Lady Victoria Hervey

"I used to think my title would count against me in life, but I now realise it will be a great help," said Lady Victoria Hervey in a 1996 interview. And in the half-decade or so that she has been semi-famous, the six-foot blonde has certainly used her birthright to her advantage.

Lady V, as she is now known, was born in October 1976, the daughter of Victor, the sixth Marquess of Bristol the first member of his family to go to prison, for theft and his third wife Yvonne who had previously been his secretary. For the first two years of her life she lived at Ickworth, the family seat in Sussex, before her parents went into tax exile in Monaco.

Victoria's holidays were spent in the Mediterranean paradise, but she was educated in Britain, at Benenden School in Kent. After a gap year spent in Florence and working at advertising agencies in London, she turned down a place at Bristol University to read French and Art History. Her mother was outraged and stopped her allowance. But Victoria was made of sterner stuff and got herself a job as a receptionist to film director and bon viveur Michael Winner.

She dabbled in modelling for a few years and appeared on Paris catwalks, ultimately hoping she would land a TV presenting job. Her statuesque frame kept her in the fashion world, however, and she teamed up with good friend Jane Blight to open up a fashion boutique, Akademi, in April 2000.

Then a risqué photo of Victoria appeared in a tabloid newspaper and her profile rocketed. London had been lacking an It Girl ever since Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was admitted to rehab with substance-abuse problems, and Lady V was the perfect candidate. The invitations rained in for parties virtually every night of the week, she became a popular cover girl for men's magazines, and the Sunday Times hired her to write its "Party Animal" column.

Akademi, which was frequented by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Meg Mathews and Martine McCutcheon, closed halfway through 2001, with debts estimated at £350,000. Victoria's personal financial investment in it was minimal, however, and later that year a new shop with new backers opened in the same Knightsbridge location where Akademi once traded.

Currently single, Lady V has had well-documented relationships with Danish restaurateur Mogens Tholstrup, 15 years her senior, who she used to call "Grandpa", and internet impresario Seb Bishop. Other names once associated with the blonde beauty include F1 driver David Coulthard and former Boyzone member Shane Lynch.

In December 2003 Victoria relocated to Los Angeles in the hope of making it as an actress. To date she has secured a small part in the 2004 flick RX opposite Colin Hanks (son of Tom) as a waitress in a diner.
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