In February 1975, police stopped a Ford Granada driving the wrong way on a street in Santa Barbara, California. Inside were Henry Ford II, the car company’s chairman and grandson of founder Henry Ford, and Kathleen DuRoss, a single mother from Detroit and 25 years Ford’s junior. At the time, Ford was married to his second wife, jetsetting socialite Cristina Vettore Austin Ford.
The drunk driving stop became international news, and, days later, a Detroit reporter asked Ford what he was doing in California with Kathleen DuRoss. Ford simply said, “I haven’t anything to explain. Never complain, never explain.” (Because it was 1975, before drunk driving laws were stiffened, Ford merely paid a fine.) Ford eventually left his second wife and he and DuRoss were married in 1980. She called him “Two Two,” a play on his nickname of “Hank the Deuce,” but she didn’t much care for his even goofier nickname for her, “Giggles.”
Ford died in 1987, leaving a trust of $350 million, about $837 million in today’s dollars. The staggering fortune provided DuRoss Ford a generous annual allowance of $10.5 million a year, plus an international property portfolio that included a seven-bedroom waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., which recently sold for $55.15 million, a 50-acre country estate in England, Turville Grange, which dates to the late 18th century and was formerly owned by American socialite Lee Radziwill and her Polish nobleman husband Prince Stanislaw Radziwell, and a mansion-sized London flat, which has recently popped up for sale for £23 million, about $31 million USD at today’s exchange rate.
The two-floor flat is represented through Beauchamp Estates, which, by the way, in England is pronounced “Beecham.”
Eaton Square is one of the most famous and desirable addresses in London, and, like many fashionable areas of London, was laid out around a square, with the homeowners around the square possessing a key to the private park at its center.
This flat is referred to in promotional material as “the favored northern side of Eaton Square,” which reminds us of Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest intoning about a character’s living on the “unfashionable side” of Belgrave Square. (To put that in a more American perspective, it’s a high-nosed competition to see which block of Park Avenue is the absolute best or which side of LA’s Holmby Hills is more desirable, the section above Sunset Boulevard or, usually regarded as the more coveted, the area below.)
Eaton Square is located in an area known as Belgravia, which sits between Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Buckingham Palace. Developed in the 1820s, much of the land that comprises Eaton Square is still owned by the Grosvenor family, formerly known as the richest family in England, and one of whose titles is Viscount of Belgrave. (Many houses in London, even today, are leasehold, not freehold, meaning the owners of the house do not own the land underneath and pay an annual “ground rent.”)
Belgravia was laid out by master builder Thomas Cubitt in the Regency era, the 1820s. The district is famous for its classical white stucco townhouses with elegant black wrought iron details.
Among some of the many famous (or infamous) people who’ve lived in Eaton Square include: Sean Connery, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, William Gilbert (one half of Gilbert & Sullivan), Joan Collins, Lord Lucan, Roger Moore, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. Former Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin once called Eaton Square home, as did Nazi politician Joachim von Ribbentrop. Royal residents of Eaton Square have included the Aga Khan and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.
A rare freehold property, Mrs. DuRoss Ford’s opulently appointed flat comprises the ground and lower ground floor unit of an elegant boutique building as well as a connecting mews house.
A mews is like an alley that runs behind grand mansions and mews buildings originally stabled horses for the family, with rooms for servants above. They’re analogous to a carriage or coach house and many London mews houses today are sought-after and expensive little cottages on their own.
So, for Mrs. Ford’s flat to retain its mews house is a very prestigious bonus. The listing also notes that it might be possible to extend the mews’ wine cellar to create an underground passage between the two buildings.
The main residence and mews house together provide some 7,489 square feet of space. There’s an entrance hall, three “reception” rooms, typically a drawing room, dining, and a study, along with a total of six to seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms. In addition to the large family kitchen, there’s a second a kitchen in the mews house.
The flat retains many of its original Regency features, such as the numerous antique fireplaces. Both the main house and mews were decorated, presumably in the 1980s, judging by the tasteful if dated style, by one of the U.K.’s most exclusive interior design firms, Colefax & Fowler.
Many of Mrs. DuRoss Ford’s possessions from Eaton Square and Turville Grange were auctioned by Christie’s in April, achieving almost £4 million. Two of the more notable lots were an Impressionist painting by Édouard Vuillard that sold for £212,500 and a painting by Scottish Colorist John Duncan Fergusson that went for £412,000.
Is the asking price for the flat reasonable? Probably. London prices have leveled off recently, and this apartment, while needing some redecoration and renovation, is sui generis.
Check out more images of the mansion below.