Why you're never more than 10ft from one of Sam Cam's racy rellies: The Astor family is embedded at every level of the modern beau monde, writes RICHARD KAY
Family ties: The racy relatives of Prime Minister's wife Samantha Cameron are never too far away
Judging by the pictures that emerged from her hen night this week featuring an outsize inflatable phallus, bride-to-be Victoria Hargreaves’s pre-wedding party at 10 Downing Street promises to be a very racy affair.
Victoria is marrying Jake Astor, the party-loving younger son of Viscount Astor and the half-brother of Samantha Cameron, who is throwing open the doors of No 10 for a gathering of perhaps the most fascinating and well-connected family in the land.
Jake, 33, who has never been allowed to forget Tatler’s description of him as ‘superhot Jake the Snake with alarmingly tight trousers’, and his fiancee will naturally be the centre of attention.
But the presence of so many others bearing the beguiling Astor moniker means they will have their work cut out to remain above the fray.
Quite apart from their links to Sam Cam, the Prime Minister and the very heart of government, the family is embedded at every level of the modern beau monde — from the royals and the landowning classes, to Hollywood, rock ’n’ roll and, yes, the Middletons.
There’s even an obligatory black sheep, but more of that later.
Indeed, such is the family’s ubiquity, it is often joked in smart circles that one is never more than ten feet from an Astor.
Trying to make sense of the Astor family tree is enough to bring tears to the eyes of the most forensic of genealogists.
For the mere amateur it is like navigating a maze while wearing a blindfold. Even clan members tend to fall back on the all-encompassing term ‘cousin’ when it comes to describing who’s who in the family.
In little more than 100 years, the Astors have, confusingly, produced two distinct aristocratic lines and many have remarried several times. Suffice to say, the Astor name hums with posh scandal, fabulous houses and pots and pots of money.
Nothing symbolises this collision of extreme wealth and disrepute more than Cliveden, the 19th-century Italianate pleasure palace that was the family’s ancestral home overlooking the Thames in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.
In the Thirties when Nancy Astor, Britain’s first woman MP, was its celebrated chatelaine, the mansion was synonymous with a smart-set of political and literary figures who supported the appeasement of Adolf Hitler.
Thirty years later, it was the location for the raffish party where the current Lord Astor’s father introduced War Minister Jack Profumo to a ravishing dark-haired beauty — naked but for a discreetly stationed towel — called Christine Keeler.
Saucy: Victoria Hargreaves (right) with friends on her hen night with a blow-up toy (hidden for the sake of modesty by the Astor crest) Her pre-wedding party at 10 Downing Street promises to be a very racy affair
Their meeting and subsequent affair triggered one of the country’s greatest post-war political crises after it emerged that Keeler had also enjoyed a relationship with Soviet spy Yevgeny Ivanov.
The fallout from the Profumo affair, which scandalised the early Sixties Establishment, might have destroyed the Astor name and seen it shrink into the margins of aristocratic life.
But instead it has flourished and its prestige continues to grow. Today, the Astors are Britain’s answer to the Kennedys.
They spend summers at their estate on the Hebridean island of Jura — a cooler (much cooler) location than Hyannis Port, the Kennedy family compound in Massachusetts — and their tentacles of influence reach everywhere.
They supplied two bridesmaids at the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, they are millionaire entrepreneurs and they are part of the media landscape.
David Cameron, meanwhile, counts one of the two current Lord Astors as his stepfather-in-law and another as a minister in the Ministry of Defence.
So just who are the Astors and where does their name and great fortune come from?
Here, RICHARD KAY examines a clan whose family motto — Ad Astra, or to the stars — could not be more appropriate for the number of brilliant marital unions that has helped to safeguard the longevity of the dynasty.
The billionaire ancestors
Glamorous: Nancy, the glamorous wife of William Waldorf's eldest son, was Britain's first woman MP
A century ago they were the wealthiest family in the U.S., if not the world, and the Astor name still holds immense sway in east coast America.
At the height of their influence, they were one of the five great American dynasties with the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Mellons.
Their wealth descended from fur trader John Jacob Astor, America’s first millionaire, and his property-investing sons and grandsons, who owned much of Manhattan.
One Astor, John Jacob IV who went down with the Titanic, and his cousin Waldorf Astor, bequeathed New York the double-barrelled Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Until recently, America’s most recognised member of the clan was Brooke Astor, encouraged by her dying husband into ‘having fun after I’m dead by giving away money’. It was a vocation she took up with alacrity. By the time of her death in 2007, the ‘first lady of New York’ had lavished more than £100 million on good causes.
