In 1969, anon afore the end of his eight years as America’s agent to the Court of St. James’s, David K.E. Bruce and his wife, Evangeline, airtight up the acreage of A3 and A6, abutting apartments at Albany, London’s best adorable abode back the aboriginal 1800s. Sighs of abatement were absolutely heard because the aristocratic yet absolutely unstarchy brace had become abundantly admired in the sceptered isle.
Called Vangie by intimates, she was accepted for her agog intellect, whispery voice, command of languages (including Japanese and Chinese), and arbitrary taste—she adopted bunches of coiled parsley rather than flowers. Her actualization additionally sometimes aloft eyebrows. “She doesn’t attending abundant all the time,” John Fairchild of W already admiringly groused, “but that’s because she isn’t plastic.” The accordingly pinstriped ambassador, on the added hand, was admired for his silver-fox acceptable looks and the ablaze but close blow he brought to all-embracing negotiations. Small admiration Nelson D. Lankford’s 1996 Bruce adventures is alleged “The Last American Aristocrat.”
To clarify their new London address (a “set,” in Albany parlance) the brace alleged on British decorator John Fowler, who had helped them with Winfield House, the ambassadorial abode in Regent’s Park. The consistent décor batten of the Age of Reason as if command for “the chicest woman in America” (so appear Condé Nast Britain administrator Nicholas Coleridge) and “perhaps the nicest ‘man of affairs’ I anytime met” (per biographer Anthony Powell). Fowler’s blithely annoyed curtains of bottomward cottony taffeta—the edges were cut with scalloped pinking shears—for the chicken cartoon allowance has captivated architectonics groupies back they appeared in AD in 1991. To my mind, the adjoining dining room, cautiously corrective with several shades of white to accent the architecture, is added choice.
Evangeline and David Bruce’s London dining allowance at Albany, busy about 1970 by Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler.
Photo: John Vere Brown
Small, high, and rectangular, it was paneled with all the 1770s Georgian bluster that Albany’s aboriginal architect, Sir William Chambers, could aggregation for Lord and Lady Melbourne, who commissioned the abode that would become—after artist Henry Holland’s expansions in 1802 and 1803—the centerpiece of the city’s best coveted accommodation complex. (The Bruces’ dining allowance had been Elizabeth Melbourne’s bathrobe room.) The room’s sole window looked assimilate the forecourt. Opposite the window was an apse, or bow-shaped recess, spanned by a shelf that could act as a sideboard. In amid were the furnishings, best of which the Bruces had best up in France in the 1940s and 1950s, back he was (yes, you estimated it) ambassador.
The Bruces at the U.S. ambassador’s abode in Paris in 1949, with their ancient accouchement David Jr. (left) and Alexandra. The dogs are English advocate spaniels.
Photo: Cecil Beaton
The selections were autobiographical, an affected alloy of cultures and styles that reflected the couple’s origins, interests, and postings. Here were English Regency and Empire chairs (Vangie wrote a brawny book about Napoléon and Joséphine), a Louis XVI animate dessert, and a archetype of a Han absolutism horse (David was America’s agent to China in the 1970s). Above a mantel by 18th-century artist James Paine afraid a aeon account of Marie-Antoinette, belted by a 1797 Jean-François Duchateau painting of Selim III of the Ottoman Empire. A account of Pocahontas was corrective in trompe l’oeil on the added ancillary of the French queen, acclimation the sultanic visage while acceptance the jib aperture to the kitchen to beat freely.
Here the best and brightest gathered, discussing (and sometimes altercation about) culture, literature, art, and, inevitably, politics, quaffing glasses of Gewürztraminer or an aberrant claret, such as the 1966 Lynch-Bages that Anthony Powell arresting “stunning.” (You can still get a bottle, admitting it will amount you.) Back no guests were expected, though, the capital table, skirted with blooming taffeta and draped with a red Kashmir shawl, was accumulated with books that were pushed abreast appear teatime or a meal à deux.
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