Tag Archives: Daphne Fielding

Well Met By Sunlight

This is from an excellent website devoted to Powell and Pressburger the producers of Ill Met by Moonlight, and recalls the  Fielding’s first meeting with Dirk Bogarde.

By Daphne Fielding (wife of Technical Advisor and SOE agent on Crete, Xan Fielding)
From her book  The Nearest Way Home (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970)

Daphne writes in her chapter, “Well Met by Sunlight”…

Xan and Daphne Fielding with Dirk Bogarde

Long before leaving England, long before our journey along the Barbary Coast, long before our marriage in fact, Xan had been asked by the film director Michael Powell to act as technical adviser on the production of Ill Met by Moonlight, the story of the abduction of the German General Kreipe by Paddy Leigh Fermor in enemy-occupied Crete. Afterwards the project had been postponed until Xan had almost forgotten it. Now, five years later, he was summoned by telegram to the south of France where work on the film was due to begin in a few days’ time.

… Xan agreed to take Salote [one of their dogs] with him, leaving me to follow with Sunflower [the other dog] as soon as I had arranged with a newspaper to write a series of articles on the making of the film, which would give me a valid reason for joining the unit.

Xan wrote to me a few days later from Nice to say that in spite of the urgency of his summons there was no sign of Michael Powell or of any film unit in the vicinity. Meanwhile he was enjoying the luxury of the Hotel Negresco, where rooms had been booked for him …

I arrived just in time. On the very next morning a car turned up at the Negresco to take us to Draguignan, which had been chosen as the unit headquarters. Here we learnt that the actor cast for the role of Paddy was Dirk Bogarde. He was not staying at Draguignan, however–there was no proper place for a star in a little market town already overcrowded with the production staff, camera crews, sound engineers … but in St. Raphael, on the coast, where Xan was to meet him before shooting started.

Though I looked forward to meeting him too, I was rather nervous about it, for in spite of my newspaper commission I still felt like an interloper. I was almost relieved when our repeated attempts to reach him were in vain: Mr. Bogarde was busy, had just gone out, was not available. Eventually, in the bar of his hotel, we ran to earth his manager Tony Forwood, whose blue eyes sized us up in a wary glance, then suddenly twinkled. “So you’re the Fieldings, are you?” he said. “Dirk’s upstairs in his room. I’ll go and fetch him.”

When he reappeared with him a few minutes late they both seemed to be enjoying some private joke, which added to my confusion, especially as I happened at that moment to be trying to extricate myself from the dogs’ leads which had wound themselves round my legs. Dirk’s smile turned to a broad grin as he watched my antics. “Just how many legs have you got?” he asked.

After the ice was broken, at ease with him, I said, “You seemed to be avoiding us on purpose.”

“I was”, he admitted. “Mickey had told me about Xan’s war record and I’d conjured up a dreadful picture of you both — ‘The Major and his Wife’, a sort of Osbert Lancaster cartoon. I couldn’t bear the idea of meeting you. If it hadn’t been for Tony …”

… “Yes”, said Tony. “I told him Xan didn’t have a clipped moustache and you weren’t wearing a regimental brooch, so we took the plunge.”

“Anyway, now we’re met”, Dirk concluded.

“Well Met by Sunlight”, I said to myself.

Two days later, after the cast had assembled, there was a final reading of the script followed by a wardrobe meeting. Though some of the costumes did not meet with Xan’s approval — “they look more Ruritanian than Cretan”, I heard him complain — Dirk at least could not have been dressed more authentically, for I lent him my Cretan guerrilla’s cloak, and Xan had brought with him a black silk headkerchief which had been part of his own wartime disguise and which he now taught Dirk to bind over his brow in the proper Cretan fashion.

Dirk was rather alarmed by this unfamiliar headgear. “What on earth do I look like?” he asked.

“The genuine article”, Xan truthfully assured him. “Very dashing. Just like Paddy.”

Next morning the whole unit was up before dawn, ready to move off for the first day’s shooting and, as the sun rose, the long convoy of char-a-bancs, headed by the director’s yellow Land Rover, was on its way to the chosen location up in the hills.

