Christmas Eve is the most sacred day in the royal calendar, with the Queen usually gathering her family together at her Norfolk retreat, Sandringham, to exchange presents before they celebrate with a festive feast.
This year, however, Her Majesty was at Windsor Castle holding a meeting with Boris Johnson.
I hear the Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of ringing the Queen on December 24 to hold a telephone meeting with her immediately after he had sealed the historic Brexit agreement.
‘I think it’s the first time a monarch has spoken to a prime minister on Christmas Eve since the war,’ a courtier tells me. ‘To say it’s unusual would be putting it mildly.’
Boris usually meets the Queen on Wednesdays and has been doing so on the phone since social-distancing rules were introduced.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) speaking to Queen Elizabeth II during their weekly audience, London, 25 March 2020
He is understood to have postponed last week’s meeting because he was in the middle of fraught Brexit negotiations with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman confirms that the PM had his ‘regular weekly audience with the Queen via telephone on Thursday, December 24’ but declines to comment on what they discussed. The Queen will, however, have been keen to hear the news that Boris had concluded his Government’s tortuous, four-year negotiations with the EU.
During the referendum, the Palace complained after a tabloid newspaper ran a story with the headline: ‘Queen Backs Brexit’. The report quoted an anonymous source as saying the monarch had ‘let rip’ at then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg about Europe at Windsor Castle.
However, Clegg later said: ‘I mean, the idea that the Queen of all people would even bother to give someone as insignificant as a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ deputy prime minister a tongue lashing about Europe I just think is… so preposterous.’
I wonder if Boris will manage to keep their conversation under wraps? David Cameron admitted making a ‘terrible mistake’ after he let slip that the Queen had ‘purred down the line’ when he told her that Scotland had voted No to independence.
Ferry launches own tribute to tragic Tennant
Otis Ferry has paid moving tribute to his friend Stella Tennant and called for more help for those who are suffering.
Top model Stella, 50, died three days before Christmas, prompting the son of Roxy Music legend Bryan Ferry to share this photograph.
He linked it to pictures of his mother, the former model Lucy Birley, who died in 2018, and his friend, the late stylist Isabella Blow. ‘The tragedy continues,’ Otis commented. ‘How many more amazing and wonderful people can we lose before we broaden our outlook on treatments and end this cruel epidemic? Nature knows the way. Cherish those you love.’
Top model Stella, 50, died three days before Christmas, prompting Otis Ferry, the son of Roxy Music legend Bryan Ferry, to share this photograph
This could be a plot from his festive film Love Actually: screenwriter Richard Curtis has appealed for help after a 5ft Santa Claus figure went missing from outside his front door in London’s Notting Hill.
‘Whoever stole our Father Christmas, do let him know we will miss him,’ says Curtis’s long-time partner, broadcaster Emma Freud. ‘He has been in our family for a long time, so please look after him well.’
Could Sir David be any more eco?
SIR David Attenborough has made a new year’s resolution — to be even more eco-friendly.
And, to prove it, the 94-year-old naturalist and Blue Planet presenter has applied for planning permission to attach solar panels to the roof of his Edwardian home in South-West London.
According to documents he’s submitted to his local council, the panels will save 1.96 tonnes of carbon emissions — the equivalent of planting 90 trees.
Surely, there will be no objections from neighbours who include the Who guitarist Pete Townshend, TV presenter Fearne Cotton and former rugby star Lawrence Dallaglio.
Whoever would complain about a national treasure?
A Christmas parlour game among some of West London’s most elegant home owners was checking to see if they were mentioned in The Life And Times Of The Notting Hill House Doctor, by estate agent Niall McMahon.
In the memoir, he reveals the multi-million-pound house purchases of movers and shakers and how he prevented Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts from shooting the film Notting Hill in his own garden square. McMahon remarks: ‘Endless days of cables and ‘film luvvies’ wandering round did not seem the right thing to permit.’ Quite right, too.
Carey’s not only hot — but she’s boiling mad too
Actors always claim they don’t read their own reviews. But Carey Mulligan has been left seriously offended after an American critic suggested that she wasn’t sufficiently beautiful to be cast in her forthcoming film, Promising Young Woman.
The British star plays a character, Cassie, who feigns drunkenness to pick up men in bars, prompting the critic Dennis Harvey to imply in screen bible Variety that Mulligan had been miscast.
‘Margot Robbie is a producer here, and one can (perhaps too easily) imagine the role might once have been intended for her, ‘ Harvey wrote.
Carey Mulligan in a scene from the film ‘Promising Young Woman’, by Focus Features
‘Whereas, with this star, Cassie wears her pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair feels like a put-on.’
Mulligan, 35, retorts: ‘I read the review, because I’m a weak person. And I took issue with it. It felt like it was basically saying that I wasn’t hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse.’
She adds: ‘We don’t allow women to look normal any more, or like a real person. Why does every woman who’s ever on screen have to look like a supermodel?
‘That has shifted into something where the expectation of beauty and perfection on-screen has got completely out of control.’
He’s been a friend of President Richard Nixon, a Cabinet Minister and ‘old lag’, as well as a Church of England clergyman.
But Jonathan Aitken’s improbable life even includes an encounter with double agent George Blake, who died on Boxing Day aged 98. It occurred in 1964 in Wormwood Scrubs when Blake was one of two inmates who debated against the Oxford Union. ‘It was along the lines of, ‘This House believes that life in a British public school is far worse than life in a British prison’,’ Aitken, one of the Oxford pair, tells me.
Blake, he adds, earned cheers when he said: ‘My friends, you’ve got to help me get out of this.’ He escaped two years later.
Us break the rules? No, says Cara’s dad
Cara Delevingne shared a picture of herself with Poppy, their father Charles, and elder sister Chloe celebrating Christmas this week
Society models Cara and Poppy Delevingne were accused of breaking lockdown rules last month when they attended pop star Rita Ora’s 30th birthday party.
Clearly, they weren’t afraid of attracting similar attention this week when Cara shared a picture of herself with Poppy, their father Charles, and elder sister Chloe celebrating Christmas.
‘Merry merry! Popping Della Vite with the fam,’ Cara wrote, referring to the prosecco brand she and her sisters launched earlier this year.
The four separate households posed in the sitting room of Poppy’s West London home, prompting speculation they might have flouted rules. But Charles tells me the picture was, in fact, taken weeks before Tier 4 restrictions came into force.