The Sitwells were once among the most celebrated of society families, inspiring the quip that they belonged to ‘the history of publicity’.
But things are much less rosy for the current generation — MasterChef critic William Sitwell and his brother, baronet and film producer Sir George.
They have, I can disclose, decided to sell Weston Hall, the £5 million Northamptonshire pile which has been in the family for 300 years and boasts at least 11 bedrooms.
‘S**t happens,’ William, 50, tells me, declining to elaborate on the sale of the property, which is held in a family trust.
A former editor of Waitrose Food magazine, William used to host monthly supper clubs at Weston Hall and is thought to be reluctant to sell.
William Sitwell and Emily Lopes at the 2017 Fortnum & Mason Food & Drink Awards held at Fortnum & Mason in London
Weston Hall, a late 17th century house and home to the famous literary Sitwell family since 1714
Four years ago, he ditched his first wife, society girl Laura McCorquodale, by whom he had two children, in favour of the late Lord Roborough’s daughter, Emily Lopes, and took refuge at Weston. He and Emily married in 2017.
George used to live at Weston with Martha de Blank, daughter of late gastronome Justin de Blank, after marrying her in 2007. But Martha was unhappy, and walked out five years later, having declared marriage ‘pure misery’. She added: ‘It sucks all the energy from you, sucks your youth and all the fun from your life.’
George, 52, has resisted remarriage and is in a relationship with ‘on-off’ girlfriend Wenny Wenn. He currently lives in London. ‘Weston is a big, draughty house with a bit of history but is expensive to run,’ says a friend.
In the family’s heyday in the Twenties and Thirties, Brideshead author Evelyn Waugh, Noel Coward and society photographer Cecil Beaton regularly stayed.
George Sitwell and Martha Sitwell at their property development outside Lisbon, Portugal, 2010
The Spencer flag is flying at half-mast at Althorp — the stately home where Princess Diana grew up in Northamptonshire — following the death of Diana’s aunt.
Lady Anne Wake-Walker, who would have turned 100 in August, served as a Women’s Royal Naval Service officer in World War II.
She was close to Diana and remembered her as a ‘sweet, thoughtful and very kind girl’ with a great sense of humour.
Lady Anne’s nephew, Earl Spencer, says: ‘ “The end of an era” is the phrase I’ve heard repeatedly today. Indeed it is.’
Why Lady V needs her beauty sheep…
A lifetime of partying has prompted former ‘It-girl’ Lady Victoria Hervey to resort to cosmetic procedures.
‘I’ve had some Botox done, but that’s pretty much it,’ the 43-year-old tells me.
‘I don’t regret it. I had it done in London because they won’t let you do too much.
‘I feel like they overdo it in LA. I’m too scared to start messing with my face.’
The daughter of the 6th Marquess of Bristol adds: ‘I’ve also been doing this incredible facial using sheep placenta. It renews all your cells.’ Ewe!
A lifetime of partying has prompted former ‘It-girl’ Lady Victoria Hervey to resort to cosmetic procedures
How ‘awkward’ Radcliffe nearly lost Potter role
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe made his first feature film appearance in the John le Carre adaptation The Tailor Of Panama, directed by John Boorman.
Had Boorman had anything to do with it, the film might have been the ten-year-old’s last.
‘He was a sweet boy, anxious to please, but awkward,’ says Boorman. ‘I coaxed him through the part. His good nature shone through. He was appealing.
‘My daughter, Katrine, was at the premiere of the last Harry Potter movie. Daniel said to her: “Haven’t I been lucky? And all because of your father.”
‘Had the producers consulted me, I would have had to admit my doubts about his acting ability.
‘Luckily, they did not.’
Elaine Paige gets her claws into munching theatre-goers
West End star Elaine Paige has joined the chorus of disapproval against theatre audiences eating in the stalls.
‘I can’t stand theatre-goers that chomp their way through a three-course meal — they’ll be eating chips and everything else during a show,’ the Cats star tells me.
‘It’s the most annoying thing a theatre-goer will have to experience. We never used to do that in my day.’
At the age of 71, Paige still follows strict diet rules when performing.
‘I don’t like giving my anti-ageing secrets away as there is a long list of them,’ she explains at the opening night of The Prince Of Egypt at the Dominion Theatre.
‘In general, I eat well, sleep well and surround myself with good friends. The older I get, the more I take extra care of my voice.
‘I have learned the old-fashioned way, so I make sure I don’t eat cheese, or chocolate, or drink alcohol when I’m performing. It’s a bit boring, but it’s my form of maintenance.’
Now that Prince Harry has left the family firm, do we need more royals to carry out charity work? Celia Lee, historian and biographer of the Duke of Kent, thinks so.
‘We don’t need a slimmed down Royal Family,’ she tells me. ‘I think we should extend the Royal Family as far as possible and make all of them HRHs in the interests of patrons for the charities.’
Lee points out the Duke of Kent is patron or president of no fewer than 73 charities — including the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the RNLI and the London Philharmonic Orchestra — and he works full-time.
Where’s Carrie? PM’s girlfriend misses Tory ball
Boris Johnson wowed donors at the Tories’ Black and White Ball fundraiser on Tuesday with a barnstorming speech and even a burst of song. But sharp-eyed guests at the Battersea bash noted his glamorous girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, was not in tow.
The pair first set tongues wagging at the event two years ago, when they were pictured laughing together, seven months before Mr Johnson and his then wife Marina Wheeler announced they were separating.
With the divorce freshly sealed, some had expected Miss Symonds (left) to put in an appearance on Tuesday. She has not been pictured in public for weeks, prompting some to ask, where is she?
Carrie Symonds waits with Boris Johnson’s team at Downing Street, London, July 2019