Antonia paris fashion is life

Antonia paris fashion is life

Lady Antonia Fraser reveals the scandalised fallout of her affair with Harold Pinter



The story of Lady Antonia Fraser's secret affair with the playwright Harold Pinter, which ended their marriages but brought them a lifetime of passion, is the most eagerly awaited book of the year.

On Saturday, we revealed the reckless abandon of the night they met and fell in love.

Today, in the second part of our exclusive serialisation from her diaries, we reveal how they began living together and how they dealt with the disapproval of their affair - not least from her appalled parents, Lord and Lady Longford.

Antonia Fraser

Antonia Fraser embarked on a passionate love affair with playwright Harold Pinter

JULY 28, 1975

I returned home from a drink with Harold to find some young men in shirts vaguely in front of my house in Campden Hill Square. Young man turned, revealing camera on his hip. It turned out that [Harold's wife] Vivien had talked, and talked hard. Shattered.


More from Vivien in the papers. And the gossip writers have gathered all their venom into one pen. I went totally white. Sat on the bed. Tried to keep it from Harold. For a moment, I just wanted not to BE: not to take any action to that effect but perhaps 'to cease upon the midnight with no pain'.

Two things saved me from collapse. The first was a still-surviving robust common sense: 'This is absurd. We are not Heloise and Abelard. We're a couple of middle-aged writers who want to live together.' The other, of course, was Harold's love for me coupled with my love for him.

It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was Vivien in 'Medea' mood with her colourful denunciations who had touched off the frenzy and allowed the press free rein.

But then, like many people who seek vengeance, she herself ended up being the final sufferer. Harold sent her a letter of one sentence: 'Do not try to talk to me except through my lawyer.'

She had achieved the total break, which was the last thing she wanted. She had turned all his chivalry and pity away from herself towards me. I could see that he never felt the same way about her again. 


Scotland. I visit my dear friends Gerald Ogilvy-Laing, the sculptor, and Galina and we fall into each other's arms. 'We were so concerned for you.' They worried I might have gone under. I told them I hadn't - quite.

I added that there is one thing which is sardonically amusing. I, the woman, am always the target. Harold is treated with more circumspection because Harold the lover doesn't quite fit the public perception of the master of the pause, etc. (Maybe they should have read one or two of his plays!)

In fact, one careful reference to the 'allegedly passionate playwright' made me laugh. 'You should sue,' I told Harold. 'What's alleged about it?'


Harold begins to plan our new life in London. Me: 'I've got to learn to live with someone. Togetherness. I've never really had that.'

True. Thought I would when I first married, but [my Tory MP husband] Hugh didn't want that. I remember instituting Bible readings in bed - togetherness - but Hugh, horrified, went to sleep! Who can blame him?

AUGUST 17-22

On Sunday I left Campden Hill Square and moved into a rented house - 33 Launceston Place - with Harold. The first thing I saw when we entered was a mass of white flowers in the hall. Then he took my hand and led me into the drawing room.

Vivien Merchant

Harold's ex-wife Vivien Merchant claimed she was an alcoholic

Lo! A vast arrangement of flowers including foxy lilies and other glories in the window, and another on the mantelpiece, and in the back room, all luxuriant, then on up the stairs.

A huge arrangement, this time of yellow flowers in the pink boudoir, more - pink - on my dressing-table, and pink also in the bathroom.

I shall never forget them. Or Harold's expression. A mixture of excitement, triumph and laughter.

So we settled into our new lives. Harold insisted on mentioning our relationship in the next CV in a National Theatre programme: 'Harold Pinter has lived with Antonia Fraser since 1975.'

He told me that he heard on the grapevine that this was considered 'unusual' and somebody had asked: 'Don't people generally try to cover up such things?'


Lunch with my father [the Labour peer Lord Longford] at l'Epicure which got progressively worse as he tucked down his lips in a familiar grimace and started on at me.

Me: 'I don't ask you to approve, but to try to understand.' But it's no good and I see that Dada basically feels crossed at not having his own way. He never likes that.


Harold read me his revue sketches and I fell asleep!!


My 43rd birthday. Hugh and I talked about money - frankly, we're both broke. Harold gave me a wonderful necklace of coloured stones. He hovered nervously as I opened it: 'You can change it.'

We went defiantly out to dinner. Harold suddenly very angry - to photographers: 'Why don't you f off?' The next day the photographs were on the front page of a tabloid. The necklace looked pretty.


Went to see [Harold's play] No Man's Land. . . Supper with the two knights (John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson). Both very courtly towards me.


Heinemann's lunch for my uncle Tony [Anthony] Powell's 12th volume of A Dance To The Music Of Time. Sat next to Tony who had [the novelist] Jilly Cooper, blonde and lissom, on his other side. As the star guest, she had begun on his right, but he had switched us over. 'When the Revolution comes, let it come. But at my lunch, things will be done properly.' Being an earl's daughter, I had to be on the right. 


Dinner with [the historian] A.J.P. Taylor who had sent me a sweet letter congratulating me on 'capturing the foremost playwright of the age'. This was both funny and welcome at a time when nobody much was congratulating me on anything.

