XO

The Knightsbridge Wife; Bandage dresses and Hooker heels

Dress, Jonathan Saunders? Check. Shoes, Manolo Blahnik? Check. Hair by Daniel Hersherson? Check. The Harper by Victoria Beckham? Check…Caroline looks at herself in the mirror, so many things to check off her list for this all important tea at Harvey Nichols with her gaggle of “friends”. Its really a formal induction into their little club. The Knightsbridge wives, as they are unofficially known, are an army of very powerful wives of very wealthy and even more powerful men, who rule the colony aka, Belgravia and its wider environs in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This tight knit battle field where no one is allowed access except ordained by the Queen Bee herself, Bernadette George. Wife of Arthur George, entrepreneur and is somewhere between 20th and 23rd in line for the throne. An aside of great pride to Bernadette. The Knightsbridge Wives are Sloanes, Crillon Ball debutantes, Oxford/Harvard educated, some are housewives and others are career women in high flying positions. Within the group there is a hierarchy, at the top of which, sits Bernadette. She is one of the most terrifying women on the planet with her signature faux smile and icy glare. Going up against her is not something any woman would even dare. Women in the colony are embroiled in a war of the most sophisticated yet typical kind; the housewives loathe the working mothers who dared to return to work after childbirth and the working mothers don’t think much of the housewives who have nothing better to do than jostle for positions on the board of the PTA and rain terror down on every other mother. But they all come together at least once a week to sip tea for the sake of peace, which is just a round about way of measuring each other’s status per capita because in this world, status is everything .

Caroline on the other hand is from a different stock; product of the middle class, she grew up in Belsize Park in a three bedroom apartment with her brother Edward and the most wonderful parents. Both retired, her father was an Engineer for the government and her mother was a teacher. Loving and sensible, they compliment each other. Caroline and Edward attended St Dupont primary and secondary public school, and Cambridge for University. Edward is now an Executive Producer on one of the most successful networks, overseeing three hit TV series and she is a Senior VP at a private investment firm.

Caroline met and married her husband, Xavier Darling, the most wonderful man on the planet, in her loyal, biased and loving opinion, six years ago. Xavier is nothing like the husbands of the other wives, he is different, sweet, kind and loving. And so very intelligent, one of the brightest architects of this generation, to quote a piece in The Times. Not to forget handsome, but his winning qualities are way beyond his looks, that’s just a bonus. Theirs was a meet cute, even if a little scandalous. At the time of meeting Xavier, she was engaged to James her secondary school sweetheart. It was a courtship of convenience, Caroline was going through the motions though her heart was not in it. She met Xavier at an Industry dinner and soon enough talking sporadically about stocks, shares and the price of concrete, became lunch, then dinner, then the unnecessary necessary meetings…Caroline ended with James, before things with Xavier went any further than a peck on the cheek. It wasn’t easy or pretty, but it was for the best.

Xavier is from a rich family, not titled, not fancy, but very rich having made their vast fortune in construction. His father, Saul, is a sweet, sweet man but his mother, Madeleine, is a tough act, she gives the Dowager Countess a run for her money. Madeleine takes delight in pointing out Caroline’s faults and flaws whenever she can. Not to forget comparing her to the very perfect Bernadette, whom she would have preferred for a daughter-in-law…Ah yes, Bernadette and Xavier were the it couple back in the day, when they got introduced by their mothers over afternoon tea in Claridges, as you do. Modern day matchmaking if you will, mothers on this side of the planet are serial matchmakers because in this very small and very detached world, a family is only cool by the association it keeps and the one it marries into. However, the seeds of romance did not blossom for the young lovers and before going off to University, Xavier ended things with Bernadette. Rumour has it she never really got over him despite being married to Arthur. And who could blame her? To the outside world, Bernadette and Arthur make the perfect couple but insiders, colony members and wives, know different. Stories of Arthur and his roving eyes are lunch time talk from Cipriani to The Ivy…if anyone still goes there. Two years ago he was embroiled in the Blackbook scandal; Madam, call girl, address book; the whole cliché. Classy (*S)

