The 'fake aristo'?

July 12 2011

Image of The 'fake aristo'?

Picture: Bridgeman Art Library

The repeated airing of my funny name on 'Fake or Fortune?' continues to excite people in an odd way. Now the Daily Mail is on the case in its Ephraim Hardcastle column:

Here's TV's rising new star, shyly smiling Bendor Grosvenor, 34, pictured, described as an art historian, on BBC1's Fake Or Fortune? show, starring newsreader Fiona Bruce. 

The 2nd Duke of Westminster (1879-1953) was known as Bendor, called after the 1880 Derby winner, Bend'Or, because of his chestnut colouring. 

Is TV's Bendor a real, or faux, aristo? A spokeswoman for Grosvenor Estates – the 6th Duke's property company – says : 'He is a very, very distant relative – so distant you would barely say they were related.' 

Bendor himself tells me: 'I have no wish to be in Ephraim Hardcastle, normally the meanest part of a mean newspaper. I and a number of friends have had the misfortune of being in it before.' 

It amazes me how obsessed some people still are about this sort of trivia. But here's an art historical take on how distantly I'm related to the Duke of Westminster: some months ago, I asked him if I could borrow his Self-Portrait by Van Dyck (above) for our recent exhibition (we were also exhibiting Van Dyck's last Self-Portrait). I was expecting a 'no', of course, but was amused that it came in the form of a letter not from him, and not even from his assistant, but from his assistant's assistant. 

Sadly, my side of the family is the infinitely poorer half, and we certainly didn't end up with any nice pictures. I even have to buy my own furniture, as Alan Clark said so dismissively of Michael Heseltine. But if I had inherited some of the finest pictures in Britain, I would make a point of lending them to exhibitions. It's almost a moral duty, isn't it?

In case you were wondering why I think the Hardcastle column is 'mean', then look no further than the first story in it today, a tragically homophobic piece about Evan Davis. 

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