I had been slightly worried about my unofficial position. Was I entitled to a seat on one of the buses? And was about Sunflower and Salote [her dogs]? With characteristic thoughtfulness, Dirk solved the problem for me. “There’s plenty of room in my car”, he said, “for you and Xan and the two dogs. I’ll call for you.” And so we set off, in undeservedly grand style, in the star’s Bentley.

This was to be our daily programme for several weeks and I never tired of it … The locations had of course been chosen for their suitability, but to me they seemed to have been specially selected for their beauty and variety …

It was also fascinating to watch the various members of the cast at such close quarters, to see each one’s interpretation of his role. For the first time I realised what an exacting and exhausting job film-acting must be, especially for anyone as meticulous as Dirk Bogarde. Before each take he would sit by himself, so withdrawn that his nervous tension was contagious. Throughout working hours he remained apart and abstracted, hardly reverting to his own character even when off the set. But once the strain was over — during the luncheon break, for instance, or when packing up for the day — he resumed his normal personality and the relief from his intense concentration would lead to an outburst of high spirits and gaiety which usually took the form of teasing me.

Knowing that I was in awe of the director, and knowing too that shyness makes me clumsier than usual, he would score off me by suddenly saying, “Look out, Daphne, those dogs of yours are eating Mickey’s sandwiches”, or, “I didn’t like to tell you at the time, but during that last take one of your six legs was almost in shot.” I became so apprehensive lest Salote or Sunflower, or indeed myself, might unconsciously stray within the range of the camera … I took exaggerated measures of precaution … and would almost take to my heels at the sight of Michael Powell for fear of a reprimand.

During the last stages of the production we all moved from Draguignan up to Peira Cava, a skiing resort close to the Italian border, and here Paddy Leigh Fermor joined us for a few days.

Paddy’s impending visit had been dreaded by Dirk as much as the prospect of meeting Xan and me. I sympathised with him, realising how awkward it must be for an actor to play a living character when that character is watching him at it. Xan tried to reassure him:

“Don’t worry, Paddy’s not a typical army officer or guerilla leader. He’s not a typical anything, he’s himself, a romantic figure, in the Byron tradition. Very erudite, a sort of Gypsy Scholar, with an inexhaustible fund of incidental knowledge. He can talk to you for hours about hagiography or heraldry or …”

“He sounds too damned intellectual for me.”

But Paddy’s charm and adroitness immediately overcame Dirk’s prejudices, in spite of an incident on the night of his arrival which might have affected their future friendship.

One of Paddy’s wartime henchmen, Ciahali Akoumianakis, who had played a leading part in the abduction of the general, was also attached to the unit as a technical adviser and had brought with him from Crete a demijohn of tsikoudia, the potent local spirit, which he had been saving for just such as occasion as this. “We’ll have a proper Cretan glendi”, he said but, since no other member of the unit would touch the stuff, it remained for Paddy, Xan and myself to help him celebrate in the appropriate fashion — with some trepidation on my part, for I knew from personal experience that a glendi involves a great deal of noisy singing and dancing and is likely to last all night.

By midnight, long after everyone else in the hotel had gone to bed, the tsikoudia was beginning to take effect, and Paddy and Xan had broken into song. Soon the bar, empty but for the four of us, was resounding with matinades punctuated by the thump of feet performing the pentozali.

“Please stop it”, I begged them. “You’re keeping everyone awake.”

“But we’ve only just begun”, they objected, “and the bottle’s still half-full.”

“In that case I’m going to bed”, I announced, foreseeing, as I fled, an irate Michael Powell appearing in the bar like Christ in the temple.

Even from upstairs the sound of revelry, though not quite so deafening, continued for some time, unabated. I was on the point of going back to make one last attempt at stopping it, when it came to an end. A few minutes later Xan stumbled in.

“Dirk came down”, he announced.

“No wonder. Was he furious?”

“He looked a bit angry. But all he said was, ‘Some people have to work in the morning and want to get to sleep.’ He’s right of course. I don’t blame him. Anyway, Paddy and I have just slipped a note under his door to say we’re sorry.”

