Marguerite "Daisy" Marie Brigitte Emmanuelle Ghislaine d'Harcourt, Baronne de Cabrol (May 12, 1915 - November 17, 2011) was a French society hostess, the wife of Hugues Alfred Frederic, Baron de Cabrol de Moute. She was one of the last survivors of 20th-century French high society. The Cabrols were very good friends of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Daisy often loved to be in costume and enjoyed the parties of Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles.
Marguerite d'Harcourt, known as Daisy, was born in Paris on May 12 1915, the only daughter of Étienne, Marquis d'Harcourt, and his wife, Marie de Curel. Through her mother, Daisy was a descendant of the great industrial family of Wendel, with iron and steel enterprises in Lorraine; she also descended from Nicolas Soult, one of Napoleon's Marshals and three times Prime Minister of France.
She met her future husband, Fred de Cabrol ( Baron de Cabrol de Moute), who was six years her senior, at a coming-out party. A talented amateur artist, he made his living as a society decorator, his work including the salons of the Hotel Georges V in Paris. They married on July 5 1937.
The couple became friends of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1947, and were surprised to be invited to the Chateau de la Croë, their rented house on Cap d'Antibes. There they found the exiled Windsors living in unusual post-war luxury, serving delicious food and providing fresh sheets every day.
Daisy suspected that the Windsors were bored, but, having nothing else to do, were condemned to an endless round of social engagements. She confirmed the general suspicion that the Duke loved the Duchess more than she did him. She and Fred were among the few allowed to see the Duchess laid out after her death in 1986.
Marguerite ('Daisy') (née d'Harcourt), Baronne de Cabrol; Mary Germaine Nathalie (née Chauvin du Treuil), Baronne de Rothschild by Cecil Beaton pen and ink, 1950s? 8 7/8 in. x 6 5/8 in. (227 mm x 169 mm) Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1991 Reference Collection NPG D3759
Daisy was a considerable hostess, giving a ball every year for her charity, L'Essor, to which le tout Paris would come. One of these, in 1954, was at the Palais des Glaces, in Paris (later used in the film Gigi), at which she entertained Charlie Chaplin, the Begum Aga Khan and the Windsors. According to Nancy Mitford, the guests all wore £1,000 dresses and leant forward, "bottoms out, arms wildly waving", as they skated on the ice ring. Lady Kenmare's daughter fell over four times, breaking several bones. At the end of the evening the ring was scattered with stray diamonds. Daniele Mitterrand, the wife of the future President Francois Mitterrand, was on the organising committee. The composer Henri Sauguet wrote music especially for the evening.
Daisy herself was frequently in costume as the wife of Louis XIV, as a tree, and on another occasion as a plate.
She moved in the world of Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, wife of Baron Guy de Rothschild, and attended the Surrealist Ball at the Chateau de Ferrières in Normandy in 1972. She also frequented the parties given by Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles, attending her 1951 ball in the guise of a legless and armless woman. The Cabrols were often guests aboard Gaviota, the luxurious yacht of Arturo Lopez and the Baron de Redé.
In June 1945 Duff Cooper, the Lothario Ambassador to Paris, took an interest in Daisy, which upset his then mistress, Louise de Vilmorin, to the point that his wife, Lady Diana Cooper, had to console her and assure her that Duff really loved her. Despite this, Cooper spent two hours trying to seduce Daisy. He described her as "very pretty ... a sweet but not very clever girl. She is very proud of being the only one in Paris who is faithful to her husband and says she intends to remain so. I really don't mind."
She was variously dressed by Jacques Heim, Lanvin and Elsa Schiaparelli, often at the expense of the couturiers themselves. She enjoyed time with Jean Cocteau and the writer Louise de Vilmorin, but felt trapped when on Niarchos's yacht, alongside Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Niarchos was a tyrannical host, refusing to moor the yacht for bathing, while serving daily rations of caviar. "Nobody can eat caviar for eight days in a row," was her verdict on the voyage.
Fred and Daisy will be remembered for the extraordinary scrapbooks in which he created montages of the balls and house parties they attended. These were a collection of photographs superimposed on to his sketches. A number of them appeared in Thierry Coudert's book Café Society: Socialites, Patrons and Artists (2010).
Latterly Daisy lived at Grosrouvre, near Montford L'Amaury, south-west of Paris, in a house with two flagpoles flying her arms and those of Fred. They bought the property in 1950 and Fred de Cabrol decorated it stylishly, the dining room containing several of his watercolours, a portrait of Daisy by the artist Christian Bérard and a drawing by Cocteau.
A barn was converted into a giant sitting room, the walls adorned with deers' heads and a table bearing a glass case containing multicoloured stuffed birds. One who visited her in later life found her talking at "100 miles an hour with an almost preposterously posh accent" .
The family had its share of tragedy. Fred's niece, Hélène, choked to death in her twenties in Hong Kong; and Daisy's younger brother, Amaury, Vicomte d' Harcourt, now 86, was found guilty of complicity in the murder in 2008 of the chemist Bernadette Bissonet and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Daisy's husband died in 1997, and she is survived by two sons; her daughter died in January.
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