Freudian Grip; HARRIET VYNER, a Former Lover of Lucian Freud, Tells SPENCER BRIGHT How Her Privileged Life in Bohemian London Was Ruined by Drink and Drugs

Daily Mail (London), March 10, 2007 | Go to article overview

Freudian Grip; HARRIET VYNER, a Former Lover of Lucian Freud, Tells SPENCER BRIGHT How Her Privileged Life in Bohemian London Was Ruined by Drink and Drugs


Byline: SPENCER BRIGHT

The aristocracy certainly pay for their pleasures. Harriet Vyner, great-granddaughter of the Duke of Richmond, was born into wealth and privilege on her family's fabulous North Yorkshire estate. Yet it could not save her from heroin addiction and the damage caused by a Bohemian life amid Britain's artistic elite. Her mother, Margaret, was an upper-class former Vogue model. When Vyner was seven, her father, Henry, sold his estate to pay off ruinous debts caused by his gambling addiction. A year later, she was almost murdered by a stranger, which helped plunge her into a cycle of damaging, self-destructive behaviour.

'I was very messed up, with something very dark inside me,' she says. By the time Vyner was 16, living on a family trust fund, her downward spiral had begun. She was drinking heavily and taking amphetamines. At 18, she became one of the many models and lovers of Britain's greatest living artist, the notorious womaniser Lucian Freud, who was some 30 years her senior, and who painted her twice. By 23, she was a heroin addict, and served a jail sentence for dealing drugs.

Now 47 and a successful writer, Vyner regrets her squalid past. 'If only I could have that time back now,' she says. 'I'd get a job instead of living on a trust fund. I was near death and all I wanted to do was to sleep and take heroin. I'm the perfect poor little rich girl, an example of what can happen when you give your child too much money.' Vyner has written an autobiographical novel, Among Ruins, an insider's insight into the faded aristocracy and decadent life she knows so well. Though she has changed the names of the people she writes about, her story is based on real events. It features a famous artist named Christopher Kovel, a cruel, selfish recluse.

Vyner says he is based on the late Francis Bacon, rather than Lucian Freud.

'I know Lucian was so much older than me, but it was delightful fun and fascinating to find such an interesting man who was so passionate about his work,' she says of their yearlong affair. 'He is a genius. Some people regard him as sinister, but I assure you that if I had to choose between Lucian and hanging out with my Sloaney peers and their boyfriends, there would be no contest.

'He introduced me to a world I'd never known before, like eating jellied eels in the East End of London. It was so nice to be with someone who was actually authentic in what he wanted to do. He has a great sense of humour.

He once gave me some money to go and buy a dress for a party and I came back with this revealing Ossie Clark creation, which I thought was the most glamorous thing.

'He laughed and laughed. I was annoyed because I thought I looked like a femme fatale, but, in fact, I looked like a half-naked 19-yearold, which he thought was hilarious. I was in love with him, definitely, and he was very keen on me, too. …

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