In the morning Dirk did not even mention the matter, nor did anyone else in the unit. But Paddy did. At breakfast he casually remarked to Michael Powell: “Who the devil was making that fiendish din last night? I couldn’t sleep a wink.”

Such frivolity and exuberance endeared him to everyone, though these qualities did not accord with the preconceived idea of him which some members of the unit had formed. “I just can’t see him capturing a German general”, Dirk’s dresser said. “He’s not the strong, silent type at all.”

“What about Major Fielding?” Dirk asked.

“Major Field? Oh, yes. He looks like a f…..g little killer.”

Whether this was meant as a compliment or not, from then on Xan was referred to on the set as F.L.K.

[At the conclusion of the film, the Fieldings drove with Dirk to Paris to catch a flight and en route stayed in the Hermitage in Digne “one of Dirk’s favourite hotels in France.”]

For Xan, however, Digne had other associations. It was here, while working as a secret agent during the occupation, that he had been arrested by the Gestapo and sentenced to death. In fact the house in which he had been imprisoned was next door and we could see it from our bedroom window. Dirk was extremely upset when Xan mentioned this to him over dinner.

“You should have told me at once”, he said. “We could easily have stayed somewhere else. We’ll move out now if you like, it must be horrid for you …’

“Not at all”, Xan told him. “I don’t mind a bit. In fact I’m glad to be back here in such different circumstances. After all this time. Twelve years … Good heavens, it’s twelve years exactly, to the very day!”

“This calls for a bottle of champagne”, said Dirk.

Obituary: Daphne Fielding

The obituary of Xan’s first wife of whom Paddy was very fond. She once said of him: “Do you know Paddy? He’s such a good friend. He should be turned into pills so that you can take him when you feel low.”

by Hugo Vickers

First published in the Independent Wednesday, 17 December 1997.

Daphne Winifred Louise Vivian, writer: born 11 July 1904; married 1926 Viscount Weymouth (succeeded 1946 as sixth Marquess of Bath, died 1992; two sons, and two sons and one daughter deceased; marriage dissolved 1953), 1953 Xan Fielding (died 1991; marriage dissolved 1978); died 5 December 1997.

Daphne Fielding was a society author in the decades between 1950 and 1980. Having been a part of the world of Bright Young Things in the 1920s, she was well known in society as the Marchioness of Bath, and following her marriage to Xan Fielding she produced a stream of books of easy charm which achieved great popularity. Good-looking when young, in later life she was a tall, handsome figure, and could have been mistaken for a distinguished actress.

Daphne was the daughter of the fourth Lord Vivian and his wife, Barbara, a former Gaiety Girl, who was to marry three further times. The family was eccentric; many years later, her brother the fifth Lord Vivian (who died in 1991), variously a farm labourer in Canada, a publicity manager in San Francisco and a partner of the impresario C.B. Cochran, had the misfortune to be shot in the stomach in 1954 by his mistress Mavis Wheeler, the former wife of Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the archaeologist, a drama which occupied the headlines for many days.

Daphne emerged from a childhood which was a mixture of hilarity and insecurity, later described with relish in her memoirs, Mercury Presides (though Evelyn Waugh declared these as “marred by discretion and good taste”). She passed through Queen’s College in London, and St James’s, Malvern, and gravitated, through her friends the Lygon sisters, to the stimulating world of Oxford in the 1920s, and to that set dominated by Harold Acton, Evelyn Waugh and Brian Howard. The friends she made then were friends for life, a group that gave each other unswerving loyalty despite infidelities and political differences, everlastingly self-protecting; and a group through which she met Viscount Weymouth, heir to the Marquess of Bath.

There was parental opposition to their union, Henry Weymouth’s father declaring that he needed “a steady wife” and finding that Daphne did not fit this category. Weighing in, her father announced that he thought Weymouth an unsuitable husband. They were married in secret at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, in 1926, and then again considerably more publicly at St Martin-in-the Fields in 1927, the bride dressed by Norman Hartnell. (When eventually they were divorced, there was a prolonged court case before three judges to dissolve that earlier marriage, and regularise the unusual situation.)

