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Boy Capel

Captain Arthur Edward 'Boy' Capel,[1] CBE (d. December 21, 1919 in a car accident) was an English polo player best remembered for his affair with, and influence on the style of, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. He was wealthy and supplied her with resources she needed to open her first shop. His blazers inspired her to put a squared, masculine touch on classic suit designs. Supposedly Capel proposed to Chanel and she refused, wanting instead to wait until she was financially independent. Capel was killed in an auto accident on Monday 22 December 1919, supposedly on his way to a secret Christmas rendez-vous with Chanel. He was buried with full military honours at Fréjus Cathedral on December 24, 1919[2].

In his daughter's obituary, Capel was described as "an intellectual, politician, tycoon, polo-player and the dashing lover and sponsor of the fashion designer Coco Chanel."[3]. Nothing else is known of his earlier life[4]; there are hints in biographies of Chanel about his (illegitimate) connections with the Capel earls of Essex but no connection has been established. He was already a rich man, and apparently a self-made man, by 1909.

Capel was portrayed by French actor Olivier Sitruk in Coco Chanel (2008), an American television movie about Chanel produced by Lifetime Television and starring Shirley MacLaine as an elder Chanel. In the theatrical feature film Coco avant Chanel (2009), starring Audrey Tautou as Chanel, Alessandro Nivola plays Capel and in Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky by Swiss actor Anatole Taubman.

Contents

Capel and Chanel

His affair with Chanel apparently began in 1909, when he became acquainted with Chanel, then the 26-year-old mistress of his friend Etienne Balsan.[5]

Capel financed Chanel's first shops and his own clothing style, notably his blazers, inspired her creation of the Chanel look. The couple spent time together at fashionable resorts such as Deauville, but he was never faithful to Chanel. [6]

The affair lasted nine years, but even after Capel married an aristocratic English beauty in 1918, he did not completely break off with Chanel. His death, in late 1919, was the single most devastating event in Chanel's life.[7]

According to local report a roadside memorial at the site of the accident was placed there by Chanel, who visited it in after years to place flowers there.[8]

Marriage and children

In 1918, Capel married the Honourable Diana Wyndham, née Lister (May 7, 1893-1983), a daughter of Lord Ribblesdale and widow of Captain Percy Lyulph Wyndham (killed in action 1914), who was the half-brother of the Duke of Westminster. Diana's elder sister Laura was married to Lord Lovat, and another sister to a baronet: after Capel's death, in 1923 Diana married the 14th Earl of Westmorland.[9]

By Diana, Capel had two daughters:

1. Ann Diana France Ayesha Capel (April 28, 1919-May 4, 2008). Ann was married three times and had children with her first two husbands.

In 1940 she married her first husband, George Reginald Ward (1907-1988)[10], who in 1960 became first Viscount Ward of Witley. George Reginald Ward was the grandfather of English actress Rachel Ward, who is best known for playing Meggie Cleary in the 1983 television miniseries, The Thorn Birds. Ann and George Ward divorced in 1951. She had two children with him: a son who died unmarried in his parents' lifetime at the age of 40, and a daughter.

On August 7, 1951 she married Richard Thurstan Holland-Martin (December 26, 1908-1968)[11], by whom she had two sons: Barnaby Robert (b. 1952) and Giles Thurstan (1955 - May 4, 2008). They were divorced in 1966.

Ann Capel's third and final husband was Peter Higgins.[12]

2. June Capel (1920-September 26, 2006), later Lady Hutchinson of Lullington. June was born after her father died, and he was apparently even unaware of her conception. Thus, he made no provisions for her in his will, and the will had to be contested to ensure that June got her fair share of her father's fortune (most of it subsequently stolen by a lawyer, according to Lady Hutchinson's obituary).

In 1948 June married Franz Osborn, by whom she had a son Christopher.

Her second marriage took place in May 1966 to Baron Jeremy Hutchinson, QC (born 28 March 1915). Hutchinson was the former husband of Dame Peggy Ashcroft[13]. Her second husband was created a life peer on 16 May 1978 with the title Baron Hutchinson of Lullington, of Lullington in the County of East Sussex.

Capel's living descendants today include the Honourable Mrs Patrick Tritton (daughter of his elder daughter Ann) and three sons by his younger daughter June, Lady Hutchinson. He had no issue with Chanel (who died childless).

References

  1. His entry in thePeerage.com describes him as Edward Arthur Capel, but Burke's Landed Gentry (18th and 19th editions) and The Complete Peerage call him Arthur Edward Capel.
  2. The Times, December 24 1919, p. 10: "Lord Rosslyn, telegraphing last night from St. Raphael, stated that Captain Arthur Capel, who was killed in an automobile accident on Monday, is being buried today at 2.30 p.m. at Frejus with full military honours."
  3. Lady Hutchinson, obituary, Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2006. According to that obituary, Capel was a Roman Catholic and his wife had to convert to Catholicism to marry him, and her two daughters by him were raised as Catholics. [1]
  4. He may possibly be the Lieutenant Arthur Capel referred to in the 1901 British Census as living at 28 Crondace Road, Fulham, London, aged 26 and born in Cambridge. (1901 British Census). If so, then according to an earlier census return he was the younger son of the Rev. Arthur Capel (b.1837) and his wife Rebekah, née Mais (1881 British Census: available online http://www.familysearch.org/eng/default.asp)
  5. "At this time in 1909, at the age of 26, she became friendly with an Englishman Arthur Capel, nicknamed “Boy”, who was one of Etienne [Balsan]’s friends..."[2]
  6. "That year was to prove a difficult one for Gabrielle as Arthur Capel decided that the time had come for him to marry into the English aristocracy. Arthur Capel was a very successful businessman and a keen polo player. Gabrielle hoped to settle down with him, but he was often away on business and was usually seen in the company of other women...."[3]
  7. "Even though he was married Capel still sought out Gabrielle when he was in Paris. But all this was to come to an abrupt end. On December 21st, 1919 Arthur Capel was driving to Cannes for Christmas when he was involved in a fatal accident."[4]
  8. The memorial consists of a cross, raised on three steps and railed around, and bears the inscription "A la mémoire du capitaine Arthur Capel, légion d'Honneur de l'armée britannique, mort accidentellement en cet endroit le 22 décembre 1919". Allegedly it was Chanel who had it placed there. http://www.varmatin.com/ta/puget-sur-argens/192577/puget-sur-argens-coco-chanel-le-drame-de-sa-vie-au-bord-d-une-route-varoise
  9. //The Times//, Thursday, May 13, 1948; pg. 7; Issue 51070; col E
  10. The Times, Saturday, Jun 01, 1940; pg. 9; Issue 48631; col B
  11. Genealogy of Robert Martin (1908-1897). [5]. Retrieved 10 August 2007. Thurstan Holland-Martin, fifth son of Robert Martin Holland, later Holland-Martin (R License 14 August 1917), was the elder brother of Christopher Holland-Martin MP, and younger brother of Admiral Sir Deric Holland-Martin.
  12. In 1993, she was still married to, or the widow of, Peter Higgins, at the memorial service for her half-brother the Earl of Westmorland. Michael Rhodes. "Question regarding Diana, late Countess of Westmorland." on usenet group alt.talk.royalty. Posted 11 September 2001. Retrieved 10 August 2007. [6]. At the time her youngest son's death was reported, she was described as the "late Mrs Peter Higgins."
  13. Lady Hutchinson, obituary, Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2006. [7]


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