Boy Capel

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Captain Arthur Edward "Boy" Capel CBE[1] (died 22 December 1919 in a car accident) was an English polo player, possibly best-remembered for being a lover and muse of fashion designer Coco Chanel.



In his daughter's obituary, Capel was described as "an intellectual, politician, tycoon, polo-player and the dashing lover and sponsor of the fashion designer Coco Chanel.".[2] Nothing else is known of his earlier life. There are hints in biographies of Chanel about Capel's reputed (illegitimate) connections with the Capel Earls of Essex but no connection has been established. He was already an apparently wealthy self-made man by 1909.[citation needed] An alumnus of Beaumont College,[citation needed] Capel was killed in an auto accident on Monday 22 December 1919,[3][4] allegedly en route to a Christmas rendezvous with Chanel. He was buried with full military honours at Fréjus Cathedral on 24 December 1919.[3]

Capel and Chanel

His affair with Chanel apparently began in 1909, when he became acquainted with Chanel, then the 26-year-old mistress of his friend Etienne Balsan.[5] Capel financed Chanel's first shops and his own clothing style, notably his blazers, inspired her creation of the Chanel look. The couple spent time together at fashionable resorts such as Deauville, but he was never faithful to Chanel.[6][dead link]

Their relationship lasted nine years, and even after Capel married he continued his affair with Chanel until his death in late 1919.[7] A roadside memorial was placed at the site of the accident, consisting of a cross bearing the inscription "A la mémoire du capitaine Arthur Capel, légion d'Honneur de l'armée britannique, mort accidentellement en cet endroit le 22 décembre 1919."

Marriage and children

In 1918, Capel married the Honourable Diana Wyndham, née Lister (born 7 May 1893—died 1983), a daughter of Lord Ribblesdale and widow of Captain Percy Lyulph Wyndham (killed in action, 1914), who was the half-brother of the Duke of Westminster. Diana's elder sister Laura was married to Lord Lovat, and another sister to Sir Mathew Wilson, 4th Baronet: after Capel's death, in 1923 Diana married Vere Fane, 14th Earl of Westmorland.[8]

Capel had two daughters:

Arthur Capel's living descendants today include the Honourable Mrs Patrick Tritton (daughter of his elder daughter Ann) and one son, Christopher Osborn, by his younger daughter June, Lady Hutchinson.

Fictional portrayals


  1. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry (18th and 19th editions) and The Complete Peerage give his correct forenames.
  2. ^ Lady Hutchinson, obituary, Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2006. According to that obituary, Capel was a Roman Catholic and his wife had to convert to Catholicism to marry him, and her two daughters by him were raised as Catholics. [1]
  3. ^ a b The Times, 24 December 1919, p. 10: "Lord Rosslyn, telegraphing last night from St. Raphael, stated that Captain Arthur Capel, who was killed in an automobile accident on Monday, is being buried today at 2.30 p.m. at Frejus with full military honours".
  4. ^ Cokayne, George Edward (1982). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant. X. Gloucester: A. Sutton. p. 773 note (c). ISBN 0-904387-82-8. 
  5. ^ "At this time in 1909, at the age of 26, she became friendly with an Englishman Arthur Capel, nicknamed “Boy”, who was one of Etienne [Balsan]’s friends..."[2]
  6. ^ "That year was to prove a difficult one for Gabrielle as Arthur Capel decided that the time had come for him to marry into the English aristocracy. Arthur Capel was a very successful businessman and a keen polo player. Gabrielle hoped to settle down with him, but he was often away on business and was usually seen in the company of other women...."
  7. ^ "Even though he was married Capel still sought out Gabrielle when he was in Paris. But all this was to come to an abrupt end.... Capel was driving to Cannes for Christmas when he was involved in a fatal accident."
  8. ^ The Times, Thursday, 13 May 1948; p. 7; issue# 51070
  9. ^ The Times, Saturday, 1 June 1940; p. 9; issue#48631
  10. ^ Genealogy of Robert Martin (1908—1897) Thurstan Holland-Martin, fifth son of Robert Martin Holland, later Holland-Martin (R License, 14 August 1917), was the elder brother of Christopher Holland-Martin MP, and younger brother of Admiral Sir Deric Holland-Martin.
  11. ^ At the time her youngest son's death was reported, she was described as the "late Mrs Peter Higgins".
  12. ^ a b Lady Hutchinson, obituary, Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2006

External links