Obituary: Patricia Rothermere

Patricia Evelyn Beverley Matthews (Beverley Brooks), actress, born 1929, married Christopher Brooks (deceased; one daughter; marriage dissolved 1956), 1957 Vere Harmsworth (succeeded 1978 as second Viscount Rothermere; one son, two daughters), died Cap d'Ail France 12 August 1992.

IN THE Seventies and Eighties Patricia Rothermere was as essential to the London party scene as champagne and canapes and, within that small circle for which such things matter, was famed for her hospitality.

As a fashionable figure, 'Bubbles' Rothermere raised contradictory emotions. On the one hand, her total disregard for the 'You can never be too thin or too rich' fashion doctrine caused mirth among women less secure of their position and role in society - the women who literally nibble a lettuce leaf with such dedication that their stomachs shrink and it becomes impossible for them to put on weight. On the other hand, as she grew larger and defiantly refused to dress in a way that might disguise her size, she became a cheerleader around whom those who wanted to have fun without worrying about avoirdupois happily rallied.

Pat Rothermere's appearance was startlingly unconventional. She loved taffeta, velvet, bows, flounces and all the gallimaufry of late 18th-century dress. She was lucky that London is still the centre for this particular form of evening dress - over-decorative, anachronistic and fussy. London designers were also lucky that they had her to wear their extraordinary creations. Whereas on slimmer, more standard figures they appeared banal and derivative, her size gave them an unexpected probity and stature.

It is as a brilliantly dotty, shimmeringly exotic night figure that she will be remembered. As she arrived at a party wearing an extravagantly concocted evening gown by Gina Fratini or Zandra Rhodes hers was invariably a presence that could not be ignored.

As a hostess she believed in an amusing mix and threw people together in an unconventional way that, in the hands of other hostesses, would seem suicidal. Guests included politicians and City men on one side and Hollywood stars or National Hunt jockeys on the other. As an ex-Rank starlet she knew not only how to project but how to improvise. If a party was too pompous, to keep it moving, she would create her own little diversions. There are tales of midnight fish-and-chip feasts in the back of her Bentley and many escapades that are best described as japes - schoolgirlish, fun and rather innocent. They epitomise the Girls' Own quality of much of her life.

She was born Patricia Matthews in Hertfordshire in 1929, the daughter of an architect. Considered a beauty in her early twenties, she became an actress. Under the name of Beverley Brooks she appeared in several films, including Reach for the Sky (1956), the story of Douglas Bader. In 1957, after divorcing her first husband, Christopher Brooks, she married Vere Harmsworth, later Lord Rothermere and Chairman of Associated Newspapers. She once said, 'I married an empire.' But she always had plenty of time for fun, moving between London and her various homes in New York, Paris and Jamaica.

Her parties were not the orgy of self-indulgence and self-congratulation that many London hostesses preside over. She was a tough and determined fund-raiser for charity and used the clout of her social position to raise considerable sums on the principle that, guests or no, she expected people to pay for the fun. Her house in Eaton Square was indeed a Mecca for fun lovers but charity-supporting friends like Princess Margaret, and later the Princess of Wales, knew that Pat Rothermere had a steely determination when it came to raising funds. And they respected her for it.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York