These days, there are few Astors left in the States. Most live in Britain, where their social and political influence are more subtle.
They established themselves here in the 1890s when William Waldorf sailed for Britain. He bought Cliveden, Hever Castle in Kent and the Observer newspaper.
His generosity to libraries and art galleries brought him a viscountcy from George V in 1917.
Nancy, glamorous wife of his eldest son, William the 2nd Viscount, was Britain’s first woman MP. His second son, John, became the 1st Baron Astor of Hever.
Business magnate mum and dad who riled Dave
For all the Astors’ glittering provenance, it is Annabel, the current Viscountess and Samantha Cameron’s mother, who has in many ways the most romantic past.
Her mother, Pandora, was one of the three dazzling daughters of Sir Bede Clifford, a Governor of Trinidad and Tobago and a member of a family famous for the loveliness of its women going back to Henry II’s mistress Fair Rosamund in the 12th century.
Annabel’s paternal grandmother was Enid Bagnold, author of National Velvet, the novel that gave Elizabeth Taylor her first screen role.
For all the Astors’ glittering provenance, it is Annabel, the current Viscountess and Samantha Cameron’s mother, who has in many ways the most romantic past. Above, Annabel with her husband, Viscount Astor
At 20, Annabel married baronet’s heir Reggie Sheffield and they had two daughters, Emily and Samantha. The marriage came unstuck after he apparently ran off with her best friend and in 1976, aged 28, she married Viscount Astor, four years her junior.
Annabel was by then a successful businesswoman with a Knightsbridge jewellery shop she had set up aged 18.
A favourite of the Princess of Wales, the shop was where Diana discreetly bought gifts for her admirers.
After 30 years, Annabel sold the store to develop Oka, her home furnishing company, where the Duchess of Cambridge likes to shop. It is a multi-million-pound empire with 11 stores and a thriving mail order business.
William, the fourth Viscount Astor, is a spirited individual.
He angered David Cameron last year by publicly criticising the Government’s plans for a high-speed railway to Birmingham, and Samantha was said to be furious when he had an affair with a key member of Cameron’s circle, Rachel Whetstone, now married to Cameron’s former ideas man, Steve Hilton.
Heir married to a Diet Coke glamour girl
Couple: Will Astor is pictured with his successful wife, Lohralee Stutz, a glamorous former model
Easy-going Will Astor, 35 — Sam Cam’s step-brother — runs an asset management company and followed the family tradition of marrying strong, successful and beautiful women.
His wife of five years is Lohralee Stutz, a glamorous former model from Vancouver. The dark-haired beauty was Canada’s Diet Coke girl and modelled Diesel and Lee Jeans.
After spotting her in a Chelsea street, it took Will Astor a month to find out her name and, more important, get an introduction. They were engaged 18 months later and now have two children.
Of the Astors, Lohralee says: ‘It’s a big family and you definitely need to stand your ground and be strong, as Will hasn’t just got one brother and sister, there are so many of them.’
As well as his older half-siblings, Samantha and her sister Emily, deputy editor of Vogue, Will has a sister, Flora, a jewellery designer living in France, and, of course, a brother in bridegroom-to-be Jake, who’s based in Hong Kong.
Bullingdon club boy
Philip Astor's marriage to Justine Picardie, the well-regarded editor of Harper’s Bazaar, has undoubtedly injected some media glamour into the clan.
Philip is the younger brother of Lord Astor of Hever. A lawyer who is godson of the Duke of Edinburgh and a past president of the infamous Bullingdon Club at Oxford, he was resolutely single until he met Picardie at a dinner party in Scotland as she was researching a book about Coco Chanel.
The couple were married at Tillypronie, his shooting estate in Aberdeenshire, in 2012.
Yummy mummy who wed Will's best friend
Rose Astor, 43, is step-cousin to Sam Cam and has inherited her clan’s entrepreneurial drive.
A willowy blonde, she and a friend, Maggie Bolger set up Maggie & Rose, a hip private members club for parents in Kensington, dubbed Soho House for kids.
Despite annual fees of £875, they have 450 members and a healthy waiting list. They have just opened a second branch in Chiswick.
Founders: Rose Astor and her friend Maggie Bolger set up Maggie & Rose, a private members club for parents
Rose, who studied film-making at Edinburgh University, doesn’t need to work for the money. Her wealthy father David — a cousin of Viscount Astor — was the founding chairman of Classic FM.
In 2005, she married Hugh van Cutsem, scion of the impossibly well-connected Norfolk family who count Prince Charles among their closest friends.
Hugh and his three brothers spent much of their childhood playing with Princes William and Harry. William and Kate were guests at their wedding.
