A couple of years ago, Her Serene Highness Princess Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina von and Zu Fürstenberg, or Ira, as she is (mercifully) known, asked me to write her life story. Ira is just fabulous. I first met her in Marbella; she is unlike anyone I have ever met. If anything, the singular ‘life’ is somewhat misleading, as even by the most conservative of estimates she has led half a dozen different lives. Indeed, given the many personal dramas over 80 years, and the fact she is one of the most engaging, unaffected and clear-eyed witnesses to that halcyon period of the jet set, I am still surprised that Netflix has not been in touch to commission a T.V. series based on her life — what it may lack in the pomp and pageantry of The Crown it compensates for with glamour galore and locations as diverse as Acapulco, Place Vendôme, Marbella and St. Moritz.
I opened my book about her in 1955, with the shriek of tearing metal and the cries of terrified passengers as an Air France Super Constellation dropped out of a stormy sky and crash-landed in rural New England. Ripping trees out of the ground, the fuselage broke apart, and as passengers started to jump from the wreckage, an explosion rent the air. Among those still trapped inside was a 30-year-old European businessman en route to Mexico. His thin moustache and slicked-back hair would have reminded his fellow passengers of a young Clark Gable or Errol Flynn.