EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: End of an era as the Queen ditches the traditional carriage at this year’s Royal Ascot

To celebrate the return of normal life, the then Princess Elizabeth joined her aunt Mary, Princess Royal, in an open carriage to the first Royal Ascot since World War II in 1946.

And the Queen has travelled in a horse-drawn landau at every Royal Ascot until the pandemic, except for two when she was pregnant.

I can reveal that she will not, however, lead the Royal Procession at the Berkshire racecourse this year. Instead, she plans to be driven the short distance from Windsor Castle by car.

‘It’s the end of an era,’ a courtier tells me. ‘Carriages are no longer possible for Her Majesty. It’s not the ride that’s the problem, but the steep steps that are needed to get into and down from the landau.’

The Queen has travelled in a horse-drawn landau at every Royal Ascot until the pandemic, except for two when she was pregnant. She is pictured above in 2017 with Camilla 

The source adds: ‘The Queen hopes very much to attend Royal Ascot, each day if possible. She will arrive by car, though.’

During her 70-year reign, Royal Ascot has traditionally begun with the Queen and other members of the Royal Family arriving along the race track from Windsor in horse-drawn landaus. They then spend the day watching the races from the Royal Enclosure.

Last year, the Queen attended only the final day of a drastically scaled-down event, arriving by car.

Earlier this month, Prince Charles opened Parliament and delivered the Queen’s Speech for the first time. Buckingham Palace announced that the monarch had ‘reluctantly’ decided to pull out of the State Opening for the first time in 59 years due to ongoing problems with her mobility.

During her 70-year reign, Royal Ascot has traditionally begun with the Queen and other members of the Royal Family arriving along the race track from Windsor in horse-drawn landaus. Princess Elizabeth is pictured attending the Ascot Week in 1946

Taxation is no laughing matter for comedian Jason Manford. I hear he has handed over more than £680,000 to the taxman after being battered by HMRC bosses. And his accountants have admitted there is another huge bill on its way, but they don’t know the size of it.

He has just sold off his £3 million property empire to fund his divorce from first wife Catherine. The figures are disclosed in a newly published report from a liquidator winding up his business Invisible Man Ltd, which looked after income from ten rental homes.

If Joan Collins looks pleased with herself as she’s driven down The Mall in a Jaguar as part of the ‘People’s Pageant’ at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, here’s why: I hear she’s celebrating the birth of a new grandchild. ‘It’s really lovely to become a grandma again,’ the Dynasty star tells me at a Bafta party in Piccadilly.

‘It’s all these grandchildren that keeps me so young.’

Joanie, who turns 89 on Monday, now has four grandchildren. This new baby is her son Alexander ‘Sacha’ Newley’s first with his jazz singer wife, Sheela Raman. They have called their daughter Deia Shanaya.

Pick of the parties

The occasion: Tusk Ball at the Natural History Museum in London.

Flying the flag: Countdown star Rachel Riley wore an outfit in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, with a blue top and yellow skirt. She’s married to Russian Strictly pro Pasha Kovalev, who has spoken out against his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Maverick move: Prince William is patron of conservation charity the Tusk Trust, but he chose to send a recorded video message to the ball so he could attend the Top Gun: Maverick premiere three miles away. Happily, his cousins Zara Tindall, 41, and her brother Peter Phillips, 44, ensured there was a royal turnout of sorts.

Love App-tually: TV explorer Levison Wood, 40, said he was using dating apps to find love during the pandemic, and it seems he may have struck gold. He was accompanied by eco-campaigner Mia Hadrill, 31.

Python’s squeeze: The party’s venue is the home of old fossils, but Monty Python star John Cleese, 82, stayed away, leaving his jeweller wife, Jennifer Wade, 50, to take her pal, Suzy Lewis.

Countdown star Rachel Riley wore an outfit in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, with a blue top and yellow skirt

ITV political editor Robert Peston is known for his strangulated delivery and elongated pauses, but his son Max hopes to strike a more tuneful note

The smart set’s talking about… Pesto’s rock singer son

ITV political editor Robert Peston is known for his strangulated delivery and elongated pauses, but his son Max hopes to strike a more tuneful note.

