HOW WE MET; ROSS BENSON AND INGRID SEWARD

'Ingie is a great Fergie fan; I'm not quite so enthusiastic'

Ross Benson was educated at Gordonstoun. He joined the Daily Mail in 1967. Since 1973, he has worked for the Daily Express; for the past eight years, he has edited his own gossip column. Aged 46, he lives in Belgravia, London, with his wife, Ingrid Seward, and their six-year-old daughter, Arabella.

Ingrid Seward, also 46, was educated at Frances Holland Girls' School in Regent's Park, London. She attended Queen's Secretarial College, a finishing school in Oxford, before becoming a PR for Victor Lowndes and Naim Atallah. Since 1983, she has edited the royal magazine, Majesty

ROSS BENSON: I first met Ingrid in 1985 when I was the chief foreign correspondent of the Daily Express. I went for lunch with an old friend, Chris-topher Wilson, the editor of the Will-iam Hickey column in the Express. We went down to El Vino's for a morning tincture - a bottle of champagne, actually. He said he had to go and meet someone for lunch, so why didn't I come down? We went down to a club called Scribes at the bottom of Fleet Street, and he was meeting Ingrid Seward. We started chatting, and they said why didn't I join them for lunch? About two-thirds of the way through lunch, Ingie, for reasons best known to herself, said, "All men are wimps," so I said, "Oh really - will you have dinner with me tomorrow?" and she said, "No, but how about the night after?" - playing hard to get. We had dinner the following night, and I think we then saw each other again two days later, and we've been together ever since. I thought she was very petite and pretty and bouncy. I think we all have this ability to recognise someone we can empathise with, and Ingie and I had that empathy. The miracle is that we hadn't met each other before, because we had moved in the same circles for 20 years. I knew all her friends, she knew mine, and we used to have ridiculous conversations about opening nights of restaurants and night-clubs where we had both been, but we had no recollection of each other.

I'd been married twice before, but that didn't worry me. I'd been going out with someone in Los Angeles for a long time, but I'd been dragging my heels about getting a divorce; maybe with hindsight that was an excuse for not getting married to the other girl. Anyway, I proposed and Ingie was very happy, and I bought her a ring which cost an arm and a leg. Months went by and I said, "What's happened to the wedding?", and she didn't seem that bothered. This dragged on and on, and I got fed up, because I'd bought her the bloody ring and there didn't seem to be a marriage at the end of it. Eventually, we did get married.

We talk endlessly, I've no idea what about; I suppose that's the definition of a good relationship. We're not like those couples who sit in restaurants saying nothing to each other. I don't think that it helps, however, that we work in the same world. I've had no great enthusiasm for going out with journalists, because you tend to end up talking shop; I think that narrows the horizons of a relationship. But Ingie is friendly with a lot of the people that I write about; and that does create problems, especially if there are difficult times, or marriage break-ups in the air. But the agreement is: if Queen leaves Duke, then it would be daft for her not to tell me - clearly it's going to come out. But if she's having lunch with, say, the Duchess of York, it would be equally daft for her to tell me what was said, because the temptation for me to write something would be irresistible. It's only in times of royal crises that the potential for conflict between us is apparent. When things really start winding up, Ingie and I are constantly on the phone doing television and radio interviews. She gets pissed off if I'm asked to do a television interview that she could have done.

When it came to the Waleses' split, as events unfolded I think, like most people, Ingie's attitude towards the Princess of Wales became more ambiguous. I never perceived her as the victim, and I think I've been proved right. Also at the end of the day, given the constitutional ramifications, you have to follow the blood - Charles is the future king. Princess Diana is the woman who will one day be the ex-wife of a man who will be king. That's not a constitutional role.

Ingie is a great Fergie fan; I'm not quite so enthusiastic. If Fergie has a problem it is that she can't see the whole picture, just bits of the jigsaw puzzle. She'll work hard for some charity and then go off on a three -week skiing holiday, and can't understand why people criticise her. Ingie thinks people are unfair about Fergie, but I feel that the overall picture is not to the Duchess's advantage.

I think Ingie does her job extremely well. Majesty does genuine royal articles - if they do a feature about Prince Charles's cufflinks, it will be the most authoritative article that you have ever read about the royal family's cufflinks. But if you're interested in who's bonking who, then Majesty is not for you.

