gravy first, then meat

In 1998, The Independent published this interview with Daisy de Cabrol, Madame La Baronne

Daisy, the Windsors and Fred found here

At 83, Madame La Baronne remains sprightly. She talks at a hundred miles an hour with an almost preposterously posh accent and uses charmingly old-fashioned words such as “automobile”. Lunch is like taking a trip back in time. It is also proof that Madame La Baronne still knows how to entertain in style. She has hired a lady from the village to cook up a three-course feast and the wine is served from grand crystal decanters. She rings a little bell at the end of every course to summon her manservant, then scolds him in English for the heinous crime of bringing the meat in before the gravy.

antique crystal dog decanter found here

Her husband, Fred de Cabrol, who died in July 1997, was also from a wealthy aristocratic family. The couple bought their house in Grosrouvre in 1950. In the bathroom, the toilet is strangely but skilfully hidden under a table which is attached to the wall at one corner and swivels out of the way when nature calls. The piece de resistance, however, is the barn, which has been transformed into a grand sitting-room. A sculpture of a deer sits atop the huge fireplace. On a beautiful cabinet sits a glass case filled with multi-coloured stuffed birds. On the walls there are numerous deer heads.

Budapest Hall of Hunting found here

The Cabrols were friends of  the Windsors whom they met at a dinner party in Paris. In 1947, they received an invitation to stay at their house on the Cote d’Azur. “We were astonished to find such luxury after the deprivation of the war,” she recalls. “Even at that time, two years after the war, people didn’t eat much, but they had so much food and there were fresh sheets every day.” The Cabrols would often go to the Windsors’ renovated windmill at Gif-sur-Yvette to the south of Paris for Sunday lunch. She also recalls singing “Clair de Lune” with the Duke, sword dancing after dinner and the Cabrol children entertaining the Windsors by playing the guitar.

image found here when I googled Gif-Sur-Yvette

In her scrapbook is the cover of a French magazine with a photo of the Windsors arriving at one of her balls. It was held at Paris’s Palais des Glaces and took three months to prepare. Charlie Chaplin was one of the guests. The Begum Aga Khan turned up in a flouncy feathered number and a young Madame Mitterand was on the organising committee. The composer Henri Sauguet wrote some music especially for the evening, Nancy Mitford composed sketches and everybody skated on the ice.

Begum Aga Khan found here

There are also invitations for receptions given by the Queen, to the wedding of Princess Grace of Monaco, Maria Callas’s autograph and a poem by the French society hostess Ghislaine de Polignac, entitled “Advice to a foreigner on how to succeed in Paris”. It ends with the line “C’est chez Pam qu’on va B—–R” which translates as “For a F–K, you go to Pam’s”. The Pam in question is the late American ambassador to France, Pamela Harriman.

Pamela Harriman found here

“There were three or four balls a year, mainly in the spring,” Madame recalls. “Nobody would ever dream of socialising in Paris after the Grand Prix horserace at the end of June. People who stayed in the city after that would close their shutters to pretend they had gone away.” Many of the balls were costume affairs. To one, she went disguised as a tree. To another, as the wife of Louis XIV, and once her husband dressed up as French ceramicist Bernard de Palissy and she as one of his plates.

Palissy plate found here

The dreaded Elsa Maxwell, who had a vitriolic gossip column in America and served as the Windsors’ social secretary, was also fond of the Cabrols, as was Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. They once went on holiday with him and the actor Douglas Fairbanks on his yacht. “We travelled from the Riviera to Greece, but Niarchos refused to stop the boat for us to bathe. Every day, there was a huge tin of caviar, but after eight days, it became a bit of a nightmare. Nobody can eat caviar for eight days in a row!”

Icon Caviar found here

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 9:16 am  Comments (43)  
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43 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The picture of the levitation is driving me nuts. I remember seeing that magician on the telly many years ago but I can’t recall his name. HELP!!

    • did you click on the photo? If you click, she moves up and down!!

      • It looks likes she balanced on a rod coming out of the magicians pants.

      • Mark if that is true, his wife is very happy…and sore.

  2. ROBERT HARBIN!!! …. I think

    • Yes, that’s him.

  3. Most entertaining, as ever.

    But we European singleoids don’t take to kindly to the “posh-baiting” in this article, nursemyra…HA! I’m kiddin of course…Revolución!!

    (So “upper” that you feel the need to hide the loo…I mean, the lav…I mean, the latrine..?) Wow.

    • ‘ladies’ room’, ‘bathroom’, bog, crapper, karsi, dunny, shithouse, water closet, WC, toilet . . . 🙂

      • You wouldn’t want to have a weak bladder, that’s all I can say. If nature doesn’t call loudly enough and the table doesn’t move, what then?

  4. Deer heads? Posh? In the Trailer Park, you gotta have a deer head or eight hanging in your living room, over the baby’s bed, in the bathroom. i know people who even decorate them for the holidays – what’s a dead animal head on the wall without a little garland and a bright red flashing nose?

  5. I’ve never tried caviar, but I imagine eating it for eight days in a row might be a bit like trying to down 50 hard-boiled eggs
    (not that I would try something like that…)

    • “Ain’t no man can eat fifty aigs….”

  6. pammy was quite the trollop.

    • I’m intrigued by her

  7. I had no idea gravy was meant to be brought in before meat. That’s just nuts. What’s the point of bringing the gravy first when there’s nothing to pour it onto until the meat arrives? These eccentric aristos are a hoot.

    • I shall continue to bring my meat to the table before the gravy. to hell with etiquette.

  8. Yeah, three months to prepare for a ball sounds about right…
    In spite of her reputation, Pamela Harriman certainly married well – and frequently.

    • She was a busy woman.

  9. I’m at that age where three months to prepare for a ball is about as much as I can manage.

    • I’m not fond of that kind of ball.

  10. I would have loved to have moved in the Mitford circles.

    • I can never decide which one is my favourite. Maybe Nancy.

  11. Just as well it was the 20th century or that manservant would have been flogged to an inch of his life for bringing in in meat before gravy… and he would have deserved it too!

    • Oh… so harsh!

  12. I bet they could if they could eat the caviar if they were all out of foie gras!

    This post makes me wonder what would happen if the ultra wealthy decided to stop wasting their money on hedonistic pursuits and became all philanthropic-like.

    Wouldn’t that be dreamy?

  13. I guess I had better stop saying “automobile”, then.

    • I should probably stop saying “horseless carriage”.

  14. If a dog decanter exists, then you know what that means … I didn’t know I wanted a cat decanter until now.

    Nursie, I’ve fallen terribly behind on your blog, and I don’t have time to comment on everything, but I’ve sincerely missed you and I’ll aim to do better.

    • oh my god…. I’ve just googled “cat decanter”

  15. Whenever I see a gimcrack hospital post I rub my hands in anticpppppation. Its like a soap opera. There is just something about reading/watching people you will never meet

    • I like your spelling of anticpppppation 🙂

  16. Oh wow… I feel so poor right now…

    And yes, I would eat caviar for 8 days in a row if I could afford it.

  17. As i read here Daisy died only some months ago.

  18. Nice!

  19. She’s one of the more charming people you’ve written about…I totally understand her issues with the gravy and the caviar

  20. Your blog totally rocks. Love it!

    • Agreed!

      • Why thank you Mr Cranky. And Thombeau xx

  21. hmmm…my meat always precedes my gravy. have i been doing it wrong all these years?

    • I doubt it. sounds like the right order to me 😉

  22. Sword dancing! Well, I never!

  23. I LOVE that diving horse…
    it just screams ‘paint me’…

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