Sorry, Harry, Cressie’s not so blue blooded af­ter all!

... in fact, her great gran­dad was a failed butcher from Battersea

Scottish Daily Mail - - Saturday Life - By Christo­pher Wil­son

WITH her wide-eyed blonde good looks and aris­to­cratic de­meanour, she looks oven-ready to be­come our next princess. And no doubt the re­u­nion with Prince Harry when they re­turn from their sep­a­rate trav­els this week will be as passionate as that clinch on the ski slopes of Ver­bier.

The Cres­sida Bonas story may well end on the bal­cony of Buck­ing­ham Palace. But, as I can re­veal, it started in far hum­bler cir­cum­stances.

The idea that Harry’s lat­est squeeze is un­con­testably top- drawer — as peo­ple have been quick to point out in their de­ter­mi­na­tion to get them mar­ried off — is wide of the mark.

Cer­tainly, Cres­sida’s fa­bled mother, the former lady Mary-Gaye Cur­zon, comes from the right side of the tracks, with a fam­ily his­tory which stretches back a thou­sand years. But what about her fa­ther’s peo­ple?

The Bonas fam­ily — or Bonass, as they were once un­for­tu­nately known — aren’t quite such blue­bloods. In fact there’s noth­ing faintly aris­to­cratic about them at all.

Butch­ers, gro­cers, fac­tory work­ers they were to a man — and even Cres­sida’s dad used to run a fac­tory mak­ing elas­tic for ladies’ tights.

In­deed, just like the former Kate Mid­dle­ton with her coal-miner an­tecedents, Cres­sida’s mon­grel an­ces­try makes her a far more fas­ci­nat­ing part­ner for the third in line to the throne than if she were a 24-carat aristo.

Her story starts in the dusty back-streets of Battersea, South lon­don, a cen­tury ago. Two brothers from the Mid­lands, Joe and Ge­orge Bonas, ran a butcher’s shop and gen­eral gro­cery store there, on Plough Road.

But such was the poverty of this work­ing­class area, which backed on to shunt­ing yards and lay in the shadow of a sugar fac­tory, it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to make ends meet.

The brothers worked hard, but in the end the younger Ge­orge headed back to the Mid­lands fam­ily home.

By the time he ar­rived as a pen­ni­less ex-butcher hop­ing to scrape a liv­ing at any job he could find, King Ed­ward VII was on the throne and be­strid­ing the Em­pire.

In In­dia, Ed­ward’s Viceroy was Mar­quess Cur­zon, pos­si­bly the snooti­est aris­to­crat ever to don a coronet. Nei­ther man would dream of recog­nis­ing such a hope­less and for­got­ten fig­ure as Ge­orge — yet all three had some­thing in com­mon. Their descen­dants would one day be seen smooching on the ski slopes of Ver­bier and the talk would be of an­other mag­nif­i­cent royal wed­ding.

Ed­ward VII was Prince Harry’s great-great-great grand­fa­ther. Cur­zon was an an­ces­tor to Cres­sida on her mother’s side through her great-great-grand­fa­ther the Earl

He had to scrape a liv­ing at any job he could find

Howe. And im­pov­er­ished Ge­orge Bonas would be Cres­sida’s great-grand­fa­ther.

Ge­orge’s story was one of es­cape from suf­fo­cat­ing small-town life, fol­lowed by the hard­ship of try­ing to make a liv­ing, the on­set of dis­il­lu­sion, and the for­lorn and hu­mil­i­at­ing re­turn to his home­land.

For a time his el­der brother Joe clung on in Battersea — but in those top-hat­ted Ed­war­dian days there was no place in po­lite so­ci­ety for peo­ple with the name of Bonas, and even­tu­ally he too headed back to set up a butcher’s shop in Coven­try.

Both boys had grown up in their fa­ther’s gro­cery store in Church Street, Bed­worth, near Nuneaton, and were sent out to work at the age of ten. The jour­ney south and sorry re­turn home had taken a decade out of both their lives — but it did noth­ing to stem Ge­orge’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed. He ap­plied for a job at the Derby tape-man­u­fac­tur­ing fac­tory owned by his un­cle Joseph, and even­tu­ally he qual­i­fied as a tape-weaver.

Tape-weav­ing at the time was an es­sen­tial part of the in­dus­trial ma­chin­ery of Eng­land, pro­vid­ing the na­tion with ev­ery­thing from boot­laces to wicks for can­dles, from web­bing to elas­tic.

Ge­orge’s de­ter­mi­na­tion paid off, and even­tu­ally he was able to open his own fac­tory in Cas­tle Gres­ley, 17 miles away in Der­byshire. His wife Alice gave him a son, Harry — Cres­sida’s grand­fa­ther — who was to carry on the busi­ness. King Ge­orge V was now on the throne — and Ge­orge and Harry Bonas were strug­gling to make their ca­cophonous, messy fac­tory pay its way. The fam­ily had yet to ac­quire any kind of so­cial pol­ish.

They man­aged to keep the fac­tory go­ing, though. When Ge­orge died in 1949 he left £40,759 — £1.2 mil­lion in to­day’s money — but the fam­ily was still liv­ing in a sub­ur­ban road in Bur­ton-on-Trent, home to a dozen breweries and a far cry from the shaved lawns of As­cot and the muted draw­ing-room con­ver­sa­tion of Wind­sor Cas­tle. The fam­ily’s jour­ney of up­ward mo­bil­ity was mov­ing at a snail’s pace.

