EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: The hacked off head of a stolen statue has been found in the Earl of Pembroke’s home
With its immense ‘Double Cube’ Room crowded with priceless Van Dycks and sumptuous State Rooms dotted with Rembrandts, it’s little wonder that Wilton House, ancestral Wiltshire seat of the Earl of Pembroke, has featured in cinema and television productions from the Madness Of King George to The Crown.
But its next appearance could be in an altogether different and grimmer genre – that of true-life crime.
This startling possibility results from a beheading way back in 2007, in a garden some 1,200 miles from Wilton – in Rome, to be exact.
The head in question came from a mercifully inanimate body: that of a magnificent marble statue of Bonus Eventus, Roman god of good fortune.
Prior to decapitation, it had stood 6ft 6in tall. And, until sold by the 15th Earl of Pembroke in 1961, it had been at Wilton for more than 200 years, following its acquisition by the 8th Earl in the 1700s.
Prior to decapitation, it had stood 6ft 6in tall. And, until sold by the 15th Earl of Pembroke in 1961, it had been at Wilton for more than 200 years, following its acquisition by the 8th Earl in the 1700s
The discovery was made more extraordinary by the fact that the catalogue in question was of ‘The Sculpture Collection of Wilton House’. Somehow, Bonus Eventus’s head had ‘gone home’ (Pictured Wilton House)
Its distraught owners alerted the police in Rome. But whoever hacked off the head was never caught; nor did the owners – the same family who’d bought it from Wilton – have any inkling of the head’s whereabouts. Until now.
Italian dealers, who later bought the mutilated statue, recently put it up for sale for £850,000. Before doing so, they researched its history – and stumbled across a photograph of the head in a catalogue published in 2020. The catalogue’s author, Professor Peter Stewart, of Oxford University, is not authorised to comment. ‘I’m afraid I just have to refer you to Wilton House,’ he tells me.
But the Estate Office tells me that it, too, is ‘not allowed to comment’.
I understand, however, that the head was re-acquired by Wilton in 2011 after it surfaced at an auction in Cologne, listed as being from a ‘French private collection’.
I look forward to the head-hackers being unmasked before long.
Oppenheimer’s striking stars are reunited
They play love rivals in the blockbuster Oppenheimer, but Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh are bosom buddies off screen.
Pugh, 27, looked thrilled to join Blunt, 40, at a screening of Christopher Nolan’s film at the Princess Anne Theatre in London.
Pugh, 27, looked thrilled to join Blunt, 40, at a screening of Christopher Nolan’s film at the Princess Anne Theatre in London
It was the first event since the end of the Hollywood strikes. In July, the film’s stars were forced to leave their London premiere early to avoid breaking strike rules.
‘Unfortunately, they’re off to write their picket signs,’ director Nolan told dismayed guests.
Star Trek captain Sir Patrick Stewart’s wife, Sunny Ozell, may be 39 years his junior, but the American singer is gaining inches on him.
The Shakespearean thespian, 83, admits he’s boldly going downhill, losing two inches in height.
‘I don’t know how the hell it’s come about,’ the Yorkshireman wails. ‘My wife, who’s younger than me, significantly, has said: ‘Well, it’s ageing – you shrink.’ I shrink? When will it stop?’
Alison’s steamy kiss with sex bomb Tom
It’s not unusual for Sir Tom Jones to become a little excited while filming a love scene…
The It’s Not Unusual singer stars alongside Alison Steadman and Brenda Blethyn in the film, King Of The Teds
‘We did a television play together and played husband and wife,’ Alison Steadman says of their 2012 Sky Arts comedy King Of The Teds. ‘We did this kiss and I was, like: ‘Oh, my God, I have got to kiss Tom Jones.’ We did it again, and Tom got off the bed and went: ‘Well, I don’t know about you, Alison, but I am feeling a bit horny.’
Speaking about her career at The Crazy Coqs cabaret bar in London, the Gavin & Stacey star, 77, adds of the singer, 83, whose wife of 59 years, Linda, died in 2016: ‘Please don’t think for a second he did anything that wasn’t right. He was the nicest man and was lovely. But we did have this long, long kiss.’
Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s ex-wife, Jo, landed in hot water when officials from her local council carried out a site visit to look at her barn conversion and found an unauthorised pond and pontoon.
The former model, 68, sparked a row with a neighbour who accused her of using them as a swimming pool and diving board. And the riled resident claimed it had caused a stink for another neighbour after a digger used to excavate the pond smashed through a sewage pipe.
Jo used excavated soil from the pond to build an unauthorised 8ft earth ‘bund’ to block out views of neighbouring farm buildings. Conservationists at the local council said the unauthorised development ‘intrudes’ on the rural setting of her Grade II-listed farmhouse in Northamptonshire. Officials at West Northamptonshire Council granted retrospective consent for the pond, but ordered Jo to bulldoze the bund within six months.
Surrey’s a bit wild for scrummy pair
Chris Robshaw recently left South London with his wife, the classical singer Camilla Kerslake, but the former England rugby captain seems to be finding life in rural Surrey tough to tackle.
Chris Robshaw recently left South London with his wife, the classical singer Camilla Kerslake, but the former England rugby captain seems to be finding life in rural Surrey tough to tackle
‘In London, things are open constantly, [but] when we wanted to get a late bite at around 3pm nowhere was serving food,’ he tells me of their new home. ‘I couldn’t believe it.’ Camilla, 35, who sang at A Captain’s Christmas carol concert in aid of their Kerslake Robshaw Foundation, trills: ‘I can’t get any good Uber Eats or deliveries.’
However, Robshaw, 37, does not regret quitting the capital: ‘We’re pleased that we moved. In Wandsworth, our garden was the size of a car parking space.’
All-American girl Dolly Parton has come out as an Anglophile and royalist, recalling the first time she ever went abroad was to London for a country music festival.
The singer, 77, even paid for a visit to Buckingham Palace and toured stately homes.
She recalls: ‘I loved England. I couldn’t believe that there was a world like that. Imagine, we used to read about the kings and queens in books. I loved all that royalty stuff. I was always impressed by the robes and jewellery – the stories were like fairy tales to me.’ Time for a private concert for King Charles?
(Very) modern manners
Never your stereotypical historian, heavily tattooed Dan Jones considered having an inking on his face.
The Cambridge-educated television presenter, 42, was eventually dissuaded by Dr Matt Lodder, an expert on the history of tattoos.
‘And my old friend and mentor, Dr David Starkey, wasn’t impressed either, he tells me at Hatchards Christmas Customer Evening in London.
‘I was seriously going for my face, but I changed my mind.’
Napoleon was angered by the spending of Josephine, who threw lavish parties at the Tuileries Palace and bought exotic animals such as kangaroos and ostriches for their Malmaison home.
Now Vanessa Kirby, who plays the French empress in Sir Ridley Scott’s big-screen epic, is building up a war chest of her own. The actress has reported a £1 million profit at Aluna Vision, through which she channels her earnings.
Its latest profit is reported for the year to February and has taken accumulated earnings in the company to £1.5 million.
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