Rose is on first-name terms with those privileged folk who make up the Chipping Norton set that flitters around the Prime Minister. She is also close friends with models Cara and Poppy Delevingne — and is prone to making inane remarks on Twitter such as: ‘I love coffee/pizza/telly so much it hurts.’
Cute royal bridesmaid
Grace van Cutsem, the daughter of Rose Astor, was the stand-out star of the royal nuptials in 2011
Cute Grace van Cutsem, Rose Astor’s daughter, was the stand-out star of the royal nuptials in 2011.
race, who also happens to be the Duke of Cambridge’s goddaughter, famously covered her ears as she joined the newlyweds on the Buckingham Palace balcony because of the roar from the RAF flypast.
Her cherubic appearance endeared her to millions — and made her easily the most sought after bridesmaid in the country, adorning nine more society weddings as a bridesmaid since Kate and William’s.
Chipping Norton chum of PM and Rebekah Brooks
Rose Astor's brother Tom, 42, — also Sam Cam’s step-cousin — farms at Merriscourt Farm, Oxfordshire, where he set up a community of artists and boutique businesses that attract wealthy buyers from London. He was previously in the art market and the world of historic racing cars.
It was at his 2012 Christmas party that David Cameron was spotted chatting in a corner with Rebekah Brooks — she bought a £3,000 painting at Merriscourt a few years ago.
He is friends with the former News International chief’s husband, Charlie Brooks, and the two can be found drinking at the Kingham Plough, watering hole of choice for the Chipping Norton set and where regulars include PR guru Matthew Freud and his wife Elisabeth Murdoch and rocker-turned-gentleman-farmer Alex James of Blur.
Dove model in her 60s
Liz Astor recently became the face of Dove products
=As the wife of a Tory minister — she married Defence Minister Baron Astor of Hever, from the other branch of the family, in 1990 — Liz Astor is at an age when most models consign their memories to the scrapbook.
Recently, though, she became the face of Dove beauty products.
Casting agents searching for a so-called ‘ordinary woman’ spotted the striking 61-year-old lunching with her daughter in Westfield shopping centre, West London.
After satisfying the Dove executives that she’s never had a facelift or Botox, she was signed up for the princely sum of £4,000 with the firm blissfully unaware of her aristocratic pedigree.
A love child with Hollywood star
In 1998, Polly Astor, 42, a pretty cousin of Rose and Tom — and yet another step-cousin of Sam Cam — gave birth to a daughter, Martha, by her then love Dominic West, the Old Etonian star of gritty U.S. police drama The Wire. But when Martha was two, West walked out on Polly, an action for which he blames himself entirely.
Now married to Irish aristocrat Catherine Fitz-Gerald, he says: ‘I hurt Polly very badly, but I wasn’t ready to settle down.’ Polly has never married.
Party lover swept Pippa off her feet
Charlie ‘Sharky’ Astor also comes from the Hever branch of the family — he’s the first Baron Astor’s great-grandson — which is not strictly-speaking related to Sam Cam.
But since he’s an Astor, she of course knows him anyway.
He caused a stir on the dance floor of fashionable Boodles Boxing Ball in London hoisting Pippa Middleton above his head.
Charlie ‘Sharky’ Astor hoists Pippa Middleton above his head at the fashionable Boodles Boxing Ball in London
At the time she was dating cricketer Alex Loudon but before her royal wedding debut earned her the title ‘her royal hotness’, Pippa and Sharky, 32, had been an item.
Charlie runs a successful top-end children’s entertainment company, Sharky & George, with his business partner George Whitefield.
They have put on parties for the likes of Ewan McGregor, Elizabeth Hurley, Sir Paul McCartney and, surprise, surprise, the Camerons at Downing Street.
Druggie who wooed a Jagger
No smart family would be complete without the obligatory black sheep.
Step forward Josh Astor, now 47, a one-time playboy whose string of girlfriends included Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade and Seraphina, daughter of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.
Josh Astor, now 47, is a one-time playboy whose string of girlfriends included Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade and Seraphina, daughter of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Above, Josh is pictured with Jade Jagger
Expelled from Eton for smoking cannabis and with two sentences for drug possession, he was once found on the roof of chi-chi Blakes Hotel in South Kensington in a ‘drug-induced haze’.
Josh is the illegitimate son of Gannex raincoats tycoon Lord Kagan — the controversial crony of Labour PM Harold Wilson.
When his mother, Judy Traill, married Tory MP Michael Astor (uncle of Samantha’s stepfather), Astor adopted Josh and gave him the family name.
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