Funeral casts shadow over Queen's day at the races

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The Independent Online

* As she begins the lengthy summer "season," an awkward diary clash threatens Her Majesty the Queen's attendance at this Saturday's Derby.

In keeping with tradition, both the Queen and Prince Philip are scheduled to parade down Epsom Downs before the event, which is said to be one of her favourite dates in the racing calendar.

However, the sad death of the Earl of Lonsdale - a close friend, and carriage-driving companion of Prince Philip - may prevent racegoers from enjoying the royal procession, since his funeral is scheduled for that very day.

The burial will take place near to Lonsdale's home in Cumbria, making it impossible for the royals to attend both events. All of which has given the Queen, who has missed just two Derbies in the past 50 years, some pause for thought

"Generally speaking, Liz and Phil don't attend funerals, because they get invited to an awful lot," says my man at the palace. "However, they were close to Lonsdale, and feel a sense of duty. It's a case of watching this space."

Interestingly, although the Derby visit was still being flagged in their online Court Circular, Buckingham Palace wouldn't comment on the Queen and Prince Phililp's whereabouts this Saturday.

Previously, however, the Queen has only missed Derbies to mark the Normandy landings. In 1984, she attended the 40th anniversary celebrations; in 2004, the 60th.

* Lily Cole's support for Amnesty International's "protect the human" campaign has left one rival human rights group gobsmacked.

The supermodel posed with a placard pronouncing "stop corporate abuse" for an exhibition marking Amnesty's 45th anniversary.

It's a bit rum, reckons the pressure group Survival International, since Cole has previously worked as the "face" of the diamond firm De Beers.

Survival is waging a lengthy campaign against De Beers' mining practices in Botswana, during which they have been personally critical of Cole.

"It's a little hypocritical of Lily to be getting cosy with Amnesty whilst she's been endorsing De Beers," says Survival director, Stephen Corry.

In response, organisers of Cole's photo-shoot, unveiled at The Hospital in Covent Garden yesterday, described it a step in the right direction: "Lily had six placards to choose from, and picked this, which shows where her loyalties really lie."

* Richard E Grant offers an illuminating footnote to the demise of Channel 4's film-making wing, FilmFour.

It has emerged that the firm was asked by Grant to back Wah-Wah, his debut flick as a writer and director.

They politely declined. Which turns out to have been a major cock-up, since Wah-Wah premiered to rave reviews on Tuesday.

Grant, who is writing a second film - Zeitgeist, about the making of a disaster movie - insists there are no hard feelings.

"We got turned down by absolutely everybody," he tells me. "Thing was, I'm a first-time writer and director, who wanted to produce a film in a country (Swaziland) where it's never been done."

FilmFour, now a TV channel, has other ways to burn money. Kevin Spacey directs its latest trailer, starring Judi Dench and Ewan McGregor.

* Howard Hodgkin must have been having a bad day when Simon Schama interviewed him at the Hay Festival.

The eminent (if occasionally grumpy) artist offered little more than monosyllabic answers to Schama's questions. As a result, several members of the audience - who had paid £9 for their tickets - staged a walk-out.

"It was one of the longest hours of my life," Schama tells me. "I've known Howard for years and he's normally the most articulate person, on most subjects. But perhaps not when talking about his own work."

"After coming off stage I felt rather like one of the last squadron leaders out of Dunkirk."

* In a pressing case of life imitating art, Les Dennis is taking to the stage to relaunch his light entertainment career.

The former Family Fortunes host - and cuckolded ex-husband of Amanda Holden - is to headline a play called Marlon Brando's Corset at this year's Edinburgh Festival.

It's ironic, since when Dennis last stuck his head above the parapet - playing himself, in an episode of the Ricky Gervais show Extras - his character was attempting, with tragic consequences, to earn a crust in panto.

Dennis' co-stars will include Mike McShane, and the soap opera "hunk" Jeremy Edwards. Apopros of the plot, he tells this week'sStage: "Marlon Brando's Corset is a new and interesting take on today's obsession with celebrity."