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HomeWorldRICHARD EDEN: Marks & Spencer heiress Rebecca Sieff, 57, embarks on new...

RICHARD EDEN: Marks & Spencer heiress Rebecca Sieff, 57, embarks on new romance after tragic death of husband Simon Howard

She was a hair’s breadth away from death when, aged 26, the helicopter she was traveling in went out of control and crashed in a field in Oxfordshire.

Since then, the life of Marks & Spencer heiress Rebecca Sieff has been defined by extravagant fortunes, with moments of triumph, such as marrying Simon Howard in his family seat, the unsurpassed Castle Howard – setting for both Brideshead Revisited and Bridgerton – alternating. setbacks, none more bleak than Simon’s death at a time when he was unable to challenge serious charges against him in court.

Now I can reveal that two years after Simon succumbed to an insulin overdose in hospital, Rebecca appears ready for a new romantic chapter.

A sultry beauty blessed with what admirers call the ‘wow’ factor, she has had a thrilling effect on men for decades – as Simon discovered towards the end of his childless, 16-year marriage to Anette, known as ‘Scruff’.

Now I can reveal that two years after Simon succumbed to an insulin overdose in hospital, Rebecca appears ready for a new romantic chapter.

Now I can reveal that two years after Simon succumbed to an insulin overdose in hospital, Rebecca appears ready for a new romantic chapter.

Simon Howard and his wife Rebecca in their stately home Castle Howard

Simon Howard and his wife Rebecca in their stately home Castle Howard

And at the age of 57, her powers remain as great as ever. She enjoys, I am told, the company of Patrick Waterfield, 65, a businessman playfully described by an acquaintance as “a bit of an old roué.”

Friends are intrigued. “He’s a real old-fashioned, quintessentially English guy,” a friend tells me.

“Red pants, Gucci loafers and probably a lot of time spent in Brinkley’s [the Chelsea watering hole]. He’s the kind of Englishman who thinks it’s cool to wear clothes with holes in them.’

Waterfield, who has three adult daughters through his marriage to baronet’s daughter Nadia Stewart-Clark, can’t lay claim to anything like Castle Howard or the 10,000 acres surrounding it – or even anything on the more modest scale of Welham Hall, the country house to which Simon and Rebecca moved when Simon was ousted as keeper of Castle Howard by his older brother Nick in 2014.

It was a blow that Rebecca, great-great-granddaughter of M&S founder Michael Marks, felt perhaps even more deeply than Simon, with whom she had twins, Merlin and Octavia.

Simon Howard and his wife Rebecca pictured outside their former country home Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, which they left in 2015

Simon Howard and his wife Rebecca pictured outside their former country home Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, which they left in 2015

Castle Howard as it appeared in Brideshead Revisited

Castle Howard as it appeared in Brideshead Revisited

An aerial drone landscape of the Howard Castle estate in 2020

An aerial drone landscape of the Howard Castle estate in 2020

“Every time I drive past Castle Howard now, I get a shiver, like someone is walking over my grave,” Rebecca said three years later.

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She was seriously injured by a magazine article published a year after her wedding to Simon in 2001. It read: ‘The woman who set out to marry a house.’

But her love for Simon was clearly visible in his final, difficult years. He suffered a brain haemorrhage after falling down the stairs and was too ill to attend court where he was found guilty ‘on the facts’ of sexually assaulting a girl in 1984.

Rebecca said if he had been able to defend himself, she had “no doubt whatsoever” the outcome would have been different.

Waterfield tells me, “It’s still early, but we’re very happy.”

Bridgerton Marks and Spencer

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