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He is the man charged with organising King Charles’ Coronation in front of 2,000 dignitaries from around the world at Westminster Abbey next May. 

But the Duke of Norfolk has managed to squeeze in a rather smaller, but more personally significant, event at a register office a couple of miles away.

I can disclose that the Duke, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 65, got married Chelsea Old Town Hall, in the King’s Road, on Thursday evening, to Francesca Herbert, 59. 

Known as Chica, she is the ex-wife of Harry Herbert, son of the 7th Earl of Carnavon who was the Queen’s racing manager and owned Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed.

The couple exchanged their vows in front of a registrar, friends and family, including Chica’s daughter, the top model Frankie Herbert, 26, who exclaims: ‘My beautiful mama got married.’

I disclosed last December that the Duke had started courting Chica. He had told me the previous week that his 34-year marriage to Georgina was over. 

They have five children. As the most senior lay member of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain, divorce would normally be frowned upon.

Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 65, exchanged vows with Francesca Herbert, 59 in front of a registrar, friends and family

Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 65, exchanged vows with Francesca Herbert, 59 in front of a registrar, friends and family

Vivacious Chica was driven from the West London ceremony in a black cab with the Earl, who was banned from driving for six months in September, after he pleaded guilty to using his mobile phone at the wheel of his BMW. He had run through a red light and cut across a police car in April.

The Duke, who is said to be worth £100million and lives at Arundel Castle, in West Sussex, claimed he needed his licence to arrange the Coronation. I am told that Buckingham Palace officials were not pleased to learn that he had used his royal role in mitigation. As Earl Marshal, England’s most senior peer, he planned the Queen’s funeral in September.

Princess Diana as well as the Queen attended Chica’s first wedding, at Highclere, in Berkshire, in 1992.

Chica’s first husband married Irish TV chef Clodagh McKenna, 47, last year in a ceremony attended by guests including former Chancellor George Osborne.

Casino and wildlife heir Aspinall, 62, splits from wife, 36

As a child, most of Damian Aspinall’s pals were animals, and his human relations have sometimes seemed more of a struggle.

I hear that the casino and wildlife park heir’s marriage to a woman 26 years his junior has hit the rocks.

‘Sadly, they have separated,’ one of his (human) friends tells me. The pair decline to comment but, in a telling modern sign that a relationship is over, Aspinall has stopped following his wife on Instagram.

Damian, 62, the son of fugitive Lord Lucan’s great chum John Aspinall, married Victoria Fisher, 36, in 2016. Having previously worked at Burberry, she was paid more than £150,000 by Damian’s charity to design luxury lodges at their safari park in Kent.

Damian, 62, the son of fugitive Lord Lucan¿s great chum John Aspinall, has split from wide Victoria Fisher, 36

Damian, 62, the son of fugitive Lord Lucan’s great chum John Aspinall, has split from wide Victoria Fisher, 36

She admitted in 2017 that she had thought hard before accepting a proposal from Damian, who has two daughters, Tansy, 33, and Clary, 30, with his first wife, Louise Sebag-Montefiore, 60. He also has a daughter, Freya, 19, with actress Donna Air, 43. Other ex-girlfriends include supermodels Naomi Campbell and Elle Macpherson.

‘When I realised I really liked him I said, “My dream is to get married and have kids and I understand that might not be what you want because you’ve already had it,” and he was lovely,’ Victoria revealed. ‘So I knew early on we were in the same frame of mind and neither of us was wasting the other’s time.’

Significantly, perhaps, Victoria shared a news story on social media this week about Hollywood star Jennifer Aniston voicing her regrets at not having children.

Aspinall showed he was still on good terms with Air, an ex-girlfriend of the Princess of Wales’s brother James Middleton, by going to the Bahamas with her and Freya in August. Next to a holiday snap, Donna said: ‘Meet the Airspinalls.’