INGRID SEWARD: I met Ross in 1985 in a pub called Scribes. I was having lunch with Christopher Wilson, who was late, and so I was rather cross, and he'd brought a friend with him, which made me even crosser, because I wanted to have a real chin-wag with him. This friend was Ross. I thought he was glamorous because he'd been walking across Afghanistan for two months; he was the Express's chief foreign correspondent. He ordered potatoes and asked them not to put butter on them because he said he couldn't eat any fat because he'd eaten so little over the previous two months. And I thought that was glamorous, and then he paid the bill with travellers' cheques, and I thought that was glamorous as well. I'd just finished a relationship with someone; and I remember saying to Christopher Wilson, "All men are ghastly." Ross said, "I'm not ghastly. Why don't you have dinner with me tonight?" I wasn't going to let him get away with it that easily. I said "No." And he said, "Tomorrow," and I said, "No", and then he said, "The day after tomorrow," and I said, "All right." When I got back, I phoned Christopher and said, "Tell me more," and Christopher was reticent because Ross had a reputation as a lady-killer.

I had a flat in Notting Hill and I asked Ross to come over at 8pm. He arrived dead on time, which I thought was a bit uncool. And he was wearing a ghastly mac, a Harold Wilson number. We went out to dinner, and we've been together ever since. I thought he was a romantic figure, because in those days the foreign correspondents had lots of tales of derring- do which I loved, though I'm very bored with them now. Ross was still married, though he'd been separated for a while, and I was a bit wary, but I suppose we just fell in love. We got married in 1987; it was really Ross that wanted to get married. I had hoped I might find someone rich and never have to work again, and I could see that was not going to be the case with Ross.

I was editing Majesty magazine, and he had just started editing William Hickey. I don't think I would have written books without him pushing me, but of course he was keen for me to make money. He helped me with my first book about Princess Diana, and he's very good at telling me to stop moaning and get on with things.

He's incredibly untidy. He leaves newspapers and magazines lying around everywhere and he drops his underpants on the floor, and expects

me to pick them up. Another thing that irritates me is that he never stops talking. We did a book tour together in America - I was doing my book Royal Children and he was promoting his Prince Charles book, but once those cameras got going I had to be really bullish to get a word in edgeways.

Although he edits a gossip column, when we go out Ross doesn't know who anyone is. I'll hear him ask, "Who's that over there?", and someone will say, "That's the Duke of such and such, don't you know that?"

Ross was at Gordonstoun in the same class as Prince Charles. He likes to think they were friends, but I'm not sure they were. Once Ross got very drunk when he was 18 and went round to Buckingham Palace to see "his friend", who wouldn't let him in. Ross was one of the first journalists to kiss and tell. He wrote something for Woman's Own and it was totally innocuous; it was about Charles at school, about him walking through the Gordonstoun paths writing poetry. But it simply wasn't done in those days, and he got chilled out. Every time he meets Prince Charles, Ross melts into the background. The other day I was chatting to Prince Charles, and he'd forgotten that I was married to Ross, and I looked at Ross and he was standing right over in the corner.

Sometimes it can be difficult for me if Ross writes something inaccurate or hurtful. Ronald Ferguson used to ring me up and say, "Ingie, Major here! What rubbish has your husband been writing about me now?" Ross has had lunch with the Princess of Wales, which I've never done. His chairman invited him to have lunch and there she was. Ross had been beastly about her, because she's the kind of woman he doesn't like. And she managed to charm him, as she charms most men, but Ross is a wily old bird - it didn't cut that much ice. !

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

Ingrid Seward was born in 1948 and was educated at Frances Holland Girls School in Regents' Park. She attended a finishing school in Oxford, Queen's Secretarial College. She worked for the Playboy Empire, working for Victor Lowndes as a PR. She then worked as PR in Naim Atallah's theatrical agency, and then went to 'Majesty' magazine, which she has edited since 1983. She and Ross Benson live in Belgravia with their six year old daughter, Arabella.

Ross Benson was born in Scotland in 1948 and was educated at schools in Africa, Australia, Holland before attending Gordonstoun. On leaving school he worked for London Life magazine and then went to the Daily Mail. After his property company failed in the early seventies, he went to the Daily Express, where he has worked for 22 years, as Foreign News Editor, US Correspondent, Chief Foreign Correspondent and Special Feature Writer. For the past 8 years he has edited his own gossip column.

ENDS

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