Old Lord Bath in 1928 handed the running of the Wiltshire family seat, Longleat, to his son (not without certain misgivings about his capacity for work) and he and Daphne threw themselves wholeheartedly into the management of the estate. They employed Russell Page to redo the gardens and were involved in extensive forestry work. To supplement her income, Daphne wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, which brought her under the protective care of Lord Beaverbrook.

They had four sons and a daughter. The eldest boy died in 1930, just before his first birthday, and the youngest, Lord Valentine Thynne, died after hanging himself in 1979. Her daughter Caroline predeceased her, and she is survived by two sons, the present Marquess and his brother, Lord Christopher, who are on notoriously bad terms. (There was a rumour that at Lord Christopher’s wedding to Antonia Palmer in 1968 the cake was laced with LSD. The Queen was a guest.)

Henry Weymouth spent much of the Second World War as a prisoner of the Germans, which did not help the marriage. In 1946 he succeeded his father as Marquess of Bath. Forced by crippling death duties he opened Longleat to the public in 1949, with an entrance fee of half a crown a head. By 1953 he had added a tearoom and tennis court, laid out a putting green, and floated pedalos for hire on the lake. But the marriage was over and the Baths were divorced in May 1953.

Daphne wrote the first guidebook to Longleat, a lively history of the Thynne family from 1566 to 1949, which she researched and wrote in three weeks. This she followed with Before the Sunset Fades (1953), a slim 30- page book about life above and below stairs at Long- leat, decorated, appropriately, by her old friend and Wiltshire neighbour Cecil Beaton.

In 1953 she married the war hero and travel writer Xan Fielding, a man 14 years her junior, a happy marriage which lasted until 1978. During these years they lived variously in Cornwall, Morocco, Portugal and Uzes, where they settled for some years, surrounded by a variety of pets and visited by their many friends.

While married to Fielding, she wrote her books Mercury Presides (1954) and its sequel, The Nearest Way Home (1970), and a novel, The Adonis Garden (1961), of which Evelyn Waugh wrote that she had “squandered six books in one”, adding, “You have used almost everything that has happened in the last twelve years.”

The Duchess of Jermyn Street, a life of Rosa Lewis of the Cavendish Hotel subsequently serialised on television, was to have been written with the help of George Kinnaird (a writer who also used to help Baroness de Stoekl with her books), but he gave up while going through a divorce. It was published in 1964 and Evelyn Waugh described it as “jolly good but I think full of inaccuracies”.

She wrote a joint life of Lady Cunard and her daughter Nancy, Emerald and Nancy (1968), which her friend Dirk Bogarde judged “light on the intellect”, fearing that Fielding had whitewashed these two monsters on the grounds that “she couldn’t be beastly to chums”; and a portrait of Iris Tree, The Rainbow Picnic (1974).

Raleigh Trevelyan, of Hamish Hamilton, then commissioned her to write a life of Gladys Deacon, the 93-year-old Duchess of Marlborough, whom he had come across while researching his book about the Whitakers of Sicily, Princes Under the Volcano (1972). This was not her usual milieu, since the duchess belonged to the belle epoque and intellectual world of Paris of a generation older than Daphne Fielding. Nevertheless she was able to tap her wide circle of loyal friends for anecdotes. To her surprise a man wrongly described as “a young intellectual” proved to have embarked on the same research. However, her friends closed ranks around her, and a word from Lady Diana Cooper to her biographer, Philip Ziegler, caused him to drop the rival’s incipient Collins contract like a hot potato.

I know this, for I was that rival. Both books were in due course published, hers under the title The Face on the Sphinx (1978). But the story had a happy ending, for those same friends helped me with my life of Cecil Beaton, and Diana Cooper, in her more usual role as peacemaker, effected a successful rapprochement between us. I enjoyed a number of meetings with Daphne in New York in 1981, during which she chatted amicably about our experiences and regaled me with Cecil Beaton stories. I always remember her line about Patrick Leigh Fermor: “Do you know Paddy? He’s such a good friend. He should be turned into pills so that you can take him when you feel low.”

Her friend Robert Heber-Percy averred that Daphne Fielding was a better conversationalist and letter-writer than author of books.

