Lucian, Ann, Fred
So Popbitch (a very catty UK media gossip newsletter) reports that Fred Again’s people have been trying to keep the fact that he is minor gentry out of his Wikipedia article. Fair enough. I understood his story to go as follows: young South London guy makes poppy dance songs during the pandemic, goes viral, becomes instant stadium-packing act once the restrictions lift, and boy he just can’t believe his luck. Shucks! No doubt this narrative has been carefully shaped by him and his people, and the truth does endear me to him less. His daddy is a Baron and a QC, his godfather is Brian Eno. He’s a nepo-baby, fine.
Here’s something more interesting: his great grandmother was Ann Fleming, née Charteris. Ann was born into, and continued to move in rarefied circles. Her first marriage was to the 3rd Baron O’Neill, and that was the one that eventually begat Fred Again (lol). However, she was a real bed-hopper. She started an affair with Lord Rothermere and when O’Neill was KIA in Italy in 1944, she married the lord. Around the same time, she started an affair with Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels and also actual spy. They later married.
The Rothmermeres kept up a pretty busy salon. One person who was in their orbit is one of my favourite portrait painters: Lucian Freud. He painted a portrait of Ann. I didn’t know he painted her! That’s the most surprising connection to come out of all of this, really. Included below is the portrait he made of Lady Caroline Blackwood, his own aristocratic muse replete with doomed marriages. They eloped to Paris, where he painted Girl In Bed.
An aside here: I’m convinced that this blue-blooded Ann with the spook husband and the chronic infidelity has to be the basis for John le Carré’s Lady Ann Sercomb, wife to George Smiley. I’m sure this is known.