Lauder's son consoles art lover as her marriage fails

Last updated at 12:22 12 May 2004

During the painful aftermath of a marriage break-up, nothing is more important than for the woman to have a good friend in whom she can confide. Just such a confidant is Ronald Lauder, second son of the late cosmetics queen, Estee.

Some believe that the one-time U.S. ambassador to Austria thinks of little but his wife, Jo Carole, and his fabulous collection of paintings that has made him the most influential figure on the world art market.

But, in fact, I hear a lot of his energy is being devoted to provide understanding and consolation for Israeli-born art dealer Daniella Luxembourg.

Miss Luxembourg - at 53 a still attractive and stylish figure in her trademark Prada suits - who is a former director of Sotheby's and Phillips, the London auction houses, has separated from her husband of many years, an Israel-based academic.

Over the years, Ronald Lauder, 59, whose two daughters Aerin, 34, and Jane, 31, work for the Estee Lauder company, has bought art through Miss Luxembourg's Geneva-based company.

Now, I can reveal, dark-haired Miss Luxembourg, who moves between Switzerland, New York and London, has taken a flat - known as a 'set' - in Albany, the smart Piccadilly apartment block whose famous residents included the late Alan Clark and handsome leading man Terence Stamp.

Mr Lauder also has a flat in the same block, which is now being renovated.

Last week, both were absent from the memorial service for Lauder's 97-year-old mother Estee - held at Claridges - and which was presided over by Ronald's elder brother, Leonard.

'The pair are great art lovers,' says a friend. 'During her lifetime, Estee Lauder was a matriarchal figure whose sheer force of personality was a controlling influence over the family.

Miss Luxembourg was reluctant to discuss her relationship with Mr Lauder with me but confirmed she had separated from her husband. Her Albany flat, she said, was 'owned by a company'.

She added: 'I want to make it clear that I never comment on my private life, and you cannot interpret what I said as meaning anything.'

When Prince Charles's polo friend Major Peter Hunter was jilted by his fiancee Pippa Deakin - first revealed here on Monday - many thought he would be put off women for life.

But the mercurial Major, who was dumped after childcare entrepreneur Pippa, 37, said she saw 'another side' to his character, was positively drowning in female company yesterday. Hunter, 43, arrived back from South Africa and headed straight to lunch. . . with 350 women.

He was invited to a fund-raiser for drugs charity Addaction at London's Dorchester Hotel by high society beautician Heather Bird, 34, who was involved in a domestic tangle of her own last year, before choosing long-term boyfriend, property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz, 42, over Australian millionaire Wayne Sharpe.

Sadly, Major Hunter's presence was more than a little unfortunate. 'Embarrassingly for Heather and Peter, neither of them realised that it was an all-woman event, organised by Sandra Howard, the Conservative leader's wife,' I am told. 'Poor old Peter stuck out like a sore thumb, and after what happened with Pippa, I'm not sure anyone would touch him with a bargepole.'

There will be a familiar face when the Queen joins tourists looking over Osborne House, her great, great-grandmother Queen Victoria's retreat on the Isle of Wight, next week.

Former royal driver David Griffin has joined the staff ferrying summer visitors around the grounds. Griffin, 57, spent 26 years chauffeuring Princess Margaret, taught her children David and Sarah how to drive, and carried his ailing mistress up and down stairs when she lost the use of her legs. 'Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, where I used to work, and died at Osborne House where I now work,' he tells me. 'I feel like I am following her around.'

Lady Thatcher may still have the fulsome admiration of the Conservative Party but - caddish MP Alan Clark aside - none have admitted to, how can one put it, libidinous feelings for her. But now it appears the Iron Lady has sapphic admirers.

Margot James, 46 - who came out as a lesbian in this column - has been selected by the Tories to fight the safe Labour seat of Holborn and St Pancras, currently held by buffoonish former Health Secretary Frank Dobson.

The millionaire businesswoman first met Lady T on the day she became Tory leader, when she took the day off from school.

Last week, Margot met her again at a party to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Baroness Thatcher becoming Prime Minister. Sadly, Maggie did not remember Margot, but had some kind words all the same.

'When I told her where I was standing, she said "That's a tricky one", and told me to make sure I get all the Tory voters registered,' says Margot. As for her personal feelings for the Iron Lady, when asked if Thatcher made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, she sighed: 'Oh, you have got my number, haven't you!'

Volatile restaurateur Oliver Peyton's latest venture is not without teething troubles. On Sunday, lunch guests were evacuated on police orders from his St James's Park eaterie, Inn The Park, after a security alert. Things had not much improved by Tuesday night.

'There seemed to be a problem with the electricity because the lights kepts going off and on,' one disgruntled diner tells me. 'We waited 20 minutes for our drinks, then they managed to bring us two starter courses, while our neighbours had a double pudding course. 'Strangely, considering the place has only just opened, half the wines on the list seemed to be unavailable too.'

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