Laura's straw hat puts Patten in the shade

THE Hong Kong press were beside themselves. After two weeks without a glimpse, Governor Chris Patten's teenage daughter, Laura, had been spotted in the beauty salon of the colony's 108-year-old Ladies' Recreation Club along with her mother, Lavender, and younger sister, Alice.

The 17-year-old had not been sighted since she left a local hospital following an operation to remove her appendix. Never in Hong Kong's history had an appendix aroused such attention.

Laura's arrival two weeks ago marked the first episode of The Pattens, the closest the territory is ever likely to get to a British-style soap opera of its own. Eyebrows were raised at her choice of mini-skirt and straw hat at her father's inaugural speech. The sober-suited Mr Patten was almost upstaged. The South China Sunday Morning Post proclaimed: 'You have a lovely daughter, Mrs Patten,' and praised her fresh approach to style.

The Chinese-language press was not so kind. The Tin Tin Daily News said Laura looked dressed for a picnic rather than a state ceremony. But within days its dismissive attitude had turned to concern. Hong Kong's press wondered why Mr Patten had arrived for his first Sunday morning church service without his family.

Television cameras followed the new proconsul from Government House to the local hospital, where surgeons removed his daughter's appendix. Mr Patten himself gave television updates on her progress.

'When Laura walked down the steps of the plane wearing a mini-skirt, it was something we had not seen in Hong Kong before,' explained Simon Beck, assistant editor of the Sunday Morning Post, which has helped create the Laura phenomenon.

'You would not look twice at Laura in the United States or in London but in Hong Kong, where governors have all been stuffy Foreign Office mandarins, it is different. It is the whole Patten family which has captivated Hong Kong, and his openness is reflected in his daughter's image. Her style has raised eyebrows and shocked people here, but it really is a breath of fresh air,' he said.

To mark the second week of Lauramania, the Sunday Morning Post published a feature on how Hong Kong girls 'can look like Laura'. Laura-like models were pictured posing in Laura-type straw hats and mini-skirts. The article predicted that her choice of hat would lead to a boom for the territory's milliners.

'With Laura Patten appearing stylishly casual in a wide-brimmed hat at her father's swearing-in as Governor, hat sellers are predicting big things for the Laura look,' it said. It even speculated on the country her hat was made in.

One fashion buyer said that unless the hat was a haute couture item, it was probably made in the Philippines or China. No one speculated on where her father's grey suit was tailored.

To Hong Kong's media the Pattens represent light relief from the gloom of Britain's conflict with China over the colony's planned airport and Peking's hostility to the territory's elected democrats.

But there are signs that even Mr Patten was unprepared for the intensity of the media coverage he and his family have been subjected to. His initial openness to requests for interviews has been replaced by a concern to shield his family.

Aides are irritated by constant requests for interviews with and information about Laura, but Mr Patten is said to find the phenomenon amusing. The media obsession with the family is unlikely to diminish, and they are likely to come under even greater scrutiny. Alice Patten, 12, begins school next term at the Island School, and the television cameras will be fighting for pictures.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Project Management Support Assistant

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Railway Museum, the largest of its ...

Sauce Recruitment: FP&A Analyst -Home Entertainment

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project