In his ‘agony uncle’ column in Country Life, the magazine for Britain’s landed gentry, Kit Hesketh-Harvey warned readers that domestic tensions during Covid lockdown could put marriages at risk.
He said that divorce attorneys would be merry. He is unfortunately now one of the affected.
The cabaret star is now a lyricist and pantomime villain. He split from Kate Rabett (ex-lover of Prince Andrew) after 35 years of marriage.
For the last three decades, they shared a Georgian three-storey mansion located in Norfolk.
A beach house that is even more important to them can be found in one of Cornwall’s most exclusive bays.
Happier days: In his ‘agony uncle’ column in Country Life, the magazine for Britain’s landed gentry, Kit Hesketh-Harvey (pictured right) warned readers that domestic tensions during Covid lockdown could put marriages at risk
However, Kit, a scriptwriter for the BBC’s Vicar Of Dibley series, has forsaken both properties in favour of a monkish existence in the village church, which he bought several years ago and uses as an office.
What is the cause of this situation? It seems that the pressures of the pandemic forced Miss Rabett, 61, to choose between her husband, 64, and Ian Harrison, a wealthy old Etonian financier to whom she’s become close.
According to a friend, Kit was concerned about his parents’ health and wanted to create a bubble for his wife.
Kit was forced to take shelter from Harrison’s insistent demands that she continue her relationship with Harrison when Kit moved into the nearby vestry.
At first, he thought that the pandemic would be over in months. However, he continues to live there every day. Kate now serves him divorce papers to add insult to injury.
After separating from Kate Rabett, his 35-year-old wife, the former Bond girl and Hot Gossip dancer, the couple has been kicked out.
Good evening Mr Bond: It seems that the pressures of the pandemic forced Miss Rabett (pictured), 61, to choose between her husband, 64, and Ian Harrison, a wealthy old Etonian financier to whom she’s become close
‘Kit and Kate were one of those theatrical couples whose marriage wasn’t conventional. What happened on tour, stayed on tour,’ says the friend.
‘Kit believed that whatever the faults – and they exist on both sides because he’s not blameless – their marriage was sacrosanct. This was his definition of sacrosanct.
‘He told me that since they were both in their 60s, looking forward to retirement and grandchildren, he wondered why they could not bumble along together. He felt they could have separated and carried on as Mr and Mrs Hesketh-Harvey, while leading lives of their own.’
They are said to be unable to communicate in person today.
Kit, whose sister Sarah Sands is the ex-editor of Radio 4’s Today, is said to feel bruised by the sheer speed and finality of it all.
The 14th-century church was purchased by him to preserve it for the community.
He allows locals to use the building for Remembrance Day services and Christmas carols.
The Mail on Sunday called him but he refused to respond. A garden table and chair near the vestry entrance suggests that he lived in his summer home.
Kate’s friend Ian Harrison, meanwhile, is himself separated and living apart from his wife, Cynthia Menzies, the heiress daughter of the late newsagent and stationery tycoon John Menzies.
Her family’s wealth has been described as ‘majestic’ and its high-society ties included a close friendship between Cynthia’s sister and Princess Diana.
It is thought that Bentley-driving Mr Harrison, said by friends to be ‘very, very rich’, also owns a flat in Chelsea, where he spends time with Kate during the week.
He is no longer living in Hampshire, according to his neighbors.
‘He has moved out of the big house and into a cottage at the back. Everyone in the village knows about the situation,’ says a neighbour.
It is ironic, that Kit who performed recently at Chequers for a celebration of 100 years since the first prime ministers received use of Buckinghamshire’s country home in Buckinghamshire, had to warn his Country Life column about the dangers to their relationships from Covid lockdowns.
Because he was in his 60s, and being a smoker, he found himself vulnerable, deciding to make the move to shelter at the church. He didn’t expect the impact it would have on their marriage. A friend said: ‘But one thing followed another and set in progress an avalanche.’
Kit’s pragmatism and his principled antipathy towards divorce shaped many of his Oh, The Agony! Country Life columns, published until this year.
His advice to readers was that marriages can be difficult and he encouraged them to stay together.
He was open about the belief that divorce is too common in modern society and that many people don’t understand its implications for their families beyond the conflicting spouses.
He has even questioned the point of taking marriage vows at all if people don’t intend to stand by them. ‘He believes it’s ’til death us do part,’ said the friend.
Kit and Kate met when they performed in Brighton’s pantomime together, under the supervision of Christopher Biggins (TV and Panto Star).
Couple goals: Kit & Kate met when they performed in Brighton’s pantomime together, under the supervision of Christopher Biggins (TV and Panto Star).
Pose: Kit is an award-winning pantomime stalwart, and will be starring as King Rat in Dick Whittington at Guildford this season in the town’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, which was built in honour of his French actress grandmother
Kit is an award-winning pantomime stalwart, and will be starring as King Rat in Dick Whittington at Guildford this season in the town’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, which was built in honour of his French actress grandmother.
Born in Malawi, he was the son of a British colonial father who oversaw the transition from British rule in 1960s to independent Malawi.
Head chorister at Canterbury Choir School, Canterbury. He then attended Cambridge University, where he was an actor in Footlights, the drama troupe that launched Hugh Laurie’s careers.
Today, his most prominent accomplishments include the composition of opera librettos and the work of the other half in the cabaret group Kit and the Widow. He was also known as a skilled TV and film scriptwriter.
Kate comes from a well-heeled Suffolk family and was a model in London when she caught Prince Andrew’s eye at an art gallery in 1984.
She hosted the Prince’s 24th birthday party and was reported to have been introduced to the Queen.
Pose: Kate comes from a well-heeled Suffolk family and was a model in London when she caught Prince Andrew’s eye at an art gallery in 1984
Film star: The highlight of her acting career was as a Bond girl, American CIA agent Liz, in Timothy Dalton’s 1987 film The Living Daylights
The highlight of her acting career was as a Bond girl, American CIA agent Liz, in Timothy Dalton’s 1987 film The Living Daylights. Last September she was featured in the top five of Tatler magazine’s all-time favourite Bond girls.
She has also worked in the field of art history and academics.
One source claimed her relationship with Prince Andrew had undermined her acting career, and that she was upset that her links to the Prince were being publicised now he’s been engulfed by the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.
‘It’s always been horrid for her, and it’s particularly nasty at the moment,’ says an acquaintance.
One year after their marriage, they settled in Norfolk where they raised their two children, Rollo and Augusta. According to reports, valuers had been looking at the property in order to settle a divorce.
Kate said that she is determined to make Ian Harrison’s relationship work.
Kit is distressed to learn that such a settlement might also include his North Cornwall beach house, near Padstow’s surfing and foodie hubs.
Said to be worth twice the value of the couple’s Norfolk home, the three-bedroom house was built to his personal specifications on land he was left by a friend from Cambridge.
He spoke of his emotional ties to the house in his 2018 anthology Vade Mecum – describing its Arts and Crafts design and the gallery overlooking the Atlantic.
He also said he was determined to pass it down through generations of his own family, saying: ‘They will splash through the same rockpools as my Cornish grandfather did, and I did as a lad, and that’s more than enough for me.’
His friend says: ‘Kit’s split from Kate has been rapid and he’s found that very hard.
‘He thought after 35 years together they would end up like Darby and Joan, that they were on the home stretch towards a blissful retirement and grandchildren. All that was changed by the pandemic.
‘It seems that the pandemic showed Kate she had a life she didn’t want any more.
‘Now Kit wants her to be happy and if that’s with Ian then so be it, he just doesn’t want her to napalm everything along the way.’