If Simon doesn't tell me when he's getting married I'm going to belt him: Mr Cowell's formidable mum reveals home truths

No, Julie Cowell hasn’t bought a hat yet.

Simon’s mother, who celebrated her 85th birthday this week, answers the question before it’s even asked.

‘It’s all anyone wants to know these days,’ she complains, albeit good-naturedly. ‘I go for lunch with a girlfriend and they ask: “Have you got a hat yet? What about the outfit? What colour are you going for?” All I can say is: “No I haven’t.” How can you buy an outfit for a wedding with no date or venue?’

Close relationship: But Julie Cowell is still waiting for Simon to name a date for his wedding

Close relationship: But Julie Cowell is still waiting for Simon to name a date for his wedding

Drat. My next question was going to be about the date of her son’s forthcoming nuptials. We all know that it’s going to be a busy time for weddings next year. Westminster Abbey is already booked for a certain Friday in April, and presumably Elton John will be too. Cheryl Cole might still be free for bridesmaid duty, but who knows?

‘I know. A royal wedding — marvellous news,’ beams Julie, a delightful soul. ‘Simon could do the same day, couldn’t he?’ Joking aside, it can’t be easy being a parent waiting, diary in hand, in the wings of a will-they-won’t-they wedding. Especially when, with Prince William taken care of, your son has become the most eligible millionaire bachelor in the country.

Questions have already started to be asked about what exactly is keeping Simon and his fiancée Mezhgan ­Hussainy from naming the day. Their engagement was sealed earlier this year with a flashy ring, and a rather stilted kiss on the Jay Leno show.

Since then, nothing. They’ve barely been seen together, and when asked outright this week if the engagement was still on, Mezhgan ­answered with a curious, and decidedly unromantic, ‘yes, as far as I know’.

Simon’s mother, bafflingly, can offer no clues. ‘Oh, the engagement is still on, from what I hear, but I haven’t heard a word about an actual wedding.

‘After the engagement I asked them “Are you going to have an engagement party?” and they said they might. But they didn’t. And now I don’t ask. It’s a very private thing. I don’t believe in going quizzy, quizzy, quizzy.’

Alas, some of us are paid to do exactly that, so does she think Simon will actually get married at all? Most mothers would be horrified at such a question. Oddly enough, she seems to think it entirely reasonable.

‘I think he might, because he ­definitely got engaged. He told me himself face-to-face. He’s never made that sort of commitment before. But we shall have to wait and see.’

We could be kind, of course, and say that a lengthy engagement makes for a happier marriage. Julie says that Prince William was ‘just right’ to hold off until he was ‘absolutely sure’.

Should Simon do the same?

‘Oh, I don’t know about that. At that rate, he would be 90 before he gets up the aisle,’ she quips.

Still waiting: Simon's engagement to Mezhgan Hussainy is 'still on' according to his mother

Still waiting: Simon's engagement to Mezhgan Hussainy is 'still on' according to his mother

So what does she make of her future daughter-in-law? They’ve met only a handful of times, so there doesn’t seem to be a huge rapport there. However, she concludes: ‘She’s a very pretty girl, gentle, nice, all the things men like.’ Right. And good for Simon?

‘I think so. He’s certainly mellower. Have you noticed that on this series of The X Factor? That could just be down to his age, though.’

Simon’s age becomes something of a theme. She chats away about the fact he now wears glasses occasionally, and jokes about his Botox, pointing out ‘they’re all having it now, but I never thought he needed it’.

His mum is astonished that he actually celebrated his 50th birthday with a party last October. ‘I thought he’d want to deny it, but he surprised me.’ So did the party entertainment, by all accounts. It featured naked dancing girls and one entertainer dressed as a woman’s private parts, brandishing a sex aid.

That his mother was the guest of honour pretty much says everything about the relationship between these two. Also at the party was a string of ex-girlfriends, including presenter Terri Seymour and model Jackie St Clair, who lined up to kiss Julie and settle down for a gossip.

‘Oh, I’m in touch with lots of his ex-girlfriends. I think it’s rather nice. In my day you didn’t stay friends with a boyfriend when it ended, but Simon is very good about that. I’ve seen lots of girls come. And go.’

Past girlfriends have said the only woman there’s room for in Simon’s life is his mother. Interestingly, she doesn’t quibble with that. ‘I think that’s boys for you, isn’t it? The mother is always the dominant influence, the person who holds the family together.’

And they’re very close. Today, we are chatting in Simon’s ­£8million mansion in London, which she uses as a kind of hotel when she’s in town. Otherwise she lives with her dog Max (named after Simon’s publicist Max Clifford) in rural Sussex.

Every so often, Simon flies her to the States or Barbados. Last Christmas, when he asked what she would like as a gift, she said a duvet cover would be nice. He bought her a car.

Now, she is fretting about what to buy him for Christmas — ‘I had my eye on a lovely book, but was devastated to find out someone else has bought it for him. It might be socks again.’

You have only to spend an hour in Julie’s company to understand her son a little more. She is as neat and exquisitely turned out as he is, and — a former dancer — she too knows exactly how to command a room.