The hostess turned out to be his first wife - he has gone back to her having been abandoned by his second. Filthy North Oxford food: Dutch gin to drink. Harold quite amazed by it all. 


Harold's birthday: I gave him Imperial Cricket bound in white vellum. '£95,' said Harold, looking inside. 'I hope it doesn't cost that nowadays.' Silence. It had, actually.


At 9AM, the telephone rang. Jean, our au pair, who had dropped my youngest son Orlando at school, was crying: 'There's been a bomb at Campden Hill Square.'

Celia Goodhart, our neighbour there, took over the telephone. 'Jean is all right. Terribly shaken, of course. She saw the bomber place the bomb under the car.'

Harold rings Campden Hill Square on his line. He gets Caroline Kennedy (her mother Jackie being an old friend of Hugh's, she was staying in the house for a course at Sotheby's). She's clipped, admirable - the poor girl must have thought it was aimed at her: 'Yeah, I'm fine.'

I finally find poor Jean at Kensington police station. With great gallantry, she is describing the death of the bomber to the police, so there is an air of discreet satisfaction.


The bomb attack outside the home of Hugh Fraser MP in Campden Hill Square, London.

Not from me. With rising horror I realise from the description that it is in fact our neighbour Gordon Hamilton-Fairley, the cancer specialist, who, alerted by his white poodle, had been poking under the car.

Hugh is grey in the face with shock at what has happened; he was blown backwards in his chair while drinking coffee by the blast and has just heard of our neighbour's death.

Later he makes a statement of great dignity about Hamilton-Fairley in the House of Commons, ashen but splendidly upright, chest flung out.

Seeing Campden Hill Square on TV that night, now looking wrecked and shattered, I felt the most terrible guilt for everything in the world.

There was nothing rational about my guilt. The IRA bomber was subsequently convicted and imprisoned.

He had gone for Hugh, it was said later, as a hard-line Tory over Northern Ireland - which wasn't even true: as a Catholic himself, Hugh had a lot of sympathy for the plight of the Catholics over there.


We visited [the family home in] Campden Hill Square. Small, deep, round, black hole outside. Also a policeman. All the windows boarded or cellophaned. Went upstairs, collected some of my work (I used to go there most days and stored all my work there).

The autumn proceeded with a lot of turbulence, including threats of further press revelations from Vivien - Me: 'What is there left to tell?' - plus private happiness.


My father gave me lunch; insisted on trying to give me a lecture. Heated. Depressing. Pointless. Furious with Dada's morality. All right to be unfaithful to my 'saintly' husband. Not all right to be faithful to Harold.

I thought of trying to explain to him about passion, but what's the point? He only likes people like the convicted Moors murderess Myra Hindley, who is apparently repenting of passion.


I heard a whistle in Victoria Grove. It was Harold in a black leather jacket. He kissed me passionately in Hollywood style. At that moment, a passer-by stopped and engaged me in trivialities on some neighbourhood issue. She paid no attention to Harold.

Vivien's divorce action was now pending; we warned the teachers at the children's various schools. At the last minute, she withdrew it, being too ill to appear in court. The press ran a story saying that Hugh and I were reconciled, which would have been grimly funny if it hadn't been so painful for all concerned.


Dada's 70th birthday party. Harold specifically not invited, but persuaded me to go. I chose to wear a red dress for fun. [The historian] Laurence Kelly got the point: 'Here comes the scarlet woman,' he said, boomingly.


Our Xmas party. I wore my Yuki silk jersey dress; Harold after a good deal of talk - 'I'm at home: I shall wear my black jersey' - did wear a black suit and red shirt I'd given him.

The first silences of the first guests were broken by Sir John Gielgud, who bustled in talking, and kept talking and really made the party and broke the ice. Wonderful man!

Someone: 'Of course Shakespeare with Hamlet.' J.G.: 'Oh, do you think Shakespeare would have been in love with me?'

My elder daughters Rebecca and Flora appeared looking marvellous, their brown hair tousled, their blue eyes bright - plus two young men. Previously I had said: 'Girls, you are not bringing anyone.'

'No, Mummy, of course not,' they had replied virtuously.


Anniversary. We both felt we didn't regret the fatal meeting a year ago: then, having celebrated, we could go back to being neurotic for the rest of the year.


Not unfriendly talk with Hugh about finances. Me: 'Out of two houses now, I'm not living in either of them, having taken care financially of Scotland always and a large proportion of Campden Hill Square, to say nothing of school fees. So we must sort things out.'

Matters were complicated by the fact that I actually owned Eilean Aigas, in Scotland, although it was in the heart of Hugh's family estate, and he owned Campden Hill Square, the house I had always loved.

In the end, we worked out a house swap: Hugh to get Eilean Aigas plus my surviving capital, and me to get the London house.


Paris: Harold bought me a ravishing outfit at Saint-Laurent Rive Gauche: blue and white stripes, Tissot or maybe Renoir. My zest for art galleries I think came as a surprise, maybe not an entirely welcome one.