Since Caroline and Xavier got together, Bernadette has shunned her, icing her out from the coven, so to speak. Not that Caroline is desperate for her approval, after all, they didn’t know each other prior to her relationship with Xavier. Bernadette has snubbed every attempt Caroline made in the name of friendship and managed to intimidate all but one woman in her circle, from being friends with her. Who says secondary school ever ends? Curiosity is mostly the reason Caroline is attending this Tea. That and it is less trouble to be one of them than be against them.

So here she is, checking and re-checking herself in the mirror, making sure she adhered to the very strict dress code. Harper not the Birkin because the once upon a time iconic handbag, is sailing perilously close to chav territory thanks to those girls off the Reality TV shows totting them around in garish colours. Even if it costs the monthly mortgage payment as the case may be for some. She could have opted for the more acceptable and less frowned upon Kelly, but chances are half the women at tea would do the same. Caroline finds such ceremonies humorous. Who makes this stuff up anyhow? Kelly Mathews, her one and only friend within the colony, rung her the night before to give her the full tutorial. Like her, Kelly is a career Knightsbridge wife with children in the same class at St Charles. They formed a friendship at the school gates and over play dates. According to Kelly, the Birkin has its moments and the only acceptable colours to be seen with, are tan and black. Louboutins are certified WAG uniform along with the Hervé Leger bandage dress, to be caught dead in either is akin to social suicide.

‘Good thing I’m not suicidal.’ Caroline says to herself.

‘Suicidal?’ Xavier walks into her closet.

‘Yes, bandage dresses and hooker heels.’

‘Sure. I’ll take your word for it.’ He says cheekily. Even dressed in something as causal as jeans and a white shirt, Xavier oozes a certain charm and is ever so dashing. He is going over to one of his brothers’ for soccer Saturday.

‘How do I look?’ Caroline gives him a twirl.

‘Lovely.’ He looks at her face in the mirror, standing behind her with his arms around her waist. ‘You look absolutely lovely my darling Mrs Darling.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Tea with your new friends.’ There is a hint of good natured mockery in his tone.

‘Yes. Don’t mock me.’

‘My dear, I’m not mocking you, but you do know you don’t have to do this.’

‘Which is why I am doing it because I want to.’ She turns to look at Xavier. ‘You’re worried about me?’

‘Not exactly but Bernadette is a piece of work.’

‘I’m a big girl I can handle myself.’

‘I know you can.’

‘But I have you on speed dial if I need my Superman.’

They share a kiss before he leaves her to it. With the children away at their grandparents for the weekend, the house is a touch too quiet. She loves hearing their delightful squeals fill the house. Twins, Olive and Alexander, Xander for short, are 5 years old and already so self assured and independent. Born one minute apart, Olive is a right little boss lady, ever so protective of Xander being the elder by that crucial minute, a fact she likes to point out quite often. Xander is quietly strong and somewhat cheeky. Ever so like his father. She looks at their picture on her dresser, wide smiles and beautiful faces. And then there is Amelia, her step-daughter from Xavier’s relationship with his college girlfriend. 15 going on 25, She visits her father every other weekend and holidays as agreed between Xavier and Penelope, her mother. Mother and daughter are not too keen on Caroline but Xavier set the boundaries a long time ago. Still, Amelia tests her limits with Caroline in his absence. Before Xavier, Caroline never imagined herself in a marriage with a step-child, it was even a deal breaker. However as life would have it, there is that little thing about love to consider.

‘Honey, I’ll be in the car.’ Xavier calls up to her.

‘Okay I’ll be down in two minutes.’ One last look at herself in the mirror and Caroline thinks, ‘perfect.’ If they don’t approve then so be it.

Let the fun begin.