The Daily Telegraph
Meet Edo, the count who turned Beatrice’s head
Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, the blue-blood property developer courting the Princess, has long been a favourite with the royal crowd, says Anna Tyzack
Shrouded in scaffolding, on a garden square just north of Hyde Park, stands property developer Count Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi’s latest project. Much of the Leinster Square building is still a hard-hat zone – 125 workmen are hammering away to complete 15 lateral flats in Bayswater – but in the show apartment, Mapelli Mozzi, Princess Beatrice’s latest flame, is installed at the dining room table in collarless shirt, suit and trainers, preparing for a site meeting.
“There is no normal day in the office,” he explains, running a hand through his thick, dark hair. “It’s always a mix of viewings, design meetings, project management meetings…”
And then there’s his son, Woolfy, to think about. Woolfy’s mother is glamorous architect and designer Dara Huang – the pair were engaged when they broke up last year, before he began dating Princess Beatrice. Relations between them are said to be amicable: “I take him to school a couple of mornings a week and finish in time to put him in bed three or four evenings,” Mapelli Mozzi explains.
Amid the endless meetings and daddy day care, however, he has been quietly courting the eighth in line to the throne. They were first pictured together after Princess Eugenie’s wedding, where Beatrice stoically watched her younger sister walk down the aisle as a single woman. Then, last month, they were pictured holding hands in New York before making an official appearance at the National Portrait Gallery Gala. The most recent sighting of them was at the Bahrain Grand Prix, where Mapelli Mozzi hung out with her parents, too, suggesting that the romance is hotting up – although the count is too much of a gentleman to discuss his private life.
Softly spoken and a little shy, with eyes almost as striking as Beatrice’s (remember the saying “People who look like each other are made for each other”…?), Mapelli Mozzi, known as Edo, is more English public schoolboy than European playboy. He has Italian blue blood – his father is Count Alessandro Mapelli Mozzi, who skied for Britain – but he was educated at Radley in Oxfordshire before studying for a Masters in politics at Edinburgh.
He is a low-key yet popular member of the young royal crowd, which includes Princes William and Harry, entrepreneurs such as Charlie and Alexander Gilkes, and Prince Harry’s ex, the actress Cressida Bonas. He first met Beatrice as a child; his mother, Nikki, and late stepfather, the Conservative politician Christopher Shale, have been part of the York circle for decades. Indeed, Fergie is godmother to Alby, Mapelli Mozzi’s half-brother.
All this makes him a perfect match for Beatrice, who must have to be on high alert for ne’er do wells. But better still, along with being a trusted member of the crew, he is also a successful entrepreneur with a keen creative flare – attributes that will resonate with Fergie’s hardworking eldest, who was head girl at school and now works full-time for Afiniti, an American data and software company. Since graduating, he has had his nose to the grindstone, first working as a researcher for David Cameron, who was a friend of his stepfather, before founding his property business, Banda, in 2007 – now considered one of London’s top developers, with £600million of homes on its books.
“The word Banda means house in Swahili,” he explains. “My father has a small place in Lamu in Kenya and I drew up the business plan while I was staying there.”
Although he enjoyed his stint in politics, property was always Mapelli Mozzi’s first love. It’s creative, he says, and you get to see for yourself how money is deployed. “Some finance jobs are like moving chips around… I love seeing a vision through and I’ve always liked the thought of creating homes.”
This might have something to with the fact that, like Beatrice, he was the child of divorced parents and moved between homes in France and England growing up. “We lived in old mill houses, that kind of thing – I like trying to work out how to make an old building function for modern life,” he says. When I ask him where home is now, he looks rather sheepish and says, “I’m in St James’s at the moment” – suggesting that, just perhaps, he might have moved in to the apartment in St James’s Palace that Beatrice used to share with her sister. What is certain, however, is that Edo is a perpetual nester: since leaving university he has created three of his own homes: a Fulham town house, a “wacky” former nightclub in Earl’s Court which he converted in to a house, and a Notting Hill studio.
Beatrice will have to get used to the fact that Mapelli Mozzi is an unashamed interiors geek, although with her 2:1 in history and history of ideas from Goldsmiths, she probably won’t mind that his Instagram (he has 11.6k followers) is a catalogue of marble kitchens and parquet flooring. Or that he travels the world sourcing art and furniture and spends his days in hot quarries of the Apuan Alps, deliberating over which marble slabs to ship back to the UK.
So popular is Edo’s style among the super-rich that he’s launched a new arm of the company, Banda Design Studio, which has so far designed the interiors of a New York loft, a Croatian villa and a ski chalet in Switzerland and he is now working on producing his own range of bespoke furniture.
Since the referendum, house prices have fallen dramatically – Mapelli Mozzi admits that properties aren’t changing hands as quickly as before – but he is encouraged by his buyers: young European tech entrepreneurs into tasteful spaces rather than hot tubs and champagne fridges.
When he’s not on a building site, Mapelli Mozzi likes to spend weekends with his son and his family, while recent photographs suggest he and Beatrice are spending a lot of time together, too.
He is also a keen sportsman with an active social conscience – something else he has in common with his girlfriend. She was the first member of the Royal family to complete the London Marathon in 2010 to raise money for charity, and she also founded The Big Change Charitable Trust (big-change.org), which identifies charitable projects in the UK to improve the lives of young people.
Mapelli Mozzi has taken part in numerous fundraising bike rides and marathons to raise money for the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that he founded with Alby in memory of his stepfather.
“I saw how sport had the power to bring people together and help share important messages,” he explains. The Gahanga Cricket Stadium in Kigali opened 18 months ago. “It was an emotional day,” he says.
“The next phase is fundraising for education facilities.”
His development in Leinster Square won’t launch until late summer – Mapelli Mozzi is currently having areas of parquet replaced because they weren’t up to his standards. “I can’t help noticing every last thing,” he says.
Still, if and when the time comes, who in the world better than a perfectionist property developer to build a palace fit for a princess?
‘Some finance jobs are like moving chips around… I love seeing a vision through and I’ve always liked the thought of creating homes’