Ribbons and roses amid final tributes to 'lonely' Bubbles

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The Independent Online
THE GILDED interior of St Bride's Church in Fleet Street yesterday provided a perfect stage for the final production to commemorate the decidedly baroque life of Viscountess Rothermere.

Everything about the church, built by Sir Christopher Wren, is slightly over the top. Even its spire provided a German chef with the inspiration for the first tiered wedding cake.

Lady Rothermere, known universally as Bubbles, was more than slightly over the top, and her many fashion critics accused her of dressing like an ornament on just such a cake.

Yesterday's memorial service for Lady Rothermere, 63, who died from an accidental drugs overdose while on holiday in France in August, did not shrink from following her style down to the finest detail.

The printed order of service, on which there was a picture of her taken during her film starlet days in the 1950s, was bound with pink and white ribbons into which a tiny pink rose had been inserted.

Some who came to remember the wife of the owner of the Daily Mail group of newspapers were determined to emulate the champagne-drinking lifestyle from which she derived her nickname.

One group arrived in an immaculate limousine and discreetly smuggled a bottle of champagne and several glasses inside the church, where they proceeded to toast the woman who rarely drank anything else.

Those who had partied with her through the decades came - a continental princess or two, a scattering of English titled folk and a few people who, if they were not Dowager Countesses, looked as though they ought to be.

The hats, however, in deference to the occasion, were not the style favoured by Lady Rothermere at all. They were black and intimidating, often topping enough make-up to armour a tank.

The massed ranks of Associated Newspapers management looked on impassively during readings by David Frost and Lord St John of Fawsley, the former Conservative Cabinet minister, the second a sad extract from Psalm 142. He read: 'I looked also upon my right hand: and saw there was no man that would know me. I had no place to flee unto: and no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee O Lord.'

Lord Rothermere, his arm in a sling as a result of a recent road accident, acknowledged the sadness behind his late wife's frenetic party-going in his address. The couple have mostly lived apart in recent years. He said: 'Pat was an unusual person as all who knew her would testify. She was a free and generous soul and also a very lonely one.'

As the congregation filed out, a pianist played the theme from Reach for the Sky, the film about the Battle of Britain fighter ace Douglas Bader, in which Lady Rothermere, then Beverley Brooks, had her only starring role playing Kenneth More's girl friend, Sally.

'Reach for the Sky was a perfect epitaph for Pat's life,' said Lord Rothermere. The management of his newspaper empire queued patiently to shake his hand.

(Photograph omitted)