SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: It's game, set and match to the new chairman at Kate Middleton's tennis club

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SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: It's game, set and match to the new chairman at Kate Middleton's tennis club

Bad blood boiled over just before Christmas at the Hurlingham Club — despite the fact it's where the Duchess of Cambridge takes Prince George for t

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Bad blood boiled over just before Christmas at the Hurlingham Club — despite the fact it’s where the Duchess of Cambridge takes Prince George for tennis lessons.

So intense was the ill-feeling that the club’s new chairman, the Earl of Snowdon’s cousin Luke Nunneley, felt obliged to berate certain unnamed individuals who, he said, routinely ‘shouted down and insulted’ fellow members, and sent ‘abusive and insulting’ emails.

But on Monday night, at the club’s first ever annual general meeting to be conducted by Zoom, Nunneley decisively struck back against those whom he has characterised as ‘the noisiest and most bad-tempered of the membership’.

‘The AGM lasted two hours,’ a female member tells me, adding that Nunneley handled it with a ‘steely confidence’, which helped him secure overwhelming support from members, who typically pay an annual subscription of £1,200.

Bad blood boiled over just before Christmas at the Hurlingham Club — despite the fact it's where the Duchess of Cambridge takes Prince George for tennis lessons

Bad blood boiled over just before Christmas at the Hurlingham Club — despite the fact it’s where the Duchess of Cambridge takes Prince George for tennis lessons

Kate Middleton plays tennis as she joins a session with a group during a visit to the Coach Core Essex apprenticeship scheme at Basildon Sporting Village in 2018

Kate Middleton plays tennis as she joins a session with a group during a visit to the Coach Core Essex apprenticeship scheme at Basildon Sporting Village in 2018

Almost 90 per cent of the 450 or so attending voted in favour of a new rule that will allow the committee to ‘remove or suspend’ a committee member.

‘It was all very orderly,’ adds my informant. ‘No rancour, which made it unlike previous AGMs.’

The club in South-West London is set in 42 acres of idyllic grounds bordering the banks of the River Thames, and boasts of being ‘a green oasis of tradition’.

But it has been more like a battleground ever since the abandonment of a £22million redevelopment — which landed the club with a bill for £2.55million in professional fees and led to the departure of the previous chairman, Julian Holloway, whose allegedly ‘dictatorial’ manner inspired critics to compare him with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and establish a website, ‘Reform Hurlingham’. 

Kate Middleton plays tennis during a visit to the Lawn Tennis Association at the National Tennis Centre in London, England on October 31, 2017

Kate Middleton plays tennis during a visit to the Lawn Tennis Association at the National Tennis Centre in London, England on October 31, 2017

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in the Royal Box on Centre court during Men's Finals Day at Wimbledon on July 14, 2019

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in the Royal Box on Centre court during Men’s Finals Day at Wimbledon on July 14, 2019

Although the AGM was held ‘remotely’, even the rowdiest of rebels was on best behaviour.

‘No one ‘turned up’ in sweaty sports gear. Hair had been brushed, make-up applied.’ Some had gone further. ‘They’d colour-coded their book shelves!’ Evidently the Nunneley effect.

‘He wore a pale blue, well ironed shirt, matching his blue eyes,’ swoons an admirer. ‘It was all encouraging and unifying — at long last.’

Sounds as though Nunneley could even be the man to heal the wounds of Megxit.

Duke’s salute to Army standards 

While many of us lounge around in pyjamas, the Duke of Gloucester is keeping up sartorial standards during lockdown.

Not only did the Queen’s 76-year-old cousin wear a suit while holding a meeting via telephone this week with Major General Alan Hawley, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, but he made a point of putting on the corps’ regimental tie.

The Duke, a grandson of George V, is Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment and lives at Kensington Palace with his Denmark-born wife, Birgitte. 

