer was known to advise guests to go, ‘just past the Picasso and turn left at the Matisse’.
While some people dread giving parties, the author will miss the planning involved. ‘I like giving parties,’ he says. ‘I enjoy the organisation.’
Archer says they ‘had a no-smoking policy long before that became fashionable’ yet it was ignored by the husband of Baroness Thatcher: ‘Denis Thatcher took absolutely no notice. I had someone follow him round with an ashtray.’
In 2001, Archer was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice at a libel trial in 1987. He was released in 2003 after serving half of his sentence. When he and Lady Archer resumed their festive parties, there was a full house. He said at the time: ‘The Evening Standard ran a cartoon with one guest saying to another, ‘But I read that you weren’t coming…’
Archer switched to Pol Roger from Krug champagne about 20 years ago, but doesn’t touch the stuff himself. ‘I don’t like champagne,’ he tells me. ‘though I’m told it’s very popular.’
Red-faced Sophie shows her softer side
Pop star Sophie Ellis-Bextor appears keen to demonstrate her more generous side after she was forced to apologise for unkind comments in the past about Robbie Williams in a clip that resurfaced in his Netflix documentary.
Pop star Sophie Ellis-Bextor appears keen to demonstrate her more generous side after she was forced to apologise for unkind comments in the past about Robbie Williams
Ellis-Bextor sang at the Michael Josephson MBE Charity Ball in Manchester, which broke fundraising records by becoming the first charity gala to raise more than £1 million in the North of England. ‘I’ve been a follower of Michael’s philanthropic work for a number of years, and it was amazing to finally perform and experience this incredible event,’ she tells me.
Prince’s sports club faces revolt
The season of ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all men’ fast approaches — unless, that is, you’re a member at Hurlingham, the £1,200-a-year London ‘country club’ on the banks of the Thames, where the Princess of Wales takes Prince George for tennis lessons.
Its chairman, Simon Duffy, is preparing to do battle with a hard core who sense it’s the time to stage an ambush.
Unimpressed by plans to renovate the East Wing of its magnificent clubhouse, they have, I can reveal, forced the club committee to put matters to the vote at a special general meeting. It’s the latest bust-up in years of ill-feeling between Hurlingham’s opposing factions. A previous proposal, for a £22 million redevelopment of the East Wing, was abandoned — but only after the club had been landed with a bill for £2.55 million in professional fees.
Lady Violent still set on anti-woke misson
When she announced in September that she was standing for election to the National Trust’s council, Lady Violet Manners said she aimed to rid the charity of its ‘woke’ agenda.
The Duke of Rutland’s daughter, who was backed by Restore Trust, a group of members outraged by the trust’s virtue-signalling, has, however, been forced to admit defeat. But she did manage to secure an impressive 47,326 votes from the 156,000 members who took part and ‘remains enthusiastic’ about the future of the UK’s heritage. She’ll be ‘sharing further announcements in due course’.
Watch this space…
Poignant visit by Diana’s childhood friend
Irish TV chef Clodagh McKenna was among the guests this weekend at Althorp, where she was entertained by Countess Spencer.
Clodagh, 48, was staying at Earl Spencer’s ancestral home in Northamptonshire with her husband, Harry Herbert, 64, the Earl of Carnarvon’s brother.
Countess Spencer, pictured, hosted Irish TV chef Clodagh McKenna and her Harry Herbert, the Earl of Carnarvon’s brother
Irish TV chef Clodagh McKenna, pictured, was among the guests this weekend at Althorp, where she was entertained by Countess Spencer
He paid a poignant visit to the grave of Princess Diana, who grew up at Althorp with her brother, Earl Spencer. Herbert had known Diana since they were teenagers and remained close friends until her death in 1997.
‘It was, of course, very emotional seeing Diana’s resting place and to be back in this beautiful house,’ says Herbert, who married Clodagh in 2021.
At his first wedding, to Chica Bevan in 1992, Diana and Queen Elizabeth were among the guests.
Clodagh, who wore a sky-blue vintage dress, adds: ‘It was an unforgettable dinner, beautifully prepared with produce from their organic estate, including the most delicious wild venison.’
Having played Princess Margaret in The Crown, Lesley Manville now has a suitably regal bank balance. The 67-year-old’s turn in season five netted her almost £700,000. Accounts for the firm Pudding Ltd, through which she channels earnings, covering 12 months to the end of April this year, show that after tax she was left with £1.6 m — a leap from just over £1 m last year.
He was a Labour MP for seven years until 2017, but Simon Danczuk is not impressed by Sir Keir. ‘If Starmer wants the black vote, he takes the knee; if he wants the Jewish vote, he defends Israel; if he wants the Muslim vote, he takes his poppy off to do his Islamophobia video,’ he told a Conservative Association dinner hosted by MP Philip Davies in West Yorkshire. ‘As they’d say in Rochdale, Keir Starmer has more faces than the old town clock.’
A Labour MP for seven years until 2017, but Simon Danczuk is not impressed by Sir Keir Starmer
Her Oscar-winning creations for films such as Shakespeare In Love have made Sandy Powell Britain’s first lady of costume. But now the designer has taken a trip down memory lane, as the dress that launched her screen career has gone missing.
Ms Powell, 63, designed a tiered-sleeved gown worn by Tilda Swinton in the 1986 film Caravaggio, but it has since disappeared. Now Ms Powell has posted an appeal on social media, pleading: ‘Has anyone seen this? I am trying to gather together as many of my costumes for a special project later this year.’
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