It was Harry who made the fam­ily for­tune. Busi­ness in­creased un­der his di­rec­tion, and he moved from mod­est ac­com­mo­da­tion to Stan­ton Manor near Bur­ton, then to a big­ger pile, Grange­wood Hall.

The fac­tory boss and his wife Win­nie had learned the art of no­blesse oblige, open­ing up their house once a year to the work­force for a staff garden party.

‘At the Queen’s Sil­ver Ju­bilee in 1977, we were all given a smart boxed sou­venir,’ re­calls one ex­em­ployee. ‘They looked af­ter their peo­ple. They were lovely.’

Harry, son of a butcher, had nearly ar­rived — all he had to do was send the three sons to Har­row and Ox­ford. Win­nie, mean­while, be­came a mag­is­trate and col­lected an OBE. The trans­for­ma­tion from work­ing class to up­per-crust had taken just three gen­er­a­tions.

How­ever, even to this day no­body quite knows what Cres­sida’s mother Mary-Gaye Cur­zon saw in Harry’s sec­ond son, Jef­frey. A con­tem­po­rary from Ox­ford re­mem­bers: ‘He was an old Har­ro­vian smoothie — quite tall, quite good-look­ing, but frankly no­body would have thought he could land some­one like Mary-Gaye.

‘In the Six­ties and early Sev­en­ties she was the god­dess of her gen­er­a­tion — the looks, the breed­ing, the name, she had the lot. Mar­ry­ing her, I’d say he was punch­ing above his weight.’

An apt anal­ogy, since Jef­frey earned a box­ing blue Ox­ford.

But not ev­ery­body thought he was com­fort­able in his skin — the Daily Mail’s late di­arist Nigel Demp­ster said Bonas was de­scribed as hav­ing ‘a mas­sive chip on his shoul­der, de­spite his pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion’.

In con­trast, Mary- Gaye’s an­tecedents could not have been more glit­ter­ing. The Cur­zons pre-dated

Her fa­ther’s firm made elas­tic for women’s tights

Wil­liam the Con­queror — they were in­ef­fa­bly grand. The great Viceroy the Mar­quess Cur­zon was so stately he had a rhyming cou­plet penned to him while still at Ox­ford: My name is Ge­orge Nathaniel Cur­zon, I am a most su­pe­rior per­son. My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek, I dine at Blen­heim twice a week.

What can Jef­frey have felt about mar­ry­ing into such a fam­ily? His grand­fa­ther had been a gro­cer’s boy who went to work at the age of 10, while by com­par­i­son his wife’s grand­fa­ther had been a peer of the realm who’d been dec­o­rated for ac­tion in the trenches in World War I.

Iron­i­cally, Jef­frey’s grand­fa­ther Ge­orge would have had the chance to vote for Mary-Gaye’s grand­fa­ther Vis­count Cur­zon when he be­came MP for Battersea South in 1918.

But the two never met, and even if they had, could never have shared a draw­ing-room or sloped off to Ge­orge’s lo­cal, the Es­sex Arms.

So­cial mo­bil­ity was still a long way off — it would take the best part of a cen­tury for the fam­i­lies of a god­son of the King and a failed butcher to find very much in com­mon.

But in the end, they did. So should Prince Harry be­come even more in­volved with Cres­sida, what would the cou­ple have to show each other of their col­lec­tive in­her­i­tance?

Harry, of course, has palaces ga­lore and count­less riches. But all that re­mains of Cres­sida’s pat­ri­mony is a pile of bricks along­side the A444 at Cas­tle Gres­ley.

It once used to be the Bonas Brothers fac­tory, but the busi­ness went bust in the Eight­ies. Its last hur­rah was a line of goods branded Magic Touch, which in­cluded elas­tic for ladies’ tights.

This was a des­per­ate at­tempt to save the busi­ness, but mem­o­ries are long in this cor­ner of Der­byshire, and some blame Cres­sida’s fa­ther, Jef­frey, for the col­lapse of the com­pany with a loss of 100 jobs.

‘Jef­frey let the busi­ness down,’ says a former em­ployee. ‘All there is left is a pile of rub­ble.’

In the au­tumn of his years Jef­frey Bonas de­votes him­self to good causes, as his web­site, ‘Jef­frey Bonas — en­tre­pre­neur, busi­ness­man, his­to­rian’, proudly states.

Much has been made of his glit­ter­ing ex-wife’s mar­i­tal ad­ven­tures. The Six­ties IT girl and Cres­sida’s mother has had five chil­dren by three hus­bands and been di­vorced four times. The fourth hus­band Christo­pher Shaw, with whom she moved in while still mar­ried to Jef­frey, once said in a speech ap­par­ently in praise of his wife: ‘Mary- Gaye is a dif­fi­cult wife, as many of you here know.’

let’s hope no­body ever says that of her daugh­ter. Cres­sida faces an un­en­vi­able chal­lenge if she feels she can marry Harry and brave the spot­light for the rest of her life.

She has the Cur­zon élan to carry it off, but it will be the hardy Bonas back­bone — stiff­ened in the shops and fac­to­ries of work­ing- class Bri­tain — which will sus­tain her through the years.

Mixed fam­ily for­tunes: Royal girl­friend Cres­sida Bonas

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