A charity that stands out in an age of philanthropic overkill

Team Domenica is about helping people in need, not self-promoting celebrities

High Life

29 Jul 2016

Rosa Monckton is married to my old editor Dominic Lawson and they have two girls. Rosa was a close friend of Diana, Princess of Wales and one who never spilled any beans about her. I once had a good laugh with Rosa over the stuff written about Diana and her Egyptian so-called boyfriend who died with her in Paris. Rosa knew the truth and I think I did too, but let’s leave it at that. Those who will go to any lengths for self-promotion will always be with us. Diana was a gift from God for them, and everyone knows how the jackals feasted on the ‘last romance’ for their own benefit. It is now close to 20 years since she died, so there’s no use naming them. They’re a miserable self-promoting lot without shame or principles, and the less said the better.

Rosa and Dominic’s younger daughter is Domenica, who has Down’s syndrome and is now based in Brighton. She was Princess Diana’s last godchild. I remember well when Domenica was born and how her parents did their utmost to bring her up in a normal manner. Close to where I live in Gstaad there is a school for children with Down’s syndrome, and over the years I have come into contact with its pupils. Something one seldom reads about Down’s children is how absolutely sweet-natured they are. This, I think, is so that other disabled children won’t be seen as being not as nice in comparison. Which is understandable. But it doesn’t stop Down’s kids being very, very sweet. Call it my theory, but there you have it. I always ask Rosa about Domenica when we meet.

Rosa has now founded a charity the aim of which is to get people with learning disabilities into employment. But before I go on, a bit of background about Dominic Lawson and charities in general. Dominic was my third editor at The Spectator — Fraser Nelson is the seventh and the saintliest of my bosses, as I always refer to the editor I happen to be writing for at the moment. The first call he received on being named Charles Moore’s successor as editor was from the Israeli ambassador who congratulated him on being the first Speccie editor from a Jewish background. He then recommended my immediate firing. Dominic thanked him but refused to fire Taki. He showed great discretion and never told me the end of the story, but I assume that the ambassador was not best pleased. (He probably got over it once the settlers had grabbed some more Palestinian land.)

As far as charities are concerned, we live in an age of philanthropic overkill. Please don’t get me wrong. There is nothing finer than philanthropy, but so many celebrities and self-promoters have embraced charities in order to project themselves. In fact, charity did more to promote rich people’s ascent in society during the 1980s than the benevolence of emperors and kings who distributed lands and titles did during the late 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

What better way to stand up and be noticed than by paying 100,000 big ones to sit down on the big table at the Met Gala? Space prohibits me from naming the nouveaux- riche who are now considered ‘society’ and who rose in this manner, but again it was all in a good cause. Except that most of the moolah goes into the staging of the charitable event and paying the overpriced celebrity who provides the entertainment.

Rosa’s charity will of course be nothing like that. There will be a supported employment course that runs for one year, a training café and an employment agency. A pilot for a national scheme will launch in September in Brighton, where Domenica is based. There is a Team Domenica Facebook page at the moment — the website comes later —and I cannot think of a better and more useful charity.

Last week was my last in the Alps — I am heading for that EU-induced miracle, Greece, and I attended a dinner party given by Lizzie and Barry Humphries that I shan’t forget in a hurry. It was in honour of the star violinists of the Australian Chamber Orchestra — who surf in shark-infested waters in their spare time — Richard Tognatti and his Finnish wife Satu Vanska (her sister was also cute). They, their orchestra and Barry are appearing at Cadogan Hall on 29 July and if you read this in time don’t miss it. They were incredible here in Gstaad, playing only Bach, but all Bachs — nephews, sons fathers and so on. Both Richard and Satu — I am on first-name terms, natch — are terrific artists and they were carrying their Stradivariuses in their backpacks. (Can’t leave millions of dollars worth of instruments lying around, especially in Gstaad.) The other surprise guest was Victoria Tennant, a girl I once knew before she became a star playing opposite Robert Mitchum in The Winds of War. Pugs club is named after her romantic movie interest, Pug Henry.) Vicky is now married to Kirk Stambler, a movie producer and had brought along one of her children, an intellectual child who will go to St Andrews this autumn, and one that looked at me in the manner of a scientist studying a test tube. (That faraway, detached but interested look.) The Humphries chalet is all white inside and decorated with beautiful Austrian paintings. It was a perfect setting for a drink. And drink I did. See you among the migrants swimming the Aegean.


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