ENGLISH-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > ENGLISH-OBITS > 2007-10 > 1193660659
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [ENGLISH-OBITS] FOLEY: Ghislaine Marie-Rose Edith DresselhuysAlexander Foley
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2007 12:24:19 -0000
Last Updated: 10:28pm BST 23/08/2001
Panellist on What's My Line? and society hostess of the Fifties, whose every
move was followed in the press
THE LADY FOLEY, the wife of the 8th Lord Foley, who has died aged 77, was as
Ghislaine Alexander a panellist on What's My Line?, the popular BBC
television programme in the early Fifties.
Then married to Denis Alexander (later the 6th Earl of Caledon), she was
invited to join the panel after a chance meeting at lunch with the
programme's irascible presenter Gilbert Harding. The panellists, who
included Eamonn Andrews, David Nixon, Elizabeth Allan and Isobel Barnett,
had to guess, for instance, the occupation of a sage-maker's bottom-knocker
(a sage-maker is a barrel-maker and a bottom-knocker is his assistant who
checks the soundness of the barrels).
Ghislaine Alexander's beauty and quiet charm proved popular with the
audience from the start. Before long she was invited to become a permanent
member of the panel, and her clothes became a constant source of comment in
the fashion columns of the press. Almost anything that Ghislaine Alexander
did was news. When she was temporarily replaced, for one broadcast, by the
American television star Arlene Francis, it was commented on in the press.
Some weeks, she would receive as many as 400 letters from her fans.
On May 28 1953, at a gala night at the Palladium in aid of the Actors'
Orphanage, Ghislaine Alexander appeared alongside Jerry Desmonde, Elizabeth
Allan and Gilbert Harding in a special edition of What's My Line? Humphrey
Bogart, Nol Coward, Lauren Bacall, John Mills and John Gielgud were a few
of the well-known people who took part in the show at the Palladium. That
year, there there was a magazine version of What's My Line? in Women's
A regular visitor to New York, Ghislaine Alexander even appeared as a guest
star on the American edition of What's My Line? in 1954, when the panel was
hard put to guess her occupation. Her arrival in a blizzard was reported in
Ed Sullivan's column in the Daily News and people named their baby girls
Lady Foley was born Ghislaine Marie-Rose Edith Dresselhuys on July 1 1922 at
the Dutch Consulate in London. Her father, Cornelius Dresselhuys, was
Consul; her mother Edith, born Merandon du Plessis, was a French Mauritian
and a descendant of Pico della Mirandola, the Renaissance poet.
Her parents divorced when Ghislaine was still young, and her mother
subsequently married Sir Gomer Berry (later Viscount Kemsley), who with his
brother William (later Viscount Camrose), owned a stable of newspapers that
included The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times. The young journalist Ian
Fleming was to become a lifelong friend of Ghislaine's.
As a child, Ghislaine travelled extensively with her mother and stepfather,
often aboard Lord Kemsley's yacht Princess, with her crew of 29. When
Ghislaine was about 15, they visited Russia and Berlin, where they were
invited to the 1936 Olympic Games. Lord Kemsley was a friend of Neville
Chamberlain's, and Chamberlain was anxious for someone to have a word with
Hitler. Ghislaine recalled being present after one of the meetings between
her stepfather and the Fhrer.
During the Second World War Ghislaine Dresselhuys met a young Irish Guards
officer - Denis Alexander, the nephew of the Earl of Caledon, elder brother
of Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis. The marriage was shortlived and
they divorced in 1947. They had one child, now Lady Tana Focke, who was
named after her godmother, Cayetana, the Duchess of Alba.
Six-foot tall and with film-star looks, Ghislaine Alexander was regularly
described by the press as one of the most beautiful woman in the country.
Baron, the celebrated photographer of the day, chose her for inclusion in
his book on the most beautiful women in the world; he was particularly
captivated by the shape of her mouth.
>From her late twenties onwards, Ghislaine Alexander was a well-known hostess
in London. In her housein Mayfair, she entertained with panache, and drew an
eclectic range of personalities of the post-war era. The King of Jordan and
members of the British Royal Family were frequent guests, as were Fleming,
Douglas Fairbanks Jr and David Niven. Danny Kaye and the cartoonist Charles
Addams were often to be found there too.
Nor was any society party, in London or elsewhere, complete without her; she
was at Perle Mesta's famous Coronation Ball at Londonderry House on June 4
1953, and at the de Cuevas' fabulous 18th-century ball at Biarritz.
When not socialising, Ghislaine Alexander worked at a photographic portrait
studio called Bassano in Dover Street, and also as a Fleet Street fashion
journalist. She modelled clothes, appearing in women's magazines such as
Vogue and Women's Illustrated; and she joined with Ljiljana Bajloni in
setting up an interior design partnership, importing materials and objects
At one point she approached her stepfather with the suggestion that he try
to obtain a licence for commercial television. Lord Kemsley got the licence,
but then had cold feet. There was much excitement in the press, nonetheless,
when Ghislaine Alexander announced that she would produce her own 15-minute
late-night interview programme. Her first subject, on May 18 1953, was an
expert on the work of the jeweller Faberg.
Ghislaine Alexander also revelled in amateur theatrical productions in aid
of charity. In 1954, at the Scala Theatre, London, she was a member of the
cast of The Frog, along with her friends Raine Legge and Lord Porchester.
She also appeared as Mrs Vokins in the Victorian comedy Lord and Lady Algy,
with Lord Porchester and Elizabeth Wynn (the writer E Wynn) as Lord and Lady
Algy; Viscount Ednam as the Marquess of Quarmby; Reresby Sitwell as the Duke
of Droneborough, Billy Wallace as the Guards officer, Lieutenant "Chump"
Standidge, and Colin Tennant as the butler.
Her stepbrother Anthony Berry (who would later be killed by the IRA Brighton
bomb explosion) was one of the stage managers. Princess Margaret attended
the last night, to see her friend Billy Wallace, and the play was a huge
success, raising substantial funds for the Invalid Children's Aid
For a time, Ghislaine Alexander had a production company called Aslan
Productions, which produced, among others, the successful play The Wrong
Side of the Park. She herself also co-wrote and produced a play, Lucretia
Borgia, for the Pitlochrie Festival in Scotland.
Ghislaine Alexander married secondly, in 1955 (dissolved 1968), Henry
Cubitt, eldest son of Lord Ashcombe and uncle of Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Henry Cubitt was chairman of Holland Hannen & Cubitts, the construction
company. She married thirdly, in 1972, her old friend Adrian Foley, the
pianist and composer, with whom she settled happily at Marbella.
|[ENGLISH-OBITS] FOLEY: Ghislaine Marie-Rose Edith DresselhuysAlexander Foley by "Peter McCrae" <>|