Friday 15 December 1995
These pictures, world exclusives as we modestly say in the trade, are of a domesticated Queen on the royal yacht Britannia, which is the subject of a BBC1 documentary at Christmas. The kiss, like all kisses, is unique; but I confidently predict that the bescarfed crown jewels upon the royal head will spawn a thousand imitators. I can see Rory Bremner searching through his wardrobe even now.
One person considerably less keen to hang on to her ceremonial jewellery is Danielle Mitterrand, the wife of the former French president. Her collection went under the hammer this week at Etude Tajan's annual pre-Christmas sale at the glitzy Georges V hotel in Paris. Auctioned by Jacques Tajan himself with a Gallic flourish of a highly elegant hammer, the baubles - in 42 lots - raised 1.5m francs for the human rights charity, France Libertes, she founded in 1986. This was a good deal less than the estimated prices had suggested, however, which might just have had something to do with the questionable taste of many of the items.
There was, for instance, a gold watch, pen and pencil set, with shocking pink crocodile strap, which just crawled up to 9,500 francs - less than the lowest estimate; there were lumps of amber in settings that resembled armour plating, and the starring item, a Gerard diamond-studded collar, bracelet and ear-ring set expected to fetch up to 500,000 francs, stuck stubbornly below 400,000.
To rescue Mme Mitterrand's reputation, it should be said that the jewels were not strictly hers, but ones she was given during her 14 years as France's first lady. This poses, though, the further question of her right to sell them. Noblesse, we shall respectfully assume, oblige.
Sir Edward Heath knows how to turn a Beethoven tune to his advantage. Sir Edward is giving the opening address at the Beethoven Marathon, a 48-hour non-stop session of music in Bonn tonight. After discoursing on the composer's greatness, deafness, genius and various other attributes, our increasingly Tory-sceptic former Prime Minister will tell his audience with symphonic leaps of logic that Beethoven's music evoked liberty and fraternity, that these insights must inform our policy-making, concluding: "Let me reassure you about one thing - you must not be concerned on account of the mixed signals coming from the United Kingdom about our place in Europe. We trade massively and overwhelmingly with Europe, we are physically linked to Europe, and we might even start to learn some European languages one day." Those who have heard Sir Edward speak French or German will know that day cannot come too soon.
It is time the activities of one Michael Heseltine MP were monitored more closely. That is the decree of the Labour Party, at least, which has asked Giles Radice to be on a new public services select committee, whose members will be announced next week. It is expected that Mr Radice will chair the body, unofficially dubbed the Hezza Committee. "The idea," says a source, "will be to look very closely at Civil Service accountability. Budget cuts and the aftermath of the Scott Inquiry will be priorities, but the agenda will be broad." The Sun King will have to build his empire warily.
Lord Menuhin, the violin virtuoso, should be aware of the new brutalism at the Royal Philharmonic, the orchestra of which he is president. On Wednesday night the RPO chairman, John Bimson, sacked managing director Paul Findlay and his well-respected publicity director, Ewen Balfour. These things happen, though quite why they should happen to a pair who over the past year had got the orchestra a record label deal, a contract with Classic FM, a residency at the Royal Albert Hall and another in Nottingham is a mystery. But on this occasion things happened with a vengeance. The pair were given an hour to leave the building, and when Balfour went back that evening to collect some clothes he found the locks had been changed. In the arts, as we in the press are regularly lectured, people at least know how to treat their colleagues with dignity. I leave it to Messrs Findlay and Balfour to draw their own conclusions.
The prisoner who tried to bite through his handcuffs and ended up admitting criminal damage to police property at Tewkesbury magistrates' court this week may not have chosen quite so desperate a remedy as at first appears. According to the British Dental Association, such a method of escape can be successful with teeth nurtured by a lifetime of the correct vitamins. "You can mark metal with your teeth," a spokesman says, "and if you bit hard enough you could certainly dent the handcuff or even break its hinge." So if you're set on a life of crime, keep taking the fluoride tablets.
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