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Love stories of the rich and famous in Hampshire

PUBLISHED: 14:48 24 February 2015

Philippa Forrester & Charlie Hamilton James

Philippa Forrester & Charlie Hamilton James


Throughout history, Hampshire has been home to many happy couples. We take a light-hearted look at some of the county’s more famous romantic liaisons

Jane Austen & Tom Lefroy

In a story that sounds like one of her own novels, Hampshire’s key novelist, Jane Austen, much admired Tom Lefroy from the first time she met him.

Aged 20, Jane first laid eyes on Tom, a nephew of neighbours, when he visited her home village of Steventon near Basingstoke for a month from December 1795 to January 1796. He had just finished a university degree and was moving to London to train as a barrister.

They were more than likely introduced at a ball or other neighbourhood social gathering, and it’s clear from Jane’s letters to her sister Cassandra that they spent a lot of time in each other’s company: “I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together.”

Unfortunately, the plot took an unexpected turn and the Lefroy family intervened, sending him away at the end of January.

Marriage was impractical, as both Tom and Jane must have realised. Neither had any money and he was dependent on a great-uncle in Ireland to finance his education and establish his legal career.

If Tom visited Hampshire at a later date, he was carefully kept away from the Austens, and Jane never saw him again.

Some have suggested Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is based on Tom, as the courtship between them took place over the year or so that Austen’s famous novel was written.

The sentimental relationship between Jane and Tom is also at the centre of the 2007 biographical film Becoming Jane.


King Alfred & Ealhswith

It may not have been the love story of the century, but Alfred and Ealhswith tied the knot in 868. Alfred’s elder brother, Ethelred was King at the time. The pairing is said to have been part of an alliance between Wessex and Mercia, as the Danes occupied the Mercian town of Nottingham that year. Alfred became king after his brother’s death just three years later.

Not much is known of Ealhswith. She did not witness any known charters, and Asser (a writer who joined Alfred in his court) did not even mention her name in his life of King Alfred. Plus, in accordance with ninth century West Saxon custom, she wasn’t given the title of queen. According to King Alfred, this was because of the infamous conduct of a former queen of Wessex called Eadburh, who had accidentally poisoned her husband.

A marriage of convenience it might have been, but Alfred left his wife three important symbolic estates in his will.

The first was Eddington in Wiltshire, the site of one important victory over the Vikings, Lambourn in Berkshire, which was near another, and Wantage, his birthplace.

Following Alfred’s death in 899, Ealhswith founded the convent of St Mary’s Abbey, Winchester, known as the Nunnaminster. She died on 5 December 902, and is commemorated in two early 10th century manuscripts as ‘the true and dear lady of the English’.


Keith Harris & Orville

It was a relationship we all enjoyed during the 80s and 90s. The green duckling, with its oversized nappy, became the long term on-screen partner to Lyndhurst born and bred ventriloquist Keith Harris. Many happy days were spent in that pink windmill, apart from when there was ‘somebody at the door!’ He may have been an unwanted visitor but Grotbags was the least of their troubles, as it was Keith’s other puppet Cuddles who made waves in their relationship; often professing ‘I hate that duck!’ Keith’s first job was at a barbers but he always dreamed of becoming a ventriloquist. As well as finding fame on TV, Keith and Orville also had a top 10 hit single 33 years ago with ‘Orville’s Song’. No prizes for guessing the lyrics.


Cath Kidston & Hugh Padgham

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘I don’t want to pick out curtains’. No? It basically means ‘I don’t want a serious relationship with you’. Yet Cath Kidston met her partner, record producer Hugh Padgham doing practically that, measuring up a room in his then home for curtains. Cath was raised with her three other siblings in Andover before she moved to London at 18. She has some famous relatives too, her grandfather, Glen Kidston was a successful racing driver for Bentley in the 20s. Her uncle, Charles Henry Allsopp, 6th Baron Hindlipp, is former chairman of Christie’s - recognise the surname? His daughter Kirstie Allsopp is Cath’s cousin. It would seem a passion for homes and interiors runs in the family, then.


Philippa Forrester & Charlie Hamilton James

They say that you are very likely to meet your future spouse at work – in fact, 38 per cent of couples that meet at their office go on to get married. Winchester born TV presenter Philippa Forrester and wildlife cameraman Charlie Hamilton James first met whilst filming on location in 2000, and just four years later they were wed. Charlie was lucky enough to work on Attenborough’s The Trials of Life as well as Springwatch and The Natural World. These days, the happy couple are still working together. Their first collaboration, made when Charlie was just 26, was My Halcyon River. Following its success, in 2003 they set up a production company, Halcyon Media, which specialises in wildlife productions. In 2007, they co-produced An Otter in the Family, and three years later they produced the four-part Halcyon River Diaries, following the wildlife found near their home. Well that’s put paid to the saying never work with animals or family…


Cath Kidston & Hugh Padgham

You might say that Chris and Charlotte were destined to be together. Yes, it may be corny, but they both share a love not just for each other, but for nature too. Charlotte is originally from the Isle of Wight, where she spent her young years rolling around her living room with bear cubs and walking tigers along the beach. What amazing childhood memories, but it’s not surprising when you discover her father, Jack Corney, rescued the Isle of Wight Zoo back in the 1970s when it was in disrepair. The zoo is now in her capable hands. She and Chris met thanks to their mutual love affair with animals. His fondness for all things wild started during his childhood too, from collecting ladybirds in matchboxes to tadpoles in jam jars. These days they both work tirelessly in conservation both locally and worldwide – that’s what you might call ‘animal magic’.



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