The Royal Family has got used to marital complications — and has always managed to overcome them. Just the other week, Princess Beatrice unveiled Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi to her parents Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York as her ‘boyfriend’.
Their two families have known each other closely for many years, so it was a bit of a surprise.
More to the point, Edo, as he is known, was sharing his life and his London home with a glamorous Chinese-American, Dara Huang, with whom he has a two-year-old son, Christopher Woolf.
But no one was more surprised at the news that he was dating the Queen’s 30-year-old grand-daughter than Dara’s mother, Lily, who flew to London from her home in Florida when her grandson Wolfie was born, and has made two visits since.
The next royal bride? Princess Beatrice pictured at her sister Eugenie’s wedding last month
She says she had no idea her daughter and Edo were no longer together until she was told by her elder daughter, Erin, recently.
‘I think Dara was hiding it from me,’ says Lily, 69, whose husband Po-Tien, 80, is a retired scientist with the American space agency Nasa. ‘She didn’t want me to be sad. I am shocked.’
She believes it came as a shock to her daughter as well, so sudden was the split.
According to Lily, her 37-year-old daughter had to leave Edo’s flat and was staying with a close friend, sleeping on the sofa, while looking for an apartment.
A highly-successful architect with her own design company and international clients, Dara also has to travel a great deal.
Clearly, in these circumstances it was sensible to leave her young son with his father, especially as she and Edo had engaged a nanny who remains with the child in Edo’s home.
Pictured: Princess Beatrice’s new boyfriend Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi with his son Wolfie
Her mother says that now Dara ‘comes back early from her work and goes to see Wolfie so she can give him a bath before he goes to bed at seven or eight o’clock. It is a terrible situation.’
She adds: ‘I love Edo. I love his family. Why has this happened? This has broken me to bits.’ For her part, Beatrice is said to have been seeing the handsome 35-year-old property tycoon since September, a month before younger sister Eugenie was married at Windsor in a ceremony that Prince Andrew wished to match that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
So just how long was the gap between Dara’s departure and her being replaced by Beatrice in his life?
According to a close family friend of Edo, he and Dara split six months ago.
A palace aide who has known the princess all her life observes: ‘She would never allow herself to break into another couple’s happiness, especially if there was a small child.’
The fact is, this latest royal romance is viewed as moving so fast that, on both sides, some are talking of a possible engagement next year.
This means Beatrice would be the first among the young generation of royals to take on a stepchild.
Edoardo’s ex, Chinese-American Dara Huang, the mother of two-year-old Christopher Woolf
The Duchess of Cornwall, of course, has become a stepmother to William and Harry and a stepgrandmother to Wills and Kate’s children George, Charlotte and Louis.
It isn’t hard to imagine what was going through Beatrice’s mind when, four months ago, her long-term boyfriend Dave Clark, a former Richard Branson employee and Uber executive, married New York advertising figure Lynn Anderson. The princess and Clark had spent ten happy years together before they parted, quite suddenly, in 2016.
What happened was simple enough. Beatrice is understood to have given him an ultimatum — not unknown in such circumstances: she wanted marriage or they would have to go their separate ways.
To her dismay, Clark decided he wasn’t ready yet to settle down.
Since then, and until recently, there has been no significant man in her life.
She certainly seemed a somewhat solitary figure accompanying her mother, Fergie, into St George’s Chapel, Windsor, at younger sister Eugenie’s colourful wedding to drinks company ambassador Jack Brooksbank.
According to Dara Huang’s mother, she had to leave Edo’s flat and was staying with a close friend, sleeping on the sofa, while looking for an apartment
So just how would the exotic-sounding Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi blend into the Royal Family?
Of course family pedigree, once so important, has been irrelevant to the royals in recent times.
Even so, Edo’s aristocratic background would certainly cheer traditionalists — he is descended from Italian nobility. His father is former Olympic Alpine skier Count Alessandro Mapelli Mozzi, 67, who represented Great Britain at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Japan.
But the count and Edo’s mother divorced when Edo and his sister, Natalia, were very young, and his father later moved to France.
Edo’s mother, Nikki, remarried and he was brought up to become very close to his businessman stepfather, Christopher Shale. The Briton was former Prime Minister David Cameron’s ever-buoyant constituency chairman and close personal friend in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.
