Fact is always stranger than fiction, so don’t be surprised if, just four weeks after the coronation, King Charles sees his much sought-after horse, Slipofthepen, thunder to victory in the Epsom Derby – the only classic race in which Queen Elizabeth has never ridden a winner .
But things, I can reveal, could get even weirder – thanks to Old Harrovian sports baronet Sir Rupert Mackeson, 81. After two and a half decades on the course, selling books and prints – many of them signed by his late friend, the legendary Lester Piggott, a nine-time Derby winner, a record – Mackeson got his marching orders from the owners, the Jockey Club.
“Look, out of the blue I’ve had an email saying I can’t go anymore,” Mackeson tells me, adding that he has “a really nice stand” close to the paddock and backing onto the Queen’s Stellage .
Mackeson is in no mood to go quietly. Indeed, he is setting up a rearguard action in which he will appeal directly to the new monarch. His intention, he explains, is “to petition the king.”
He takes courage from an earlier petition he learned of during his time in the Household Cavalry. “Last time that happened, as far as I know, [was when] a fellow in my regiment petitioned the then king [George VI] in 1946 to be allowed to marry a German if there is no fraternization [were in place]. It certainly worked for him. King George gave permission.’
Sir Rupert Mackeson, 81, mounts a rearguard action where he will appeal directly to the new monarch
After two and a half decades on the course, selling books and prints, Mackeson has received his marching orders from the owners, the Jockey Club.
The Jockey Club declined to comment, although the email to Sir Rupert explains impending construction work means his stand will not be available
If that’s not enough, Sir Rupert may ingratiate himself with Queen Camilla. “I probably danced with her—and her sister—when I was a Deb’s Delight,” he tells me.
The Jockey Club declined to comment, although the email to Sir Rupert explains impending construction work means his stand will not be available, adding that there may be a place for him in the area known as ‘The Hill’.
That’s out of the question, says Mackeson, thanks to serious injuries sustained in the military. “I broke my back – a horse came at me while I was wearing state uniform. They said, ‘If you live long enough, you end up in a wheelchair’ – and that’s where I’m going.’
The Jockey Club, he adds, is now “so aggressive.”
Unfortunately, I’m told the authorities feel much the same way about Mackeson. Time for a monarchical intervention to restore calm?
Lady Bakewell puts her 90th party on hold
Joan Bakewell turns 90 this weekend but puts the festivities on hold until she completes her treatment for colon cancer
Joan Bakewell turns 90 this weekend, but postpones the celebrations until after she completes her treatment for colon cancer.
“The chemotherapy is not really comfortable and it invades my life in a way that would spoil a party,” says the celebrated broadcaster.
So I thought I’d wait until it’s over in June and throw a party in the fall. The chemo went well, but it cuts through my life, and it means I’m not my normal self.’
Baroness Bakewell, who underwent surgery before Christmas after a routine scan found her cancer, adds: “I get it in September when people come back from vacation.”
Russell Crowe’s Roman general in Sir Ridley Scott’s blockbuster Gladiator addressed his soldiers with the words “Strength and Honour.”
Now Crowe has revealed that the inspiration for them comes from his school days.
“I went to Ridley and said, ‘I want something original that Maximus says when he greets one of his soldiers.'”
Crowe wondered if Sydney Boys High School’s motto ‘Veritate et Virtute’ could be used: ‘The idea would be to say ‘forza e l’onore’.
And Ridley says, “What the hell does that mean?”
I said, “Well, it actually means power and honor,” and he says, “Ooh, say that.”
Getting behind the camera to direct Agatha Christie’s Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? wasn’t the laughter Hugh Laurie thought it would be.
“I thought it would be a little fun,” says the House star, 63.
But that’s not quite the word. Imagine trying to make something like a Rubik’s Cube while others pelt you in the face with handfuls of hot gravel.
“I feel retrospective guilt for not appreciating the directors I’ve worked with before. I now realize what they went through and my hat is off to them.’