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Daffy Daphine - Britain's most eccentric aristocrat

Celeb News

She was born to the legendary Guinness family, swam in Salvador Dali’s lobster-filled pool as a child and bagged a Greek shipping billionaire before she was out of her teens.

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Daphne Guinness is known for her adventuresome take on haute couture.

Today, aged 48, her life is still as colourful as ever. Openly having an affair with a 67-year-old married French philosopher, Daphne Guinness is — even by the absurd standards of the fashion world — a one-off. Pictured falling off her £10,000 heel-less shoes while on a date with her boyfriend this week, she is the undisputed queen of London’s fashion and social scene.

From the tips of her skunk-streaked Bride Of Frankenstein beehive to her black satin 8 in platforms, she is instantly recognisable at every gathering from Kate Moss’s Cotswolds wedding to Alexander McQueen’s memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral.

But who is the woman who airily observes that she will eat only when she’s dead? Here we tell the riotous story of Daffy Daphne, fashion’s £20 million darling . . .

Granny knew Adolf Hitler

Daphne is the youngest daughter of banker and brewery heir Jonathan Guinness, Lord Moyne, and the beautiful French actress Suzanne Lisney.

She was raised in baronial style between homes in Ireland, Warwickshire and at an artists’ colony in Cadaques, Spain, where surrealist Salvador Dali was a neighbour and artist Man Ray a friend. They swam in Dali’s pool, which he always kept filled with live lobsters.

Apparently, she got into the habit of never telling her peers at St Mary’s School, Wantage, what she had done over the holidays because no one believed her.

Her grandmother was Diana Mitford (later Lady Mosley, after marrying British Fascist Oswald Mosley) and Daphne said that Diana almost raised her because her own mother was so ‘emotionally detached’.

She talked to Diana about her pre-war friendship with Adolf Hitler. ‘I said “Granny, it just can’t be right,” and she just said: “He didn’t photograph well.” ’

Married life in a gilded cage

Aged 19, she married Spyros Niarchos, the son of the late Greek shipping billionaire Stavros. They were married for 12 years and had three children, Nicholas, Lex and Ines. She describes them as her ‘Faberge egg’ years when she was surrounded by wealth, but never went out.

The family lived between the private Greek island of Spetso-poula, a house in Paris and a grand townhouse in New York.

When they divorced in 1999, Spyros was said to have given her £20 million in settlement.

Mistaken for Cruealla de Vil

Returning to London after the divorce, Daphne was free to reinvent herself. The children were at boarding school and spending school holidays with their father.

She started anew and established herself as a great English eccentric — with the budget to buy couture and an eye for style and art. (Couture items, for the uninitiated, start at £30,000 and go up to £150,000 and more for a single dress.) 

She had a day job as a fashion stylist and established a firm friendship with Tatler’s fashion director Isabella Blow and with couture’s enfant terrible Alexander McQueen.

A sense of personal style evolved — the striped hair, stacks of silver jewellery and diamonds, corsets and monochrome capes and veils. There is a striking resemblance to Cruella de Vil, which she finds amusing, recounting that a taxi driver once told her: ‘You’re not as scary looking in real life as in that film about dalmatians.’

A tiny size zero, she admits she doesn’t like to eat and often gets through the day by surviving on energy drink Red Bull.

Neighbour banned her taking baths

Until recently, she owned a huge apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York with silver leaf paper on the ceiling and a scarlet carpet in the hallway matched to her custom blended nail polish.

She sold it after a dispute with her neighbours in 2010. She was sued for causing ‘mental anguish and emotional distress’ to the downstairs neighbour after flooding his bathroom four times.

He secured a ban on her taking baths — so she sold up.

It's easy to walk in no-heel shoes

She has long had an outlandish taste in footwear and generally wears heel-less platform shoes, which she has custom made.

This week’s tumble off her bespoke £10,000 Noritake Tatehana heel-less shoes — Lady Gaga is another customer — was not her first.

In 2010, she fell off her 10 in McQueen platforms at his memorial service. She said: ‘Those are difficult to walk in. The ones with no heels are easy by comparison.’

Lady Gaga paid 85k for her dress

She started collecting couture while married and has held two massive wardrobe sales, raising more than £750,000 for charity.

At the most recent sale, singer Lady Gaga paid a world record £85,250 for a gown by the late Alexander McQueen.

Daphne said of her shopping habit, which runs to Chanel, Givenchy and Alaia: ‘You are buying clothes from your friends, and you are wearing history.’

She told a documentary that she also enjoys the guarantee of uniqueness that this level of outlay brings.

‘If I see something in an advert, I don’t want to know any more, that’s for sure. If I see it on a movie star, I don’t want it any more. It’s done,’ she said.

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