A petite Rhodesian brunette, Josie Rowland was the daughter of the Lonrho chief's estate manager, Lionel Taylor. They met in London in 1965 and married three years later, when Rowland - nicknamed Tiny by his mother - was 50 and Josie was 24.
In the following years, Mrs Rowland raised four children and gave succour to her husband. She is infinitely discreet, so much so that many are unaware of her existence. But last week, in a rare public statement, Mrs Rowland demanded an apology within 48 hours from Bower and Heinemann, his publishers, claiming that: 'Apart from the fact that I love my husband, every other reference to me is untrue and denigratory.'
Mrs Rowland appears, however, to have issued the statement before consulting her lawyers. Their advice, when she did, was not quite what she had anticipated. Three days later, she issued a second statement that said: 'My lawyers advise me that I have been insufficiently abused in the book . . . When I complained that I felt injured as a wife and mother, they pointed out that it was neither a profession, a calling, a trade or a vocation. They also explained that published untruths, however hurtful, are not necessarily actionable.' She concludes: 'Better instructed in the law, I went home.'
Not, however, before she sent an angry four-page letter to Paul Hamlyn, the Heinemann publisher, with a copy to Bower and to John Birt, the BBC's Director General. Her letter arrived the same day that Bower's film about Rowland was screened on television.
Mrs Rowland claimed she was 'shown to be a poor wife and mother', which, she says, she found 'particularly loathsome'; Bower's book was 'a poisonous picture to my detriment as a wife (sic)'; moreover, she went on, the suggestion that Rowland paid the medical bills of a former girlfriend when she broke her leg was 'a spiteful invention'.
But the detail that particularly aggrieves Mrs Rowland is so brief that a reader might be forgiven for missing it. In two lines of his 659 pages, Bower says that the Rowlands appeared to have made few changes to their yacht, Hansa, despite having sent it to be refitted at an expensive yard near Bremerhaven. The refitting of the Hansa's interior, Mrs Rowland wrote to Mr Hamlyn, was undertaken under her personal direction. She graciously discloses that the bill came to dollars 8m (pounds 5m), a figure Bower hadn't given.
Mrs Rowland wants more than an apology. She also wants a substantial donation made to her old school. While she waits for Mr Hamlyn to mull over his response, she can take heart that her husband is still very much in the thick of things. He recently attended a quiet dinner in a grand house in Chelsea's Old Church Street. Guest of honour was Afonso Dhlakama, head of the right-wing Mozambique rebel movement, Renamo. Among others present were a smattering of Foreign Office officials, the zookeeper John Aspinall, the Sunday Express columnist Bruce Anderson - who is the Prime Minister's favourite biographer - and the sandwich king Robin Birley, Sir James Goldsmith's stepson and also president of the London-based Mozambique Institute. Ever discreet and devoted, Mrs Rowland was not present.
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