So Who Is Isabella Amaryllis Charlotte

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 29, 2007 | Go to article overview

So Who Is Isabella Amaryllis Charlotte


Byline: ELIZABETH DAY

It was almost midnight when Isabella Calthorpe emerged from the Aldwych Theatre stage door yesterday, her face scraped clean of panstick, her blonde hair roughly brushed. She had just completed her eighth performance of the week in the sold-out stage musical Dirty Dancing, which earns her an Equity minimum wage of [pounds sterling]366 for a 60-hour week.

Making her way home through the backstreets of London's West End, her blue eyes blinking back the exhaustion, she must have been looking forward to the one day off she would enjoy before the demanding schedule kicked in all over again. Any young actress trying to make her name can expect to face a similarly draining routine - but 26-year-old Isabella has far less need to subject herself to the gruelling hours than most.

For unbeknown to many of her thespian contemporaries, Isabella hails from one of Britain's wealthiest families. Beautiful, clever and talented, she can trace her aristocratic lineage back to the 12th Century and is the granddaughter of an Earl.

Indeed, where most people content themselves with only one surname, her pedigree is so impressive that she can lay claim to three: her full name is Isabella Amaryllis Charlotte Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe.

Improbably named and impossibly good-looking, one of her most ardent admirers is, reputedly, the newly-single Prince William. Isabella was said to have been the only girl capable of making Kate Middleton jealous. At a black-tie ball in 2005, the Prince and Isabella were so intimately engrossed in conversation that Kate reportedly stormed out in protest.

But then even the most confident young lady could not help but find Isabella intimidating. Although her life could be one of effortless privilege, she has chosen to prove her own worth with as little help as possible from her distinguished background. And while most of her highsociety contemporaries spend their evenings being photographed at fashionable parties, Isabella prefers the anonymous camaraderie of the theatre.

'I am not a dilettante,' she has said.

'I didn't grow up thinking, "I don't need to work for a living." I could never feel proud of myself if I didn't have a job.' A contemporary says that it is this unstarry attitude that makes her so likeable: 'She's the kind of person you want to feel resentful about, but once you know Isabella, it's difficult to dislike her because she's so genuine.' Quite what her illustrious forebears would make of her distinctly down-atheel career choice is a matter of conjecture. Historically, actresses have wanted to emulate members of the aristocracy rather than the other way round - and Isabella's pedigree is decidedly patrician.

Her father, John, who until recently ran a company manufacturing airline food, is a direct descendant of Charles II. Her mother, the banking heiress Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon, was one of the most glamorous debutantes of the Sixties and the daughter of the dashing motor-racing veteran Earl Howe, who raced a Bugatti and won at Le Mans.

Born in 1980, Isabella was the couple's second child. Her parents divorced six years later. Between them they have been married six times, producing nine children. Isabella has a younger brother Jacobi, a nightclub promoter, and an older sister Georgiana, a sculptor, and describes members of her vast extended family as 'my best friends'.

Growing up in Winchester, she attended the exclusive Heathfield St Mary's school in Ascot, Berkshire, where she was in the year above actress Sienna Miller. After A-levels at nearby Bradfield College, she gained a 2:1 in Classics at Edinburgh University, where she acted with the Edinburgh Footlights.

She also found the time to be named in eighth place in a list of top female dates for the 21st Century by Tatler magazine and appeared on the cover of Country Life - the first model in the history of the magazine to be photographed wearing a bellybutton ring.

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