My mother, Simone, Adele, Bremond, was beset by a major problem most of her life. She was undeniably attractive and knew it.
With raven black hair, large, deep brown olive shaped eyes and long eye lashes which she quickly learned to bat innocently at vulnerably sensitive men of all ages, she had no trouble at all as a child getting what she wanted. Born in Monte Carlo in 1905 she grew up in the fashionable Edwardian world of the Cote d’Azur and by the time she was fifteen she had developed into such an attractive and accomplished young girl that Maman (her mother), saw in her the potential of an advantageous marriage and pushed her to meet the ‘beau monde’ when opportunities presented themselves.
Rich eligible young men were sought, the majority of whom Simone found quite uninteresting. She liked a supposed White Russian prince of eighteen who was discouraged from seeing her again when it came to light that he had no money. The son of a Swedish millionaire proved to be more interested in men, and Giovanni, an Italian count who taught her how to kiss during a ride in a fiacre without a chaperone was sent packing when ‘Maman’ found out he was already married.
One afternoon Simone was introduced to a gentleman from London at the house of a mutual family friend. She thought him rather attractive, he was ten years older than her and she was very flattered when he suggested they should take a walk together down the garden path after a traditional English tea. The meeting had been arranged by her mother, but she was unaware of that.
His name was Edward, like the Prince of Wales, Maman pointed out. He was smartly dressed ‘á l’anglaise’ , a navy blue blazer with brass buttons, white shirt, striped tie, white flannel trousers.
When they were some distance from the rest of the tea party and they had conversed politely about the weather and the beautiful flowers on display, he told her she could call him ‘Eddy’. She was then taken aback when he asked her, straight out, whether she was a virgin.
‘I’m only fifteen’ she protested
‘I just wanted to make sure, ‘ he replied. ' It is important that you should be. '
On the way home young Simone realized her mother was taking it for granted that she would accept ‘Eddy’ as a husband. Incredulous at the thought of marrying anyone so soon, she kept quiet hoping the ridiculous idea would be forgotten. But from that tea party onwards the beauty of England, the glories of London, the admiration for George V and Queen Mary and the gossip about the aristocratic English visitors on the coast, were hammered into her young head to the point that she eventually believed herself to be the luckiest girl in the world to have the opportunity of such a brilliant union.
The following Easter, Eddy turned up to propose.
One evening the couple were left alone in the drawing room for this purpose. They sat next to each other on the sofa, he reached for her hand and said, very seriously, 'Simone, you are a very young, innocent, beautiful girl who needs to be protected from the evils of the world. I would like to do this for you and am asking for your hand in marriage.'
'Yes, alright, ' she apparently answered, with not quite as much enthusiasm as he clearly would have wished. He then, for the first time, kissed her on both cheeks, then on the mouth. She parted her lips and stuck her tongue out a little as Giovanni the Italian count had taught her, and Eddy leapt back in shock.
'Where did you learn that ? '
'What ?' she asked, wide eyed.
'Who taught you to kiss like that ?'
'Like what ?'
'You opened your lips !'
'I was gasping for breath,' she said batting her long eye lashes. 'You so took me by surprise.'
It was to be the first lie of very many to come.
Young Simone and Eddie