Cressida Bonas' stepfather found dead: Financier and lavish party-thrower was 'huge influence' in Harry's girlfriend's life

By Staff Writer 01/21/2014 01:51:00

Cressida Bonas' stepfather found dead: Financier and lavish party-thrower was 'huge influence' in Harry's girlfriend's life

  • Financier Christopher Shaw, 76, said to have had financial problems
  • Friends told two years ago he had 18 months to live from kidney disease
  • Shaw wed Cressida's mother, Lady Mary Gaye Curzon in 1994
  • They were together for six years, married for four, but divorced in 2000
  • Sources say he was strong influence in the life of Prince Harry's girlfriend

By Richard Kay

PUBLISHED: 20:03 EST, 20 January 2014 | UPDATED: 20:51 EST, 20 January 2014

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Tragic: Christopher Shaw (right, here with 10-year-old Cressida and ex-wife Lady Mary Gaye Curzon) has been found dead at his home in Salisbury

Tragic: Christopher Shaw (right, here with 10-year-old Cressida and ex-wife Lady Mary Gaye Curzon) has been found dead at his home in Salisbury

Prince Harry’s girlfriend Cressida Bonas has been shocked to learn of the sudden death  of her former stepfather — colourful financier Christopher Shaw.

The one-time merchant banker wed Cressida’s mother, Lady Mary Gaye Curzon, during the Nineties at a time when he was one of London’s most lavish and generous party-throwers.

Bon viveur Shaw fell madly in love with society beauty Mary Gaye who was previously married to Cressida’s father, businessman Jeffrey Bonas — he created a cocktail in her honour at Claridge’s called The Curzon.

Shaw was found dead by his housekeeper, Nicky, at his rented home in The Close by Salisbury Cathedral — virtually next door to Sir Edward Heath’s former home.

Though he was said to have financial problems, perpetual ladies’ man Christopher, who celebrated his 76th birthday on New Year’s Day, had been in good spirits having just returned from a holiday in Cuba with the latest woman in his life.

He was on medication for chronic kidney disease and friends say he had been told two years ago he might have only 18 months to live.

Police were called to the house on Friday. A post mortem is to be carried out, but last night Wiltshire police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

The son of a country parson and a former head boy at Eton, father-of-three Shaw lived with Mary Gaye at the sprawling National Trust mansion Hinton Ampner in Hampshire, where he entertained in style with eight servants and five gardeners.

He also had a set in the Albany building. Guests at his parties included Sir Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch. ‘He was unique,’ says his long-time friend PR supremo David Wynne-Morgan. 

‘He decided at Eton that he wanted to live like a 19th-century landed aristocrat and he did just that.’

Married: The couple were together from 1992 and married in 1994 until 2000, when Cressida was 11
Lavish: Mr Shaw was notorious for his lavish parties in London while he was married to Cressida's mother

Married: The couple were together from 1992 and married in 1994 until 2000, when Cressida was 11. He was notorious for his lavish parties in London while they couple were together

Influence: Married to her mother when she was aged five to 11, Mr Shaw was a huge influence on the upbringing of Prince Harry's girlfriend Cressida

Influence: Married to her mother when she was aged five to 11, Mr Shaw was a huge influence on the upbringing of Prince Harry's girlfriend Cressida

Shaw was married first to banker Loel Guinness’s niece Liza Gard, then to a Frenchwoman, and fell for thrice-married Mary Gaye in 1994. They were together for six years, married for four, but divorced in 2000.

‘Cressida was five when they got together and 11 when it all went wrong, so Christopher would have been a strong presence in her childhood life,’ says a friend.

Shaw’s last regular live-in lover was Eliza Dugdale, former wife of dashing huntsman Robin Smith-Ryland on whom Jilly Cooper based one of her bonkbusters.

Besotted: Mr Shaw fell madly in love with society beauty Mary Gaye - even naming a cocktail after her at Claridge's called The Curzon

Besotted: Mr Shaw fell madly in love with society beauty Mary Gaye - even naming a cocktail after her at Claridge's called The Curzon

Style: Father-of-three Shaw shared his sprawling National Trust mansion with Cressida's family, where he entertained with eight servants and five gardeners

Style: Father-of-three Shaw shared his sprawling National Trust mansion with Cressida's family, where he entertained with eight servants and five gardeners

Love: Lady Mary Gaye Curzon (pictured a year after marrying Mr Shaw) spent four years married to the notoriously lavish party-thrower. He told friends two years ago he had just 18 months to live after contracting chronic kidney disease

Love: Lady Mary Gaye Curzon (pictured a year after marrying Mr Shaw) spent four years married to the notoriously lavish party-thrower. He told friends two years ago he had just 18 months to live after contracting chronic kidney disease

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