She’s a similar mix of steely and approachable, a born communicator, but one you’d be loath to cross.

She worked in theatre for eight years when her first marriage ended, but put her career on hold when she met her second husband, record company boss Eric. Simon, who ­followed his father into the profession, shares his business sense, but just enough of his mother’s theatricality.

When Simon and his brother Nicholas came along, she put her career on hold. ‘I loved the theatre, but found that I rather took to the home-building thing. My husband worked long hours, like Simon does.’

At home, she clearly had high standards. Simon’s famously impeccable manners stem from her insistence on ‘pleases and thank-yous at all times’.

‘Was I strict with him? Probably. It was definitely up to me to ­provide the discipline. I found out recently that when I told the boys their father would deal with them when he got home, he’d usually shut the door, giggle with them, then say: “Tell your mother I gave you a hard time.” ’

The way they were: A young Simon (far left) with Julie and his brother Nicholas back in the 1960s

The way they were: A young Simon (far left) with Julie and his brother Nicholas back in the 1960s

In all, there were four children — three boys and a girl. Simon and his brothers sound like quite a handful. Julie was more than up to the task, though. I ask if the young Simon ever got a good smack? She laughs.

‘He did, actually. On the backside. Or a slap on the hand. If you’ve got a big family I don’t know how you get away with not smacking. I’m not talking a “bang”, but a tap on the hand to say “that’s enough”. There were lots of cuddles, too. We were a very English family, very close.’

Still, the family has not been without its troubles. First, 12 years ago, came Julie’s breast cancer — which gave all of them, particularly Simon, ‘one hell of a jolt’.

Julie coped with characteristic ­stoicism, charging off to buy a new coat when she was diagnosed. Eric wanted to keep the news from the children; Julie insisted they must be told — but only to a point.

‘I said they needed to know, but I never wanted to worry them. I wanted to protect them. I never made a fuss, but I know Simon took it hard. When I got the all-clear, he sent me the biggest bunch of flowers you’ve ever seen.’

Now, she’s heavily involved in ­charity work, particularly supporting a cancer vaccine. She frequently asks — you could quibble with the ‘ask’ — Simon to get out his cheque book, and he has, to the tune of millions.

Just after her own cancer fight, she lost her beloved husband. Eric died in 1998, just as Simon’s success was building. He phoned home on the day Eric collapsed with a fatal heart attack, to share the news of a Number One in the States. Julie couldn’t bear to say his father was dead.

‘I just couldn’t get the words out. In the end, his brother Nicholas had to phone him back. Simon was in a terrible state when he finally got home.’

Mrs Cowell has strong views on marriage. She had been unhappily married before she met Eric, who came with two stepchildren in tow. ‘When you have a good marriage, there is nothing better,’ she says. ‘But it takes hard work to make a good marriage, especially one where there are two families coming together. You have to work at it on a daily basis. Marriage is hard work, simple as.’

This could be good news for Simon, for — as she tells me no fewer than four times — working hard is what he does best. But this is keeping him away from his fiancée. Julie reveals that while Simon has largely been working in the UK, Mezhgan has been holed up in LA, with her family.

‘It would have been pointless her hanging around here. He’s working all the hours there are. It is not easy for a girl,’ she says with a shrug.

‘My son is a workaholic. His work comes first, and whoever he marries will have to accept that, though I know it’s not always acceptable. She will have to fit around him, rather than the other way round.’

All  of which begs the question of whether there’s a woman on the planet who could fit into Simon’s life. At this point, you might expect a vigorous explanation of why Mezhgan is the right woman for the job. But it does not come. ‘Ah, that I don’t know,’ is all Julie says.

A cynic might say that continued speculation about his wedding suits Simon Cowell — the master of media manipulation — fine. His mother says he found it hilarious when the world’s media descended on her village church in Sussex recently, convinced that the nuptials were imminent.

‘My vicar has been menaced about this wedding, you know,’ she says, shaking her head. ‘They had to shut the roads in our village for something and word got out that it was because Simon was getting married. All these photographers turned up. It wasn’t true at all.’

Let’s say that Simon and Mezhgan do make it down the aisle, though. Is she expecting little Simons or Simonettas? Simon has always said that children are not for him, but people do change when they finally settle down.

‘Two or three of his ex-girlfriends have said that to me in the past, but not everyone wants to be a family person,’ Julie muses.

‘I’m not sure Simon would have the patience for children. He is brilliant with his nieces and nephews, but his own? I don’t know. Besides, he’s 51 now, which is getting on a bit for all that. Even for a man.

‘It would be different if — like Rod Stewart — he’d already had a family when he was young. It’s a common-sense thing, isn’t it? Of course, Simon would be rich enough to have a nanny, but that is not the same.

‘That’s just my opinion, though. They may have other ideas. He doesn’t always listen to me, you know.’

Presumably, if and when the date does get set, she will be the first to know? ‘I should hope so,’ she says. ‘Otherwise I will belt him one.’

Julie is honorary president of Against Breast Cancer: www.againstbreastcancer.org.uk

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now