Party at the New Review. A handsome man shakes my hand and Harold's vigorously. [The disgraced MP] John Stonehouse. 'I want to sympathise with two fellow sufferers from the press.'

We grin back. But want to say: 'Thank you. But we haven't embezzled, faked death, and are not standing trial at the Old Bailey.' 


Supper party for friends. Harold is obsessed by Chile. Far into the night after the guests have left.


I asked Hugh about Jackie Kennedy, an old friend but with whom his name had been recently linked by the press.

I knew he had always liked and admired her. Hugh: 'How can one have a romance with someone followed everywhere by 48 press photographers?'


Vidia [author VS Naipaul] and Pat to lunch. A great success. I see how much Vidia and Harold have in common: they discuss anger like one might discuss a taste for port.


Years later, I was amused to realise that the minute flaxen-haired doll had become famous as Sarah Jessica Parker

The filming of Harold's play The Collection for TV in Manchester. Laurence Olivier, Alan Bates, Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren. 'Not a bad cast,' says Harold modestly. Indeed, not.

MAY 30

Dinner with [the playwright] Tom and [doctor] Miriam Stoppard. Harold: 'I don't plan my characters' lives.' Then to Tom: 'Don't you find they take over sometimes?' Tom: 'No.'


New York: Harold auditioning children for parts in Henry James's The Turn Of The Screw, adapted for a stage play.

A minute flaxen-haired doll called Sarah, so small she could hardly read the script, proved to be the most brilliant actress. (Years later, I was amused to realise that the minute flaxen-haired doll had become famous as Sarah Jessica Parker.)

Went to one New York party. Jackie Kennedy was there. In her soft, wondering voice: 'Why, Antonia, are you here for the Democratic Convention?'

Me: 'Not exactly.'


Dinner with [Hollywood actor] Steve McQueen to discuss Harold's play Old Times as a film. What an erotic play it is! I read scenes and Steve McQueen started quoting the most suggestive bits.

'I'm fearfully decadent,' he said, pronouncing it 'decayed-ent'. 'I love decayed-ent things.'

He was a strange sight, having grown a true lion's mane of hair to his shoulders plus beard in order to walk about unrecognised. Only when he takes off his tinted glasses do you see the amazing blue eyes.


Anniversary of the day I joined Harold in Launceston Place. We tried to celebrate but things are really unhappy and unresolved (with Harold and Vivien, not me and Hugh, who is merrily grouse-shooting).

Two of Harold's old friends who wish Vivien well, chose to tell me separately that Harold is not actually doing her any favours by enabling her to stay in vast and now apparently mouldering Hanover Terrace. It is of course [because of] Harold's guilt.


Vivien now says her doctor has told her she is an alcoholic. It would of course explain a lot. Harold, beyond repeating her statement, doesn't discuss it further.

Harold goes to New York. Hugh and I manage to have a good talk about school fees, money and all the rest of it. He is in a very cheerful mood. 'Although I can of course never be happy again,' he tells me with a laugh, 'I am in fact extremely content.'


Very worrying news from Harold in Boston, where he has been directing Claire Bloom in The Innocents. He has a temperature of 102. He's alone in a hotel. I long to bathe his fevered brow.


In Provincetown, Cape Cod, with Harold. He shouted at Steve McQueen down the long-distance line, which must be a good sign as he has been totally wan.

Steve McQueen: 'Don't shout at me, Harold - I'm not your butler.'

Harold: 'I don't shout at my butler.'


London. Telephone rings at 8am. (I am still on American hours). Hugh: 'Come round at once. I think we should get divorced as soon as possible.'

Me, utterly gaga: 'Ugh, yes, yes. But won't next week do?'

Hugh: 'No, now.' He is positively enthusiastic about the idea of the divorce.

Steve McQueen: 'Don't shout at me, Harold - I'm not your butler.'

Harold: 'I don't shout at my butler.'

On the way round, I visit Mummy, who says: 'Dada thinks you should live alone and be a femme de lettres.'

Me: 'Femmes de lettres don't live alone. They have exciting love lives. Tell Dada he knows nothing about the subject.'

It struck me that neither of my two marriages had been remotely what my parents wanted; rather the reverse. Much later, after Hugh's death, my mother confided to me that although she had loved the man deeply, she had abhorred Hugh's 'Right-wing politics'.

Yet it is to her credit that you would never have known it. I think some of this 'abhorrence' was due to the fact that Hugh and I had married at the time of Suez, when he was a prominent advocate of military action and my parents equally strongly opposed to it.


Harold's 46th birthday. On the telephone Dada actually asked after Harold's health. Mummy: 'Of course Harold is exactly the sort of serious person Dada would like. Maybe we could all meet out of doors; like quarrelling dogs.'


The day I got divorced. I went on my own to La Boheme and sat in a black velvet cloak and cried my heart and eyes out in the last act. This was pure self-indulgence, as almost anyone I knew would have taken me out to dinner - including Hugh.

• Abridged extract from Must You Go? My Life With Harold Pinter by Lady Antonia Fraser, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20. To order a copy of this book (p&p free) for £18, call 0845 155 0720.

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