Lady Lucan

Lady Lucan, a shroud of secrets from another era.

By Tyne O’Connell

Proof positive that grace, style, wit and good-manners never age. Dowager Countess, Lady Veronica Lucan, always astonishes me with her quiet rectitude, exquisite style and easy wit. Her voice floats through the air reminding me of those Queens Speeches we clustered around black and white tv’s to hear at Christmas in the sixties. Her words delivered with the sharp precision of a crossword puzzle.

Here she is at my club in St James’s behind The Ritz in a little suit trimmed in mink from 1970 though she looks as if she had walked straight out of this months Tatler… I first met Veronica at dinner the Groucho Club a year ago when we bonded over our lack of interest in food and a shared love of swans, pelicans and ducks.

Lady Lucan

She was one of my heroines in the 1970’s when she was attacked by the establishment for “daring to topple a god”. I was just a child at the time, spellbound by her tiny lithe figure and perfect posture, as her life was spread across the news along with the unions who were holding us hostage with endless strikes and “winters of discontent”. Like all Mayfair residents I remember Berkeley Square piled high with bin bags, juxtaposed to the enchanting high-haired glamour of the swan-necked women like Veronica alighting from the Rolls Royces and Aston Martins outside the Clermont Club.

My father reminisced about the war. Not the actual fighting but Wartime Mayfair where he received his missions in the early dawn in Mount Street Garden. Like Quentin Crisp he dashed through Mayfair streets at night as the bombs fell. Daddy dashing to balls at the Dorch and The Ritz if he wasn’t flying Spitfires – Quintin would be “taking the air”.

I remember 1974 – it was the year before the IRA hurled a Molotov cocktail from a cortina through the windows of Scotts Oyster Bar a restaurant a few doors from our flat on Mount Street which I still frequent today. I remember there was chicken wire across the window for a long time but despite the carnage, Mayfair residents kept calm and carried on, quaffing oysters on the half-shell.

Lady Lucan standing

Lady Lucan

1974 was a time when ladies still wore extravagantly dressed wigs. Mummy would drop her wiggies off at a salon on Berkeley Square and have them elaborately dressed whilst she visited Norman Hartnell’s atelier on Bruton Street – the street where our Queen Elizabeth II was born and lived until she was five.

Veronica was part of this world. Part of a world of Mayfair opulence, gambling in mink stoles against a backdrop of union deprivations and domestic violence. Unlike the social media dominated world of today, people then expected and demanded privacy as their right. However Veronica’s private life was sprawled across the newspapers we ate our fish and chips from.

Chatting to her now over a cup of tea, I must remind myself that she has spent over 40 years in aspic living in seclusion without a television. She missed out on all the technological advances and subsequent obsolescence such as cassettes, videos, cd’s, fax-machines, hair-extensions and the omnipotence of unions. I try and fail to imagine what she endured that horrid night in her basement in 1974 when her husband bludgeoned her nanny to death and very nearly succeeded in murdering her, whilst their three children slept upstairs.

The rest of the world moved on leaving Veronica trapped in an odyssey of decades of extreme speculation and scrutiny, devoid of any compassion or empathy. Whilst Lucky Lucan lost some of his shine, he remained a god – albeit toppled – of the Aspinall Set. No one was interested in how Lady Lucan was, or wasn’t coping. Her own son wrote to her from boarding school that it would be more “congenial” for him (and his two sisters) to live with their aunt and uncle, the Shand Kidds, than their own mother.

There is something of the pathos of Oscar Wilde about Veronica Lucan. She too toppled a god – a bona fide member of the aristocracy – and was shunned. Like all Eccentrics the Dowager Lady Lucan has continued to cut a line of her own in the shadows… as she wafts rather than walks, her long hair coiffed, her pale skin and gentle precise movements reminiscent of a tiny medieval queen… feeding the pelicans in St James’s Park every day at 2.30 a vision from another age preserved in aspic… utterly captivating in the shroud of secrets from another era.