Magazine article The Spectator

High Life: Taki

Magazine article The Spectator

High Life: Taki

Article excerpt

Marion, Baroness Lambert, was hit and killed by a London bus last month while shopping in Oxford Street, a cruel irony if ever there was one. 'At least it was Bentley,' was how Steven Aronson, the writer, put it.

Marion was a very old friend of mine. She had endured the worst tragedy that can befall a mother, having lost a beautiful young daughter to suicide. Philippine Lambert had been sexually abused by a family friend, a sordid story that I first broke in these here pages and later in the Sunday Times . It was a vile affair and I won't dwell on it, but it cemented a very strong friendship between us because the alleged abuser was a very rich man with powerful connections who actually warned me to desist. I did nothing of the kind, and wrote the story three times. Eventually, other news outlets picked it up.

Marion and her husband, Baron Philippe Lambert, never forgot it. When I once lost my temper with some EU biggies they had staying in their chalet, and threatened them with physical violence, the Lamberts announced that I could do no wrong. The biggies stuttered, huffed and puffed, then went back to devouring their caviar. (They had said something outrageous, like 'we know better than you poor fools' -- or words to that effect.)

Marion and Philippe were very generous hosts. Their food was a gourmet's wet dream, and the conversation at table was always -- how do I describe it? -- almost pugilistic. That's because Marion held very strong opinions and was not scared to defend them. She also had a sense of humour. On one occasion, I repeatedly sang the praises of Annabel's, the nightclub, to a tall man called Birley, who looked more and more nonplussed as the evening wore on. He turned out to be Lord Airlie, something to the Queen, but to the poor little Greek boy, Airlie and Birley were one and the same. Marion let me bang on about the nightclub even after it became clear that I had misheard the name. (When I told the story to Mark Birley, the then proprietor, I managed to elicit a wintry smile from him, as rare an occurrence as a Congolese minister without a foreign bank account.)

And speaking of that hell on earth, Philippe Lambert's grandfather lent the money to Leopold of Belgium to buy the place, something we didn't let Philippe forget following the annual Congolese massacres of the innocent. Marion was a restless soul, curious, involved, oversensitive to perceived anti-Semitism, very brave in the physical sense, and, of course, outspoken. Well past 70, she would climb mountains and ski down on deep snow, then engage in non-stop arguments about world affairs. …

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