In 1978 Xan Fielding left Daphne for a lady described by her friends as “an older woman”. Bereft but brave, she was lucky to meet once more an old Oxford friend, Ben Kittridge, an American millionaire, with whom she went to live in Arizona until his death in 1981. Thereafter she returned to England and settled in the Old Laundry in the shadow of Badminton, where for two years the fox-hunting 10th Duke of Beaufort (“Master”) lived on, and where, until her death from cancer in 1995, her daughter Caroline lived as the next Duchess of Beaufort.

Daphne Fielding’s last years were spent there. At the famous Horse Trials she could be seen driving about in a tiny self- propelled vehicle and every Sunday she lunched with her son-in-law, where she was a by no means unnoticed figure at the table.

Related article:

Xan Fielding Obituary

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The obituary of Daphne Fielding from The Independent

Paddy was very close to Daphne Fielding. She was the wife of the man who must be considered his best friend (read In Tearing Haste and you will have few doubts).

First published in The Independent 17 December 1997.

Daphne Winifred Louise Vivian, writer: born 11 July 1904; married 1926 Viscount Weymouth (succeeded 1946 as sixth Marquess of Bath, died 1992; two sons, and two sons and one daughter deceased; marriage dissolved 1953), 1953 Xan Fielding (died 1991; marriage dissolved 1978); died 5 December 1997.

Daphne Fielding was a society author in the decades between 1950 and 1980. Having been a part of the world of Bright Young Things in the 1920s, she was well known in society as the Marchioness of Bath, and following her marriage to Xan Fielding she produced a stream of books of easy charm which achieved great popularity. Good-looking when young, in later life she was a tall, handsome figure, and could have been mistaken for a distinguished actress.

Daphne was the daughter of the fourth Lord Vivian and his wife, Barbara, a former Gaiety Girl, who was to marry three further times. The family was eccentric; many years later, her brother the fifth Lord Vivian (who died in 1991), variously a farm labourer in Canada, a publicity manager in San Francisco and a partner of the impresario C.B. Cochran, had the misfortune to be shot in the stomach in 1954 by his mistress Mavis Wheeler, the former wife of Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the archaeologist, a drama which occupied the headlines for many days.

Daphne emerged from a childhood which was a mixture of hilarity and insecurity, later described with relish in her memoirs, Mercury Presides (though Evelyn Waugh declared these as “marred by discretion and good taste”). She passed through Queen’s College in London, and St James’s, Malvern, and gravitated, through her friends the Lygon sisters, to the stimulating world of Oxford in the 1920s, and to that set dominated by Harold Acton, Evelyn Waugh and Brian Howard. The friends she made then were friends for life, a group that gave each other unswerving loyalty despite infidelities and political differences, everlastingly self-protecting; and a group through which she met Viscount Weymouth, heir to the Marquess of Bath.

There was parental opposition to their union, Henry Weymouth’s father declaring that he needed “a steady wife” and finding that Daphne did not fit this category. Weighing in, her father announced that he thought Weymouth an unsuitable husband. They were married in secret at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, in 1926, and then again considerably more publicly at St Martin-in-the Fields in 1927, the bride dressed by Norman Hartnell. (When eventually they were divorced, there was a prolonged court case before three judges to dissolve that earlier marriage, and regularise the unusual situation.)

Old Lord Bath in 1928 handed the running of the Wiltshire family seat, Longleat, to his son (not without certain misgivings about his capacity for work) and he and Daphne threw themselves wholeheartedly into the management of the estate. They employed Russell Page to redo the gardens and were involved in extensive forestry work. To supplement her income, Daphne wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, which brought her under the protective care of Lord Beaverbrook.

They had four sons and a daughter. The eldest boy died in 1930, just before his first birthday, and the youngest, Lord Valentine Thynne, died after hanging himself in 1979. Her daughter Caroline predeceased her, and she is survived by two sons, the present Marquess and his brother, Lord Christopher, who are on notoriously bad terms. (There was a rumour that at Lord Christopher’s wedding to Antonia Palmer in 1968 the cake was laced with LSD. The Queen was a guest.)

