Larger than life - even in death

Louise Jury on Sir James Goldsmith, supreme juggler of kin and business writes

The guest-list at Jemima Goldsmith's wedding to former Pakistani cricket captain Imran Khan said as much about her father as you could wish to know.

Sir James's mistress and second ex-wife were on it, for a start, as was his wife Lady Annabel's first husband, Mark Birley, a Mayfair club owner and old friend of Sir James.

Lord White, a business friend of many years' acquaintance, received an invitation even though his daughter claims Imran Khan fathered her love child.

Diana, Princess of Wales, a close friend of father and daughter, was invited but was unable to attend. Even if she had, there would have been a warm welcome from the Goldsmiths for Mark Shand, the husband of Sir James's niece Clio and brother of Diana's rival, Camilla Parker Bowles. Camilla's sister, Annabel Elliott, was there too.

Sir James Goldsmith was often regarded as the maverick outsider, the part-Catholic, part-Jewish, Anglo-French corporate raider.

He issued 63 writs for libel against Private Eye magazine after it accused him of sheltering the fugitive Lord Lucan who disappeared following the murder of his nanny.

Among his best friends was John Aspinall, the eccentric zoo owner.

Yet Sir James's connections also took him right to the heart of power and influence.

Carla Powell, wife of Lady Thatcher's adviser Sir Charles Powell, and Lord McAlpine, former Tory party deputy chairman, were among his supporters when he launched the Referendum Party.

He was a larger-than-life man who produced a larger-than-life family of eight children by four women, an arrangement as idiosyncratic as his business and political interests. He juggled them all.

His first great love was Isabel Patino, a Bolivian heiress with whom he eloped to international front-page-headline scandal. But she died giving birth to his first child 43 years ago.

Isabel, so named after her late mother, flew from her home in Mexico to be with her father last week.

He went on to wed his former secretary Ginette Lery in 1958 who bore him two more children, Alix and Manes.

But within six years he had wooed Lady Annabel, the then wife of Mayfair club owner Mark Birley - who none the less stayed friends with both. Sir James and Lady Annabel wed in 1978 and have three children, Zachariah, who is widely expected to take over his remaining business interests, Jemima and Benjamin. But within months of the marriage, Sir James began an affair with Laure Boulay de la Meurthe, a French magazine editor. "When a man marries his mistress he creates a job vacancy," he once remarked. She shared his life until he died, bearing him a further two children, Charlotte and Jethro, and - intriguingly - living in the other half of the Paris mansion which was also home to Ginette Lery and family.

His brother, Teddy, an environmentalist, described Sir James as a "natural tribal polygamist". Yesterday, none of th family was available for comment on the death of the man who had hidden how seriously ill he was from the world until his last few days. It is understood he was diagnosed as having terminal cancer shortly before Christmas last year, but only Lady Annabel and Ms Boulay de la Meurthe were informed.

Disregarding his health, he insisted on spending what would be the final months of his life fighting the gruelling general election campaign, sinking pounds 20 million of his own money into securing a referendum on Europe.

His remaining fortune, estimated at pounds 1.5 billion, including five homes in four countries, is expected to be shared among his families. It is hard to imagine the shrewd business operator having left anything about their future financial security to chance.

Patrick Robertson, founder of the Euro-sceptic Bruges Group who became Sir James's spokesman, said everything about his affairs had been in order for a very long time - "permanently in order". Sir James Goldsmith never did anything by halves.

Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game