The letters, all signed Philip and sent from Balmoral and Sandringham on his personal notepaper, were written to the late Pat Kirkwood, whose magnificent legs were once described by the critic Kenneth Tynan as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’.
His correspondence — and Miss Kirkwood’s outspoken replies — which discusses Philip’s views on the coverage of his private life by the media, are to feature in a new one-woman stage musical, Pat Kirkwood Is Angry, starring leading mezzo-soprano Jessica Walker.
Highly sensitive: Letters written by Prince Philip to the late Pat Kirkwood are to feature in a controversial new show.
Kirkwood’s first meeting with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1948 — when they were both 27 and danced the night away cheek-to-cheek in a London nightclub while the Queen was eight months pregnant with Prince Charles — fuelled decades of speculation about their relationship.
The rumours are said to have cost Kirkwood the chance of recognition in the Honours list. She died in 2007 at the age of 86.
The letters that passed between the pair are now in the possession of royal biographer Michael Thornton, who tells me: ‘My instructions, in accordance with Pat’s will, are that I am to hand these letters to the Duke’s official biographer after his death.’
Jessica Walker, who has sung leading roles at Glyndebourne and opens with the new show at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in October, says: ‘I have not been allowed to see the actual documents, but I have been given access to significant passages.
Outspoken: Pat Kirkwood, pictured as an 18-year-old in 1939, first met the Duke of Edinburgh in 1948
Showgirl: Pat Kirkwood died in 2007 at the age of 86. She danced the night away with the Duke while the Queen was eight months pregnant with Prince Charles
‘They show how deeply the rumours which endured for 60 years affected her. She was furious with the Palace for not protecting her.’
In 1993 Kirkwood complained to Philip that with some support ‘the matter could have been squashed years ago instead of (me) having to battle a sea of sharks single-handed’.
For his part Philip told her: ‘Short of starting libel proceedings, there is absolutely nothing to be done.’
Later, he added: ‘After nearly 40 years of such treatment, I am more or less hardened to this sort of thing.’
Instructions: The letters from Prince Philip, pictured with the Queen, are now in the possession of royal biographer Michael Thornton
Despite his need to woo the locals ahead of the referendum on independence, David Cameron did not make it to Scotland to join the Queen at Balmoral this weekend. He has postponed the trip, undertaken every year by the sitting Prime Minister, because of the Paralympics and the much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle.
What bad luck. It meant he missed all the caber-tossing action at the Braemar Gathering, where in previous years Cherie Blair was famously caught on camera yawning. Cameron has put his visit back until later in the month.
Ever since she brokered the controversial sale of his former marital home Sunninghill Park to her lover for £15 million — bizarrely at £3 million over the asking price friends of Prince Andrew have urged him to distance himself from socialite Goga Ashkenazi.
However, judging from the list of sponsors for his charity abseil down the Shard in Central London today, Andrew’s friendship with the sultry Kazakhstani beauty seems as strong as ever: she has generously pledged £5,000 in sponsorship.
Friends of Prince Andrew have urged him to distance himself from socialite Goga Ashkenazi
Unlike many of his other chums, Goga, 32, who has a love child by the billionaire President of Kazakhstan’s son-in-law Timur Kulibayev, has been discreet enough not to leave the Prince, 52, an affectionate public message on his sponsorship page.
The Prince will be joined in his descent of the 1,016ft glass building by Foreign Secretary William Hague’s wife Ffion and mobile phone tycoon John Caudwell.
Others to sponsor Andrew include entrepreneur Sir David Tang, to the tune of £1,000, Sir Paul Smith, the designer, with £250, John Warren, the Queen’s racing manager has promised £100 and Princess Eugenie, 22, who is donating £500.
Downton Abbey producers are hoping to prevent details leaking of the dress Michelle Dockery will wear as Lady Mary when she marries in the new series.
But Essex girl Michelle is convinced that, once the episode is aired, there will be something akin to the ‘Kate effect’ — with fans rushing to buy versions of the gown as they did after the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding.
Downton Abbey Producers are hoping to prevent details leaking of the dress Michelle Dockery will wear as Lady Mary when she marries in the new series
Certainly this, I hear, is what producers are expecting with Lady Mary’s frock, which was dreamed up by TV costume designer Caroline McCall.
Dockery, who reveals hers has long sleeves, says: ‘Downton has had an astounding effect on fashion and I think it could do even more this series because the styles are slightly more modern.
‘Ralph Lauren even played the theme tune at its autumn/winter collection catwalk shows.
‘I’ll be interested to see what copies [of my dress] are made and how many people attempt to copy it.’
It is yet another family affair for the theatrical Foxes as acting scion Freddie Fox prepares himself to play Oscar Wilde’s effeminate lover in David Hare’s stage production The Judas Kiss.
His uncle Robert Fox, younger brother of Freddie’s screen star father Edward Fox, is producing the play. However the 21-year-old, who plays Oscar’s tempestuous lover Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, admits that at first he was reluctant to even read for the part, for fear of being typecast.
‘I’ve played a few posh guys and gay guys. You want to make sure people can’t pin you down,’ he says.
‘But then I thought: my Uncle’s producing it, so I can’t very well not read it or I’ll get torn off a strip. I’ve never played a character that is such a screwed-up piece of damaged goods. I really think I can put my crampons in and have a proper go.’
The brilliant biographer, Peter Evans, has died at home in Dulwich, South London. He was 78.
Peter, who worked with my late colleague Nigel Dempster, was finishing his latest work, on Ava Gardner, when he had a heart attack. Curiously, he blamed Ava for nearly killing him 22 years ago after she asked him to write her obituary, saying she was about to die. At the time, Peter said: ‘I didn’t believe her and she ended with the words, “When I go, I’ll send you a bolt of lightning.’
Sure enough, days after her death lightning hit a tree which crashed into Evans’s house, missing him by inches. Something they may be able to laugh about on the other side . . .
PS...After her visit to a beach shop to buy a wetsuit where the owner failed to recognise her, the Duchess of Cambridge was on safer territory at her local Waitrose in Kensington yesterday. And Kate had no need to introduce herself as ‘Mrs Cambridge’ as she wandered the aisles with a basket on her arm. Dressed down in leggings and trainers, her hair in a bun, she might have passed for any Sunday shopper, but for her bodyguard and a hovering shop assistant — which must have speeded up things at the checkout, where presumably this time she had remembered her purse.
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