Not entirely frivolous

Baron de Redé died on this day in 2004. With the support of his lover Arturo Lopez-Wilshaw and later his friends Guy and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, he cultivated a Pompadour existence amid the ancien régime splendour of Paris’s Hôtel Lambert. There he occasionally entertained, but it seems his was a solitary existence among the marquetry and parquetry of the Lambert’s doleful salons. Toward the end of his (posthumously published) memoirs, and thus toward the end of his life, he reflected on the “not…entirely frivolous pursuit” of keeping the old pile in the state to which it was once accustomed. The occasion for this particular wistful turn was the bestowal in 2003 of a French order, the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres:

I had had the good fortune to be able to pursue my selfish interests through the generosity of friends. I think particularly of Arturo, but more so in the context of the Lambert, of Guy and Marie-Hélène. Without Guy, the Lambert would have been sold, and it would not have survived in its present incarnation. My part in its history was as a loving catalyst, inspiring a love of the place in my friends. Thus it has been preserved, and I hope lovingly tended. I think the greatest joy in the honour I received that night was the confirmation that the pursuit and protection of beauty was not deemed to be an entirely frivolous pursuit. Indeed, I know from the daily care which an old building needs, that this pursuit requires considerable dedication and fortitude.

It is at moments when the world briefly stops to salute a person that that person stands back and examines what he has done. I have never claimed to do other than love beauty and luxury, and to seek to pass my time on this earth with the most interesting and aesthetically developed people of my age. This has been an enriching experience, and it has been enjoyable. I have been lucky. I hope I have given something back, and if nothing more I have protected the Hotel Lambert, this wonderful place, my home, for nearly sixty years.

Let that be my epitaph.

Consider it done.

(By the by: living laureates of this distinction – either chevalier, officier or commandeur – include Patti Smith, Nan Goldin, Stevie Wonder, Jeanne Moreau, Shahrukh Khan, Fairuz, Bob Dylan, Philip Glass, Kylie Minogue, Ned Rorem, Tim Burton and Amanda Lear. Which is quite the dinner party.)


  1. Wow, that’s quite the Who’s Who of What’s What!

  2. Pingback: ‘Hundreds of pages of nonsense?’ « Strange Flowers

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