The flamboyant 25-year-old is lead singer of rock band The New Sticky and he was joined backstage this week by his proud father, who filmed their concert for posterity. 

They performed at The Water Rats, in London’s King’s Cross, which has played host to the likes of Bob Dylan.

State school-educated Max, whose mother was Peston’s late wife Sian Busby, formed the band with three pals. 

‘It’s an unbelievable privilege to still be playing with my oldest (and dearest) friends,’ he says.

Luckily, Pesto, 62, didn’t embarrass Max by joining him on stage. 

Last year, he gushed about how it was a ‘dream come true’ to perform show-stopping songs for an ITV musical theatre special.

Fancy a glimpse into the world of London’s rich? Take a look at the scrum for places at the very best schools — into which Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, have just plunged.

I can disclose that the couple have already visited potential schools for their daughter Sienna, even though she’s only eight months old. They include Garden House, Chelsea, which charges up to £24,000 per year. Past pupils at the school, where a girl’s uniform costs £1,300, include the Queen’s great-niece, Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones.

Let’s hope that if Sienna is enrolled at Garden House, she has a less eventful time than Formula 1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone, who cut her face ‘during art class’ and needed stitches. ‘I still have the scar,’ she later recalled.

Concert is music to the ears of Duchess

The Queen looked in excellent spirits when, to widespread surprise, she opened the Elizabeth Line this week. But she’s not the only royal with a spring in her step.

The Duchess of Kent, who gave up official duties in 2002 and now prefers to be known simply as Katharine, made a very rare public appearance in the grandeur of London’s Lancaster House.

Still elegant at the age of 89, Katharine was attending a concert given by Future Talent, a charity she co-founded in 2004. It gives opportunities to gifted musicians from poor backgrounds — a cause that evidently remains dear to her heart. She was supported by Future Talent’s co-founder Nicholas Robinson (pictured).

Yorkshire baronet’s daughter Katharine, who’s married to the Queen’s first cousin the Duke of Kent, converted to Catholicism in 1994. She no longer uses her HRH title.

The Duke is the subject of a newly published biography by Hugo Vickers, which documents his lifetime of service to the Queen.

Labour is keen to attack Rishi Sunak and his wife over their wealth and enviable property portfolio, which includes a £5 million holiday home in California. But the Opposition has even richer figures.

I can reveal that one of its own peers has just spent a staggering £11 million on a flat in America. Former frontbencher Jon Mendelsohn and his wife Nicola have bought a property in New York’s Billionaires’ Row. Publicly available records show that the couple, whose main family home is in London, took out a £6.7 million mortgage on the three-bedroom pad on Manhattan’s West 57th Street in March. The main draw of Central Park Tower is that, at 1,550ft, it’s the world’s tallest residential skyscraper.

Lord Mendelsohn, 55, is still an active member of the House of Lords, speaking this week and taking part in five recent votes. He was Labour’s chief fundraiser under Gordon Brown but had to quit his shadow minister role in 2018 after attending the notorious Presidents Club dinner where hostesses were allegedly harassed.

Will baby girl slow down Fast Eddie?

‘FAST’ Eddie Davenport has ricocheted through life, launching the louche ‘Gatecrasher’ balls aged just 20, establishing nightclubs and acquiring the fabulous London townhouse used in Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech.

He also bought a manorial title and was manacled to a hospital bed in HMP Wandsworth during one of two prison sentences.

Now 55 and living in Thailand, he claims to have embarked on yet another new role — that of father. The fraudster, who likes to style himself ‘Lord Edward’, proudly proclaimed the arrival of baby Ophelia Davenport on social media.

‘It’s an amazing story,’ he tells me, without disclosing Ophelia’s mother’s name — or nationality. ‘They’ve got good English schools here in Thailand,’ adds Davenport, who attended Frensham Heights, where a headteacher once told a prospective pupil he would be ‘horrified’ if children were not ‘having sex in the bushes’. Which may explain much of Davenport’s career . . .

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