While many of us lounge around in pyjamas, the Duke of Gloucester is keeping up sartorial standards during lockdown

While many of us lounge around in pyjamas, the Duke of Gloucester is keeping up sartorial standards during lockdown

Endeavour star Roger Allam admits he’s had to stay at some insalubrious dives during his long and distinguished stage and screen career. 

‘In a place in Newcastle-under-Lyme, there were huge notices saying ‘Baths — 50p extra’ — and the landlady had the bath plug,’ recalls the 67-year-old, who plays DI Fred Thursday in the hit police series. 

‘When I asked for a bath, she said: ‘You’ve only been here one day!’

Carey’s big lesson about drama school 

Rejected from three top drama schools including RADA and Guildhall before embarking on what is now an illustrious career, Hollywood star Carey Mulligan has blasted the industry for giving privileged actors an unfair advantage.

‘The majority of kids who go to drama school are from a certain background and a certain class,’ says the 35-year-old daughter of a hotel manager. 

Rejected from three top drama schools including RADA and Guildhall before embarking on what is now an illustrious career, Hollywood star Carey Mulligan has blasted the industry for giving privileged actors an unfair advantage

Rejected from three top drama schools including RADA and Guildhall before embarking on what is now an illustrious career, Hollywood star Carey Mulligan has blasted the industry for giving privileged actors an unfair advantage

‘And I think that’s a very limiting way that isn’t massively good for storytelling as a whole.’ 

Carey, who lives in London with her husband, musician Marcus Mumford, and their two children, had a privileged upbringing herself having been educated at £36,000 a year Woldingham in Surrey.

Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, came to talk to her school and gave her the encouragement to chase her drama dreams. 

But she adds: ‘When I did my first play, everyone was classically trained. I did feel like a chancer having not got in to drama school.’

Poignant farewell to Margaret Tebbit 

The family and closest friends of Lord Tebbit gathered at St Edmundsbury cathedral, Suffolk, for the funeral of his brave wife, Margaret.

Married for 64 years, the couple were in Brighton’s Grand Hotel in October 1984 when the IRA detonated a bomb, killing five and injured 31 — Margaret most grievously.

Yet, though paralysed below the neck, she developed what Jonathan Aitken, who gave the final address, described as her ‘mantra of courage’: ‘Whatever happens you just have to get on with it!’

‘It was a poignant and beautiful service,’ Aitken tells me, adding that House Of Cards author, Michael Dobbs — now Lord Dobbs — was the only political figure there. One son, John, gave the family tribute. Another, William, read the lyrics of Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.’

English-born veteran Hollywood director John Badham’s credits include Saturday Night Fever and WarGames, but he’s unlikely to be in the running to direct the next James Bond film as he can’t abide 007’s action sequences. 

‘This hysterical kind of editing is so much the style now,’ he says. ‘A good example is the opening of Quantum Of Solace. 

‘It’s a fabulous action scene, but it’s cut so quickly it’s hard to appreciate. It’s like somebody sticks you in a 50-gallon drum and rolls you down a hill.’

Being vegan is the icing on the cake for birthday girl Heather 

Paul McCartney’s former wife Heather Mills enjoyed a sparkling birthday lunch this week.

The former model, who lives in Brighton where she runs a vegan food company, Plant Based, shared a picture of herself at a restaurant in Dubai where she is on a work trip. 

Paul McCartney's former wife Heather Mills enjoyed a sparkling birthday lunch this week

Paul McCartney’s former wife Heather Mills enjoyed a sparkling birthday lunch this week

‘Vegan wine and cake on my 53rd birthday, what else could I ask for,’ she said. 

Heather, who was married to the former Beatle for six years until 2008, went vegan 25 years ago after being told the diet would help her recover from her leg amputation. 

‘In ten days my whole leg healed, so it saved my knee,’ she claimed.

Watch out if comedian Jenny Eclair is in your neighbourhood. 

‘In a pandemic you find your fun wherever you can — and with the theatres shut and telly only having so much to offer, I’d like to say thanks to everyone locally for turning on the lights and letting us into their living rooms without charging.’

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