Henry Weymouth spent much of the Second World War as a prisoner of the Germans, which did not help the marriage. In 1946 he succeeded his father as Marquess of Bath. Forced by crippling death duties he opened Longleat to the public in 1949, with an entrance fee of half a crown a head. By 1953 he had added a tearoom and tennis court, laid out a putting green, and floated pedalos for hire on the lake. But the marriage was over and the Baths were divorced in May 1953.

Daphne wrote the first guidebook to Longleat, a lively history of the Thynne family from 1566 to 1949, which she researched and wrote in three weeks. This she followed with Before the Sunset Fades (1953), a slim 30- page book about life above and below stairs at Long- leat, decorated, appropriately, by her old friend and Wiltshire neighbour Cecil Beaton.

In 1953 she married the war hero and travel writer Xan Fielding, a man 14 years her junior, a happy marriage which lasted until 1978. During these years they lived variously in Cornwall, Morocco, Portugal and Uzes, where they settled for some years, surrounded by a variety of pets and visited by their many friends.

While married to Fielding, she wrote her books Mercury Presides (1954) and its sequel, The Nearest Way Home (1970), and a novel, The Adonis Garden (1961), of which Evelyn Waugh wrote that she had “squandered six books in one”, adding, “You have used almost everything that has happened in the last twelve years.”

The Duchess of Jermyn Street, a life of Rosa Lewis of the Cavendish Hotel subsequently serialised on television, was to have been written with the help of George Kinnaird (a writer who also used to help Baroness de Stoekl with her books), but he gave up while going through a divorce. It was published in 1964 and Evelyn Waugh described it as “jolly good but I think full of inaccuracies”.

She wrote a joint life of Lady Cunard and her daughter Nancy, Emerald and Nancy (1968), which her friend Dirk Bogarde judged “light on the intellect”, fearing that Fielding had whitewashed these two monsters on the grounds that “she couldn’t be beastly to chums”; and a portrait of Iris Tree, The Rainbow Picnic (1974).

Raleigh Trevelyan, of Hamish Hamilton, then commissioned her to write a life of Gladys Deacon, the 93-year-old Duchess of Marlborough, whom he had come across while researching his book about the Whitakers of Sicily, Princes Under the Volcano (1972). This was not her usual milieu, since the duchess belonged to the belle epoque and intellectual world of Paris of a generation older than Daphne Fielding. Nevertheless she was able to tap her wide circle of loyal friends for anecdotes. To her surprise a man wrongly described as “a young intellectual” proved to have embarked on the same research. However, her friends closed ranks around her, and a word from Lady Diana Cooper to her biographer, Philip Ziegler, caused him to drop the rival’s incipient Collins contract like a hot potato.

I know this, for I was that rival. Both books were in due course published, hers under the title The Face on the Sphinx (1978). But the story had a happy ending, for those same friends helped me with my life of Cecil Beaton, and Diana Cooper, in her more usual role as peacemaker, effected a successful rapprochement between us. I enjoyed a number of meetings with Daphne in New York in 1981, during which she chatted amicably about our experiences and regaled me with Cecil Beaton stories. I always remember her line about Patrick Leigh Fermor: “Do you know Paddy? He’s such a good friend. He should be turned into pills so that you can take him when you feel low.”

Her friend Robert Heber-Percy averred that Daphne Fielding was a better conversationalist and letter-writer than author of books.

In 1978 Xan Fielding left Daphne for a lady described by her friends as “an older woman”. Bereft but brave, she was lucky to meet once more an old Oxford friend, Ben Kittridge, an American millionaire, with whom she went to live in Arizona until his death in 1981. Thereafter she returned to England and settled in the Old Laundry in the shadow of Badminton, where for two years the fox-hunting 10th Duke of Beaufort (“Master”) lived on, and where, until her death from cancer in 1995, her daughter Caroline lived as the next Duchess of Beaufort.

Daphne Fielding’s last years were spent there. At the famous Horse Trials she could be seen driving about in a tiny self- propelled vehicle and every Sunday she lunched with her son-in-law, where she was a by no means unnoticed figure at the table.