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  Like a lord in a china shop
Wedgwood makes for a fine celebrity at William Ashley
  Sharon Dunn,
National Post

[Photo: Yvonne Berg, National Post,
National Post]

Lord Wedgwood launches the Peter Rabbit Fund for Sick Kids.

There are things you don't think to ask a lord, starting with "What's your first name?" I guess if you're a hereditary lord you're addressed as "Lord," which is what I call Lord Wedgwood when I meet him at William Ashley's flagship store on Bloor Street. He is here to launch the Peter Rabbit Fund to support the Hospital for Sick Children foundation.

On this day he is wearing a pink and blue shirt with a red and blue tie. He sports a navy handkerchief with sky-blue dots in his breast pocket, and I notice Burberry socks and green antique cufflinks. Are you getting the picture?

Lord Wedgwood is descended from Josiah Wedgwood, who started his famous china company in 1759. At Ashley's, this qualifies him as a celebrity.

Customers are lined up at the front of the store, waiting to get their limited-edition Wedgwood Peter Rabbit 1-2-3 Money-Box signed by the Lord himself.

"Here's three for my children," says one woman, "and one for my niece and one for my mother."

A man steps forward and says, "This one is for my niece. She's the only grandchild and she's got four gay uncles to spoil her." As luck would have it, he was by far the best-looking guy in the queue.

I hear a plate smash and turn to see one of the Lord's fans trying to slither out of sight.

"Stuff gets broken all the time," a sales clerk tells me. "We don't hold the customers responsible."

"That's a relief," I say jokingly as I swing my purse.

One customer who has obviously encountered the Lord on a previous visit observes that he's lost weight.

"After my cardiac arrest and major heart surgery three years ago, they told me to take the weight off," he says. The heart attack occurred on the golf course. He has also quit smoking, which he had done since the age of 13.

When all his fans have had their money boxes signed, I ask the Lord his age.

"I'm 49," he deadpans. Seeing my look of disbelief, he adds, "I've looked like this since I was 23 and my hairline started to recede." Look at the picture on this page. I'll let you be the judge.

The Lord spent 25 years in the House of Lords, until the hereditary factor was eliminated. "The idea was to elect, but now it's a ridiculous mess. They kept 91 members, supposedly for an interim period of time, but it has been indefinite. One of the 91 died, and they had to go through a whole election process of those who are eligible."

It may be in disarray, but he is full of praise for the institution. "It's a chamber of legislative debate. And it's all volunteer, with no payment, a group of intelligent, well-meaning, learned individuals who give of their time, energy, experiences." Then he adds with a laugh, "It's also a bunch of old buffers past their due dates."

The Lord, naturally, is a staunch monarchist. "I believe in God, the Queen and country." He explains it this way: "The monarchy plays a key role for all of us in Britain. We have a Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is the leader of the elected government. But then we have someone who's wise [the Queen], who's seen how many prime ministers come and go. And with her we know we're in a very safe pair of hands."

Of the war, Lord Wedgwood (who's married to an American) says, "If you belong to a democracy, it's important to follow the decision that your leader makes." Why do Americans and Britons know this but not Canadians? Just curious.

The interview over, I get up to leave -- but slowly. I saw Lord Wedgwood on television last week and he gave the interviewer a small Wedgwood gift.

But he just shakes my hand in a friendly fashion and invites me to visit the factory next time I'm in Britain.

As I leave, the publicist approaches me and asks how the interview went.

"He didn't give me a gift," I sniffle.

She rolls her eyes.

"He gave the girl on Breakfast Television a gift," I say defensively.

"Do you want me to send you one?" she huffs.

Of course I didn't. But it's the thought that counts, right?

The limited-edition Wedgwood Peter Rabbit 1-2-3 Money-Box is available at William Ashley and other stores carrying Wedgwood across Canada. The cost is $29.99, of which Wedgwood donates $10 and the participating store donates $5 to the Hospital for Sick Children.

  Last update: May 6, 2009
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