Nicky Haslam

Nicky Haslam is the author of Folly de Grandeur: Romance and revival in an English country house.

How will Carrie cope with the hideousness of Chequers?

Zut alors! The court of King Boris gets more like Versailles each day. With some talcum powder on that ramshackle hair, the Prime Minister would be the image of Louis le Something after a night on the Tuileries. His government, meanwhile, totters towards the tumbrils. Le Marquis d’Ancock, Comte de Raab and Le Petit-Maître Gove

Designer’s Notebook

‘Volcanic temper… suspicious of everyone… irritability, mood swings… terror stalking the shadows… devastating collapse of Europe’s economy… rampant insecurity, unbridled hypochondria…’ Trump? No, it’s Henry VIII, according to Robert Hutchinson. But the ‘king’ across the water is uncannily like the Tudor tyrant; the discarded wives, the wenching, the rival heirs, the fawning, the flattery, the

Unpretentious, and enormous fun

One would have thought this particular can of worms might, after nearly 80 years, be well past its sell-by date. But books about Mrs Simpson and her infatuated king appear with thudding frequency, each with some ever more far-fetched theory about this curious union. Now comes the leaden hand and leaden prose of Andrew Morton,

Littering castles all over the land

I rashly discarded this book’s dustjacket when I received it, and thus saw only the unlettered cover, a faded photograph of three generations of an aristocratic family, somewhat camera-shy in their silken breeches. Oh I see, I thought, this is one of those books on the foibles of the aristocracy, always an entertaining subject. How

Immaculate conceptions

Some 30 summers ago we were staying at a famously beautiful villa outside Turin; our hostess was — indeed is — renowned for her superb taste and distilled perfection of every aspect of douceur de vivre. Each night we dined in a different sylvan setting — under inky trees, in flower-filled gardens and in 18th-century

Halloween hire

To use a vulgar phrase, I can’t get my head around this exhibition. It seems anything but ‘vulgar’. Daintily laid out and dimly lit in the gloomier cloisters of Fortress Barbican is a series of dresses — the chaps hardly get a look-in, save for some of those white-knee-britched, jaboty, gold-laced-coat get-ups that people like

He blew his mind out in a car

There was a touch of Raymond Radiguet, the young literary sensation of 1920s Paris, about Tara Browne. In life poetically beautiful, poetry-imbued, tender and trusting, deliciously precocious and eerily presumptive, androgenous in looks but not desires, Tara died —‘without knowing it’, as Cocteau said of Radiguet — tragically, but given his penchant for very fast

Girl power | 2 June 2016

Many years ago, working on a project in Tel Aviv, I had a meeting-free weekend. I know, I thought, I’ll call my friend Brigid Keenan — at that time en poste to Syria with her ambassadorial husband — and nip up to Damascus — so close, only that smidgen of Lebanon in the way. I

Vanity fair and foul | 10 December 2015

People tend to use the term ‘fashion victim’ somewhat damningly — and maybe jealously — to describe someone obsessed by the latest look. I’m not sure I agree. There’s something endearing about anyone who wants to dress in the newest style, and anyway, isn’t being up-to-date the whole point of fashion? It’s no more reprehensible

The genius of Cecil Beaton’s interiors

The odds were a hundred to one against him. Brought up in bourgeois Bayswater by genteel parents, Cecil Beaton was effete, pink-and-white pretty, theatrical and mother-adored, with a stodgy brother (but a couple of compliant sisters) —a cliché of post-Edwardian sniffiness, a leer through raised lorgnettes. A humdrum early education followed by Harrow might have

Cecil Beaton, the bitch

Beaton was the great inventor. Apart from inventing not only himself but his look, his voice, his persona and a glamorous family, he invented the a in photography, the Edwardian period for the stage and films, the most outré of costumes, the elaborate for his rooms, a cartoon-like simplicity for his drawings, and the dream

A summer’s social whirl, from Bette Midler to Satan

This summer brought highs and lows, sadness and laughter, some irritating, some exhilarating. I was fortunate to be uplifted by an encounter with Leslie Bonham Carter, a remarkable woman who seems quite British but is in fact American. She is the daughter of Condé Nast, who founded the company that bears his name. He was

Tea with Greta Garbo’s decorator

Many people write, or at least used to write, fan letters to their film favourites. Usually all they received in acknowledgement was a 10 x 8 glossy with a mimeographed signature. A little persistence sometimes resulted in another, with a brief ‘personal’ message written by the ladies toiling in the fan-club HQs. Not so for

Flappers, by Judith Mackrell – review

I’m never quite sure what the term ‘flappers’ means. How did these creatures flap, and why? Where did they flap? Did they flap all day, or only at night? Were theyin a flap, or being flapped, sad-flaps or flap-happy? Did they open flaps, or close them? Did they flap Jacks, or flip Jills, or both?

Old King Noël

What is this I hold in my hands? Is it just a book? It’s quite heavy, but somehow, instinctively, one feels its light heart.  When I eventually prize its even glossier inner core from its glossy padded outer shell, I still ask: what is this? It looks like a book, but its pages don’t shut