Hello Douglas!

12 Nov

I’ve been watching The Crown this week, as a gloriously trashy antidote to real news, and it made me go hunting for these:

diana-earrings

These are prototype earrings that Douglas made in the 1980s, for a very particular client. They are just practice ones, and as you can see, they are both for the same side – the actual pair would have mirrored each other. I loved them on sight and, quite frankly, snaffled them when I found them in a drawer at Douglas’s workshop. I still wear them, although the hooks are bent and damaged, and they are very flattering. But, who were they made for originally? Here’s a clue:

 

diana-press-releaseThis is a copy of the press release sent out by the fashion designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel who made Princess Diana’s wedding dress, and as you can see, towards the bottom, a familiar name. Douglas was friendly with the Emanuels at the time, and made a small gold horseshoe that was sewn into the bodice of the dress for good luck, as well as the earrings above, which were part of her going-away outfit. The press release shows the Emanuel drawings of the different elements of the wedding dress:

diana-dress

 

shoes-umbrella-horseshoe

As part of the design process, Douglas went to the palace to meet Charles and Diana before the wedding. When we asked what they were like many years later, he was brief: Charles? Nice. Diana? Young. He was also fairly dismissive of the final design of the horseshoe; he wanted something different but Diana insisted on the evenly-spaced diamond studs, which he thought were ordinary-looking (about the worst insult Douglas could ever give). However, a royal commission is a royal commission, and he made the horseshoe to her specifications (he later used the remaining Welsh gold in a ring that he gave to my mother), and was allowed freer rein with the earrings, which are much more his style. His favourite story about the whole thing, though, is about an encounter that happened some months later.

He was in Asprey’s, an exclusive jewellers in London, probably trying to drum up business (his principle method of selling his jewellery products was usually to go into shops unannounced and try to talk to a manager, literally taking prototypes out of bag to show them). He was standing in the shop when a group of bodyguards marched in and demanded that everyone make way for an important guest. Douglas, all 5’2″ of him, found himself pressed against the wall with his face practically touching the shoulder of the tall bodyguard in front of him. Douglas took instant offence at the bodyguard’s rudeness and would probably have started to kick up a fuss if the guest had not walked in at that moment: Princess Diana. Being tall, he later explained, she was able to see over the shoulder of the bodyguard and looked straight at Douglas. ‘Hello Douglas!’ she said, recognising him. ‘My, how that bodyguard jumped away from me!’ he chuckled afterwards, always happy when some rude idiot got his comeuppance.

I would love to talk to the Emanuels more about that time, as it would be great to find out more about what other work they did together, how they met or why they thought that Douglas was the man for this job, but, as with so many of the people involved in Douglas’s work, they are hard to get hold of and so far I have only had a polite email brush-off from David’s assistant (Elizabeth’s has not yet replied). Any suggestions welcome!

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4 Responses to “Hello Douglas!”

  1. Alice Dalrymple November 17, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    What a lovely story & such beautiful designs.The Aspreys are a relative of mine (a third cousin on my Dad’s side..I think).

    • rachelonthehill November 17, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

      Ask them if they remember a small pushy Glaswegian man trying to sell them something…

  2. goodasgearon January 5, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

    Just catching up on some entries I’ve missed and this one really made me laugh – I love the bodyguard story!

    • rachelonthehill January 5, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

      Thanks! A particular party favourite! You’d have liked him.

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