Rod’s sage sex advice to son

Sir Rod Stewart, who once admitted he’d slept with so many women that he had lost count of the exact number, has some advice for his teenage son, Alastair: ‘Keep it in your trousers.’

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The pop star, 77, says: ‘I tell my son that, because I had a child at 17. He’s 15, and extraordinarily good-looking, so “No babies”.’

Alastair, who’s actually 16, is his elder son with third wife, Penny Lancaster, 51. They also have Aiden, 11. Sir Rod has six more children with four other women and has spoken about how close he is to three of his exes: actress Alana Stewart, and models Kelly Emberg and Rachel Hunter.

‘The oldest one is in their 50s,’ he says of his offspring. ‘They are all different characters so I’m a different dad to each one. My children are not embarrassed to be seen with me. They say, “Why don’t you come out with us?”

‘My sons borrow my clothes. I didn’t do this with my dad because he was a plumber.’ 

Sir Rod Stewart, 77, has some advice for his teenage son, Alastair: ¿Keep it in your trousers¿

Sir Rod Stewart, 77, has some advice for his teenage son, Alastair: ‘Keep it in your trousers’

Emma’s no couch potato with workout at restaurant

Doctors advise us that the secret to a long, healthy life is eating well and taking regular exercise. Oscar-winner Dame Emma Thompson has found a way to combine both.

The 63-year-old actress and screenwriter was spotted performing a series of stretching exercises while polishing off her lunch at Cecconi’s restaurant in Mayfair.

After finishing her drink, Dame Emma, who was dressed in a pair of pink dungarees, balanced on one leg before high-kicking in front of bemused diners on the terrace behind the Royal Academy of Arts. She chewed on a chip at the same time. The Love Actually star, who is married to actor Greg Wise, has previously spoken of how dieting played havoc with her metabolism.

Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson was spotted performing a series of stretching exercises while polishing off her lunch at Cecconi¿s restaurant in Mayfair

Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson was spotted performing a series of stretching exercises while polishing off her lunch at Cecconi’s restaurant in Mayfair

Phones 4u billionaire fears a revolution…

With his much younger girlfriend and £250 million Mayfair mansion, complete with 15 bedrooms, ballroom and pool, John Caudwell seems quite pleased with himself. In fact, he’s worried about a revolution.

‘You can, ultimately, see that there could be an uprising against wealthy people — almost like the French Revolution and the pitchforks,’ says the billionaire Phones 4u founder. ‘There is just too much wealth and too much poverty. ‘It has to be addressed sooner or later, but I don’t know how.’

Caudwell, 70, who lives with Lithuanian former Olympic cyclist Modesta Vzesniauskaite, 39, (above) gives the warning on Brian Cox’s upcoming Channel 5 show, How The Other Half Live.

The Crown boosts enigma of royalty

It may have been condemned by everyone from Dame Judi Dench to Sir John Major for its ‘cruel’ and ‘malicious’ portrayal of the Windsors, but The Crown is actually good for the monarchy. That, at least, is the ‘heretical’ view of best-selling author Robert Harris.

‘The Crown has done the Royal Family nothing but good in some ways,’ he says. ‘Nobody really takes it literally, do they? I am sure that the majority who watch it have a handful of salt beside them.’

Harris, whose novels include Fatherland and Enigma, tells me: ‘The Crown has reinforced the position of the Royal Family as essentially the world’s royal family: there isn’t another dynasty on the planet, not even the Kennedys, which has captured humanity’s imagination in the same way. That is quite an achievement for a hereditary monarchy in the 21st century.’

(Very) modern manners

It has aristocratic origins, allegedly invented by the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who asked servants to bring him meat between bread to the card table. But the snack is not good enough for Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone, 33. ‘My wife is a snob and has never eaten a sandwich in her life,’ claims her husband, Sam Palmer. When the ex-car salesman showed her a photo of his sandwich she said: ‘That’s filth. Don’t come near me.’ He reflects: ‘It is amazing we’re still married.’

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