Byline: CELIA WALDEN
If you believe the old wives' tale, an expectant mother can discover the sex of her baby by dangling her wedding ring over her bump and waiting to see which way it swings. The Countess of Wessex, who is expecting her first child in December, has tried this, but to no avail. 'My friends and I have done the wedding ring test, but we can never remember which way means what,' she told me.
The 38-year-old was in good humour after a lavish three-course meal at Anthea Turner and Grant Bovey's Summer Ball last month in aid of Chase, a children's hospice service. She laughed off rumours that she and Prince Edward are convinced that they are expecting a boy. 'I couldn't say, even if I did have a preference,' she said.
The ball was held in the grounds of Turner and Bovey's [pounds sterling]3.5-million mansion in Dunsfold, Surrey. The couple, who are both patrons of Chase, found preparations for the event exhausting. Bovey said they had worked solidly the previous day from 8am to 3am, but that, looking around at the torch-lit estate, with its fairy-lights-filled trees, 'it had definitely been worth it.' The Countess had been one of the last people to arrive for the ball, well after most of the 400 celebrity guests had been ushered into the marquee for dinner. She looked demure in a long black gown, covered in tiny black beads with a discreet slit up the side, beneath which her bump was visible.
Her matching handbag was encrusted with white beads.
She seemed relaxed and happy as she met EastEnders actor Shane Ritchie and his girlfriend Christie Goddard, as well as pop group Liberty X, before posing for photographs with the Boveys.
There were giggles and whispers from the small crowd watching the photo call, as everyone commented on the physical similarities between the Countess and Turner. Anthea wore a stunning cream high-necked, backless, sequinned gown with leaf motifs, by English designer Patric Casey. 'Everyone has scrubbed up so well I don't recognise anyone - including myself,' she laughed.
But Shane Ritchie stole the moment, pointing to the house in the background and joking, 'It reminds me of growing up in Harlesden.' In the marquee, Bovey sat at the head of the top table, with the Countess on one side and his wife on the other. The evening's entertainment kicked off with comedian Bobby Davro. Ritchie heckled, and when asked why he was there, replied, 'I've got my mates around the back, smoking cigarettes and waiting for the signal to break into Anthea and Grant's house while we eat dinner,' a reference to the burglary of the house this March.
A rather conspicuous absentee was convicted insurance fraudster Lord Brocket, who, despite appearing next to celebrity agent Nicola Ibison on the table plan, was nowhere to be seen. Ibison's chosen companion for the night, an old school friend, spent the evening being mistaken for Lord Brocket and referred to rather unjustly as 'Lord Fraud'. …