Arabella, Phoney Lady of Featherbed Lane; SHE CLAIMS TO HAVE BLUE BLOOD BUT HER MOTHER WORKED ON THE BUSES
Byline: PAUL HARRIS
TO those who mix in high society circles, she is the delightfully grand-sounding Lady Arabella Russell-Sackett.
A perfect title, it would seem, for the ubiquitous social 'fixer' who has become a familiar figure around some of London's more gracious gatherings, writes for one of Britain's leading celebrity magazines and consorts with royalty.
Curiously, however, there is no mention of Lady Arabella in Debrett's, the definitive guide to the aristocracy. Nor is there any formal confirmation of aristocratic blood in her immediate family. For, despite her pretensions, this is no Lady - this is plain Lillian Sackett, daughter of a County Durham bus conductress and a father who is not named on her birth certificate.
Her 'family seat' is not some magnificent pile in the country but a distinctly suburban semi with quaint blue shutters in Featherbed Lane, Croydon.
Born Lillian Blake, she was a leading aircraftwoman in the Women's Royal Air Force when she married fellow serviceman George Sackett, who later worked as a shift control officer for the gas board. Russell is his middle name.
They have had a string of county court judgments against them for the recovery of amounts ranging from [pounds sterling]91 to more than [pounds sterling]7,000. One lists her as 'Lady Sackett'.
Another details a claim against a bridal wear business under whose name she traded.
Why the 53-year-old should be introduced - even to royalty - as 'Lady Arabella' is unclear.
Her husband appears to accept the title. In a signed letter shown to the Daily Mail, he plainly refers to his wife as 'Lady Ara-bella'. The rules applying to peerage, however, are absolute. In order to be Lady Arabella, she would have to be the legitimate daughter of a duke, a mar-quess or an earl.
She could also claim the title of Lady if her husband had been knighted but, as yet, he's plain Mr Sackett. And if he were Lord Sackett of Featherbed, for example, she would be Lady Sackett.
It seems that the only way Mrs Sackett could use the title Lady Arabella is as a nom-de-plume in the sometimes fickle world of glitzy magazines, where image can be so important.
She works for OK! magazine, a slightly racier rival to Hello!
There, they largely accept her as 'Lady Arabella' and volunteer that she knows an awful lot of people.
OK! editor Sharon Ring was quick to correct any misapprehension that Lady A was the magazine's society editor.
'She's a freelance contributor' she said. 'And no more than that.
She has done stuff for us on the social front and we're very happy with what she has done.' However she added: 'We're fully aware of who she says she is. I know exactly who she is, and she's not passing herself off as anyone she isn't.' So that means she is legitimately using the title? 'She certainly is,' said Miss Ring.
Charles Kidd, editor of Debrett's, said: 'She is not listed in the peerage. To put it simply, it's a title that doesn't exist.' Nevertheless there are those who are categorical that they have heard her introduced as 'Lady'. Leading event organiser Sally Ann Whetherly, who met her at a social gathering about six years ago, said: 'I knew her first as Lady Pippa Sackett because that is how she introduced herself to me.
'The next thing I know, a few years later, is that there is someone calling herself Lady Arabella Sackett. …