'Disorientated' Lady Dartmouth plays down aristocratic scandal
On the rocks? ... Fiona Handbury and William Legge on their wedding day in 2009.
It's a dramatic love story which reads like a chapter from one of her late grandmother-in-law Dame Barbara Cartland's racy pot boilers, but former Sydney socialite turned British aristocrat, Lady Fiona Dartmouth, insists the latest episode has all been a terrible misunderstanding.
The former wife of Sydney magazine mogul Matt Handbury, who co-launched the Australian edition of Marie Claire magazine, is known these days as Lady Dartmouth, wife of William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth.
In Britain last weekend it was revealed the earl was arrested on suspicion of assault following a domestic dispute. Not only is the earl the grandson of ostrich-feather fancier the late Dame Barbara Cartland, his mother Raine Spencer was the stepmother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
Dame Barbara Cartland
The Daily Mail reports the Earl of Dartmouth, 63, was taken into custody on suspicion of assault following the late-night incident in November, during which officers were called to the couple's flat in the fashionable Bayswater district of London. He was not charged, and has since described the event as the ''worst day of my life''.
Lady Fiona, a former model, insisted she had called the police after becoming ''disorientated'', adding that ''nothing had happened''.
The earl, a hereditary peer and member of the European Parliament for the UK Independence Party, spoke out after details of the incident began to emerge. A friend claimed the couple had a row on the evening of November 15 over an apparently innocuous decision about where the television should go in their Devon home.
Fiona Handbury marries Earl of Dartmouth, William Legge in 2009.
Lady Dartmouth went to bed and fell into a ''deep sleep''. But the earl later wanted to pursue the matter and ''shook her awake''. ''After my wife went to bed I decided to wake her and clarify my point of view. Looking back it was an unwise thing to do as Fiona was deeply asleep and became disoriented. Her alarm resulted in a call to the police,'' the earl said via a statement.
Lady Dartmouth said: ''When William woke me from a deep sleep I was rather disorientated and rang the police. When they arrived I emphasised I was never going to press any charges because absolutely nothing had happened.''
A year after their 2009 marriage Lady Dartmouth hosed down rumours her new marriage was on the rocks. In response to PS's inquiries, she emailed from her bedside BlackBerry: ''Am off quietly to bed, so as not to wake William … who is in it!''