Kate Middleton's last night of freedom will be at the Goring Hotel

Enlarge   Checking in? Kate Middleton with her fiance Prince William

Wedding plans: Kate is determined to avoid comparisons to Princess Diana

It was much loved by the Queen Mother, and these days the Queen and Baroness Thatcher are patrons.

And for four days in April, the Goring Hotel, near Buckingham ­Palace, will be taken over by the family and friends of Kate Middleton — together with ­William’s chums — for the royal wedding.

Now, I hear, Kate is thinking of basing ­herself at the same hotel for the night before the ceremony.

Certainly that is the talk among excited staff at the five-star hotel, where double rooms cost £345 a night.

The couple chose the Goring for their guests because it is close to the Palace, where their reception will be held after the Westminster Abbey nuptials.

If Kate also stays there, it would be in tune with her wish to ensure her wedding is not overblown with pomp and pageantry — she has, remember, declined a horse-drawn carriage ride to the Abbey, choosing instead to go by car.

Determined to avoid comparisons with ­Princess Diana, who did go by coach, Kate would avoid another by staying in a hotel. Lady Diana Spencer spent her wedding night at Clarence House, now the home of Prince Charles. Kate is unlikely to want to do the same.

It would also give her one last unmarried night with her parents, Michael and Carole — just like most modern young brides.

Goring Hotel

Last night of freedom: Kate Middleton will spend the night before the wedding at the Goring Hotel

End of the affair for Brabourne?

Landowner Lord Brabourne’s dramatic exit from his 30-year marriage and Hampshire estate shattered one of Britain’s great aristocratic dynasties.

But just five months after the 63-year-old cousin of Prince Charles and heir to the Mountbatten title left his attractive wife Penny to start afresh in the Bahamas, there has been a setback in his new romantic life with exotic local beauty Jeannie McWeeny.

The couple, I learn, are no longer together. Brabourne, better known as Norton Knatchbull, had been with 58-year-old Jeannie, a fashion entrepreneur and widow of tax-exiled baronet Sir Nicholas ­Nuttall, on tiny Windermere island since his abrupt departure from Broadlands, his 60-room ancestral home, where the Queen spent her honeymoon.

Whether this estrangement is temporary or permanent remains to be seen, but friends are saying it is over.

Heading home? Lord Brabourne

Heading home? Lord Brabourne

Brabourne, who has always had a Bahamas retreat — Charles and Princess Diana holidayed there in the Eighties — has not been seen back in Britain. But it does throw up the intriguing possibility that he might try to win Penny back.

Says a friend: ‘None of us really knows what has happened with Jeannie, but Norton has made it clear he had no intention of ­divorcing Penny. The financial cost would have been immense. This might have been the catalyst.’

It was in August that I revealed the reasons behind Brabourne’s apparent mid-life crisis. He and Jeannie — the daughter of a hotel receptionist — had grown close after Nuttall’s death three years ago. But his decision to walk out on his life in England shocked the Royal Family.

It was left to Penny, carriage-driving muse of Prince Philip, to announce his departure to stunned staff. She told them she would be running the estate single-­handedly and, so far, she has been.

The family have been beset by ­tragedy over the years. Norton’s grandfather, Earl Mountbatten, his grandmother and youngest brother were ­all murdered by the IRA in 1979.

He and Penny then lost their younger daughter, Leonora, to ­cancer at the age of five. Their 29-year-old son Nicholas, meanwhile, is a crack addict who has become engaged to an unmarried mother-of-two brought up on a council estate.


Lord Patten, who’s just been interviewed for the chairmanship of the BBC Trust, is ‘desperate’ for the £110,000-a-year post, a source tells me. But even though it requires just three to four days’ work each week, will he have time to do it?

Former Tory minister Patten, 66, already has paid jobs with six other organisations, including oil giant BP, and 12 unpaid official roles, including as Chancellor of Oxford University.

No doubt ex-BP boss Lord Browne, a member of the BBC selection panel and himself a Senior Fellow of St Anthony’s College, Oxford, has taken this into account.


Just 18 months after inheriting magnificent Lydney Park in Gloucestershire following the death of his father, the 3rd Viscount Bledisloe, reformed hell-raiser Rupert Bathurst appears to have fallen out with locals.

Old Etonian Rupert, 46 — who has transformed since his drug-taking days (he was sent down from Exeter) to become an accomplished portrait ­artist — upset visitors to the estate when it was announced that its popular model village would close. It was said that the attraction was ‘unable to secure a long-term lease from the landlord’.

The estate’s website thanks visitors for their ‘support’ over the decision, but a local tells me: ‘We are not in any way supporting the closure. It was a cherished spot.’

The matter has now been complicated by legal proceedings. A spokesman for the estate says: ‘Given the current ­situation, it would be inappropriate to say anything,’ before adding: ‘But it has been a relief to some people that the model village has closed.’


Candys’ sweethearts light up their launch

Actress Holly Valance and former It-girl Emily Crompton added some glamour to the star-­studded party thrown by their property men partners, Nick and Christian Candy, for the launch of their luxury Hyde Park development yesterday.

Broadcaster Gary Lineker, F1 tycoon Bernie Ecclestone and his daughter Petra, entrepreneur James Caan, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and ­jeweller Theo ­Fennell rubbed shoulders with financial figures and other urban achievers at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge.

Glamour girls: Holly (left) and Emily at the bash

Glamour girls: Holly (left) and Emily at the bash

Architect Lord Rogers said he hoped the concrete-and-glass structure, designed as four linked pavilions, would stand for 100 years. The project, which took seven years from concept to completion, houses around 90 of London’s most expensive flats.

The Candys, meanwhile, have got their eyes on nearby ­Knightsbridge barracks, home of the Household Cavalry, amid talk that the Ministry of Defence may be ready to sell it off.


Showbusiness agent Jonathan Shalit seems to have it all: wealth, health and a beautiful new wife.

But the impresario admits to one major disappointment — not having children. Shalit, who discovered ­Charlotte Church, knew when he married Katrina, 50, in November that there would be no babies.

He says: ‘I adore Katrina’s grown-up daughters, Jessica and Sofia, but I haven’t got my own blood child, and I admit there’s a male broodiness. I’d love to consider surrogacy or adoption, but Katrina is saying “No”.’



As speculation grows about which designer will make Kate Middleton’s wedding dress — her friends are still ­tipping Alice Temperley — a new contender has entered the ring.

Colourful Romanian Lorand Coza — whose ­voluminous creations were featured in the Channel 4 show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding — has prepared a portfolio of his work to send to Kate for Valentine’s Day.

‘The material alone will cost €2,000 [£1,700] and I know it’s worth around €6,000 [£5,000],’ he says. ‘I’d be willing to ­negotiate a price with Kate, of course, but I wouldn’t be willing to give it away.’


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