Diary: So is there a gene for it?

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THIS NEWSPAPER has never shown any great interest in the alleged relationship between the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker-Bowles, but there is one historical snippet of information about Mrs Parker- Bowles's ancestry that, I think, is worth recording. It is generally known that Mrs Parker-Bowles is the great granddaughter of King Edward VII's mistress, Alice Keppel, but it appears there is an even more notorious (although charming) royal mistress lurking among her antecedents: Nell Gwyn.

Bright, attractive, and ambitious, Nell was an actress who raised herself from humble origins (her father died in a debtors' prison and her mother was a heavy drinker who put her daughter to work in a 'bawdyhouse') to become the third, and most durable, mistress of Charles II.

Armed with a few copies of Debrett, and taking advantage of advice given by Michael Rhodes, a librarian at the Yorkshire Post, the Diary has pieced together a family history which shows that Mrs Parker-Bowles would not exist today if it had not been for Charles and Nell's illegitimate son, Charles Beauclerk, who was born in 1670. (In between there have been several illustrious family names, including Chomley and Cubitt).

When Nell gave birth to Charles II's son, she insisted on describing him as 'the little bastard' until the King gave him the title of the 1st Duke of St Albans. She was obviously a forceful woman, as well as a personality of sensuality and bawdy wit. Although the King was temporarily captivated by another mistress, Moll Davis, Charles returned to Nell, giving her a magnificent house in Pall Mall as a mark of his esteem.

Two hundred years later, Edward VII took Alice Keppel as his mistress, giving Mrs Parker-Bowles another ancestor of interest and merit. Observing the consternation surrounding the abdication, when Edward VIII gave up the throne for a previously married woman, Mrs Keppel remarked: 'We did things rather differently in my day . . .'

Future historians should await developments.

WHILE RECUPERATING from his illness, John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, has clearly been watching some of those Australian soaps that appeal to most stay-at-homes. When asked to write an article for Home & School magazine, he replied promptly, telling the editor he would be delighted to contribute a piece for 'Home and Away'. Or was it Neighbours?

Supper and so on THOSE wondering which direction the former Chancellor Norman Lamont may choose to take when he returns from his holiday in France should ask Sir Charles Powell, former Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher and now director of Jardine Matheson Holdings.

Sir Charles is keen to reinstate Mr Lamont, a former investment banker at Rothschild's, on 'the City dining circuit', a social experience that did Sir Charles no harm when he was looking for work after Baroness Thatcher's fall.

He is reluctant to divulge the precise nature of the help he intends to give. 'Norman is a great friend of mine; we have supper and so on,' he says. 'He is a very talented man with the contacts and abilities to be extremely successful. I'll certainly help him as a friend. I won't be doing a job search for him - he doesn't need that. He's got a very clear idea of what he wants to do.'

THE INCREASINGLY emasculated lorry drivers from United Parcel Services - I recently noted the dismissal of one former Yorkie- crunching driver for wearing a beard, no less - are now also being told that they must not wear long hair, or ear-rings. That is all in line with the ban on beards. But here is the edict that has really got them hopping mad. No white socks. Because they're naff? (Kenneth Clarke wears them.) No; because they do not go with the drivers' brown uniforms, the company tells me.

DO THE HILLARY HOP

So inspiring is America's First Lady that a pop song, entitled 'Do the Hillary', is due for release on 27 August and is expected to sweep to the top of the charts. The lyrics - accompanied by set movements - go something like this: 'Take your man/ by the hand/ hold him tight/ it's your right.' Verse two: 'Shake your boot/ he'll salute/ 's what you need/ yes indeed.'

A DAY LIKE THIS

17 August 1919 Katherine Mansfield writes to Ottoline Morrell: 'Here's an absurd situation] My doctor urges me not to put myself away - not to go into a sanatorium - he says I would be out of it in 24 hours and it would be a 'highly dangerous experiment'. 'You see,' he explained, 'there is your work, which I know is your life. If they kept it from you, you'd die - and they would keep it from you. This would sound absurd to a German specialist but I have attended you for a year and I know.' After this, I with great difficulty restrained my impulse to tell the doctor what his words did for me. They were breath, life - healing, everything. So it is the Italian Riviera after all, a maid to travel with me and a little villa. Being ill and bearing all the depression of those round me had almost made me insane. I just gave up hope. Now I am full of hope again.'

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