Beatrice and Edo kept their relationship quiet until both were confident enough to ‘come out’ as a couple
Shale was a devoted royalist, and an admirer of Princess Diana, writing to The Times on the day after her dramatic BBC TV Panorama interview: ‘With the Princess of Wales as his mother . . . Prince William has every chance of becoming an outstanding monarch for the 21st century. Every genuine monarchist should rejoice.’
As for the link between Shale’s family and Fergie’s, it goes back many years to before she became Duchess of York, when he employed her as a secretary in a public relations company that promoted luxury goods.
So devoted was Edo to his stepfather that he named his son Christopher after him.
No wonder the unexpected death of Christopher Shale at the age of 56, in 2011, hit the clan hard.
Shale was with family and friends at the Glastonbury Festival when he collapsed and died of a sudden heart attack.
The location of his death inevitably led to unfounded gossipy speculation about what might have caused the coronary.
He had been missing for about 18 hours when his body was found in a portable toilet cubicle inside the festival’s VIP area.
An inquest subsequently found he had been suffering from undiagnosed heart disease resulting from high blood pressure. A verdict of natural causes was recorded.
After the inquest, Radley and Edinburgh University-educated Edo spoke movingly of the family’s loss.
For her part, Beatrice is said to have been seeing the handsome 35-year-old property tycoon (pictured) since September, a month before younger sister Eugenie was married at Windsor
‘He was a father to me, the only father I have ever known and a father to all three of us,’ he said. ‘The best father we could ever have.’
He was referring to himself, his sister and their half-brother Alby, 27 (Fergie’s godson), born to Shale and Edo’s mother.
Andrew and Fergie, together with daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, were among the congregation at Shale’s memorial service in Oxfordshire.
With the two families so entwined, Beatrice and Edo kept their relationship quiet until both were confident enough to ‘come out’ as a couple.
They did so at a party thrown by London-based Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who is said to be worth £14 billion.
Edo himself is seen as a young man financially on the way up, having founded the property consultancy Banda, which specialises in locating and developing upmarket homes for the rich.
‘He’s not a party animal who jets about with a smart set,’ says a close family friend.
‘In fact, for the past decade he’s worked non-stop to build up and make a success of his business.’
According to a close family friend of Edo, he and Dara (pictured) split six months ago
While some of his stepfather’s charm has undoubtedly rubbed off on him, friends say Edo also has a ‘cocky’ side — revealed nine years ago when he stumped up £200,000 for a property, describing the sum as ‘peanuts’.
And he has a touch of the waggishness of his late business consultant stepfather that can be found in the choice of name for his Kensington-based company.
Banda means ‘big shed’ in Swahili, the main language in Kenya, where the family have a coastal holiday estate on Lamu.
One major clue that this latest royal romance is serious lies in his decision to switch his Instagram account (with more than 10,000 followers) from public to private.
Who else do we know who has taken that discreet route when royal marriage was in the air?
Meghan Markle, of course, in advance of her engagement to Prince Harry who, incidentally, is an acquaintance of Edo — they were both guests at a society wedding in Italy four years ago.
Fergie is thrilled that Beatrice is going out with a young man she has known all her life.
‘How sweet it is that two families who have known each other for so many years can think that something permanent might come of this,’ says a friend.
And yet, whatever happens now, memories of the until-recent intimacy that Edo shared with his young son’s mother, Dara Huang, will not easily go away.
Not just because of young Wolfie — whom they lovingly had studio-photographed when he was just a few months old for a picture they each keep with them — but also professionally.
For each, surprisingly perhaps, has been making almost identical statements in interviews and online posts about the ‘vast swathes’ of empty commercial buildings in London and other towns which could be converted into homes at a time of severe housing shortage.
As for what they once had, there remain some intriguing reminders, Edo referring to his child’s mother in a picture on her Instagram as ‘the one and only’ and Dara using his initials on the caption of a picture of him outside 10 Downing Street to refer to ‘my beautiful EMM’.
As Edo’s close family friend told us: ‘More than anything his focus is on Wolfie’s welfare and to that end he and Dara have been trying to get along as best they can.’
As for the future, at 59, Fergie would love to see her elder daughter married, and the portents are good.
Not so, alas, for Edo’s ex’s mother Lily, who mourns the disappearance of a young man she viewed as her virtual son-in-law.
‘Before this, my daughter was happy,’ she says. ‘But now she has cried with her sister.
‘But I am a Christian. I told my daughter: “You have to bless people, you bless them, don’t be mad. Wish them good luck.”’
It remains to be seen whether this sensible advice will prevail.
Additional reporting, Emily Kent Smith in America.