The following article by Elizabeth Grice appeared in an April 1998 issue of The Daily Telegraph newspaper...
Breakfast is wheeled into Trudie Styler's Claridges suite under silver-bellied tureens, but all she can face is a softly boiled egg and a piece of dry toast. A two week mid-life honeymoon in India with her husband, Sting, has left her with a lot of conflicting impressions and a gippy tummy...
Pale and dishevelled, she was nevertheless up before dawn to drive from their 16th century Wiltshire home in London. Although they also have a grand townhouse three miles down the road from Claridges, Trudie has no inclination to stay there overnight on her own. She says the heating system is being overhauled, but the real reason is that her confidence has been shaken by the recent violent mugging of their Hampstead neighbours Sir Patrick and Lady Sergeant.
This on top of the summer's macabre business, when their great friend Gianni Versace was murdered on the steps of his own home, appears to have sent a cold shiver of insecurity and transience through two otherwise perfectly charmed lives. "It is a very frightening thing to have a friend killed in that way," she says. For months after, I felt panic. We live in England, where you think nothing will go wrong. But it can. We became very security-conscious."
At their home in New York, personal safety measures were stepped up. "We don't live in a fortress," she says. "We don't lock ourselves in and we are not surrounded by goons who look as if they're being macho, but we are very quietly taking precautions."
This sombre cast of mind-pursued them to India, where they spent two weeks trying to fathom the meaning of their lives. "I think we were really looking death in the face. What are we doing? We didn't come to any conclusions, but at least we were talking about it without being morbid."
Fifteen years ago, it seemed highly improbable that the affair between the actress and the rock star would survive. Yet here they are, four children and a belated wedding later, thinking of their slippers and cocoa. "We are acknowledging that we are growing old together," she says. "we are looking at each other through older eyes. We love each other very much and that seems to strengthen everything."
With four houses, a fresh marriage and a social conscience, the couple seems somewhat overblessed. But Trudie says she never forgets it: she and Sting still wander through their country estate, amazed it is theirs. She thinks she is lucky to have time to help save the rainforest; if she had been a lampshade packer and school caretaker, like her father she would not have enjoyed the luxury of philanthropy. If she had been a school dinner lady bringing up three daughters in a cramped council house in Worcestershire, like her mother, she would have probably died equally unfulfilled.
As for the houses in London, Wiltshire, New York and Tuscany: "we have a life that's on the move. Rather than living in five-star hotels - which I think would be much more extravagant - we have very beautiful homes. The only embarrassment is that it draws a big line between the haves and have-nots, and I don't like to provoke envy."
It would be easy to lampoon Trudie Styler without stopping to consider what exactly a woman of her obvious intelligence is expected to do. If she succumbed merely to being a rock star's wife and "lay on a sofa eating violet creams all day", she would be rightly dismissed as a lazy, empty-headed trollop. But because she is both conspicuously rich and eco-correct, and blatantly using her name to advance a number of worthy causes, she is labelled a publicity seeking dilettante. "I am not complaining about nay aspects of fame," she says. "Some are good, some not so good."
Nor does Trudie make any excuses for her great unearned wealth as the wife of a multi-millionaire. She knows how to spend money, likes pending it and has no "stuff" [guilt] about doing so. As principle fundraiser for Sting's conservation charity, the Rainforest Foundation, she is credited with having pushed the revenue up to $10 million.
"A feeling of wanting to help people in a worse position than me came from my mum. Though she had very little, she was generous and taught her children to contribute to society. I took on that mantle before I met Sting."
Trudie's mother was a pristine housekeeper and one of her great rituals was to lay a beautiful table at mealtimes. One day, her father noticed that she couldn't lay a knife, spoon and fork in the right order any more. She was only 54, but it was the beginning of Alzheimer's.
"Each time I came home, she was less and less like my mother," says Trudie. "Sometimes she didn't know me. She could be quite violent at times and run out of the house with no clothes on." Her mother died when she was only 60. Her father is still living independently in the council house where the children were brought up. Thanks to Trudie, he now owns it.
I expect her to be overbearingly evangelical, but she addresses herself directly and simply to each topic. She is without airs; a handsome woman with short blonde hair, equine nostrils and a sensuous mouth. Despite much plastic surgery the left side of her face is still scarred from a childhood accident, when she was dragged along the ground by the exhaust pipe of a runaway bread van.
Her yoga-tuned body is hidden under a shapeless black jumper and a blue throw, decorated along the border with tiny mirrors. But should anyone doubt that she is in excellent shape for a 42-year-old mother of four, it will be possible to glimpse her in the buff in her latest venture, a two-part television thriller 'The Scold's Bridle'.
Trudie play Joanna Lascelles - failed mother, high-class prostitute and drug addict - who was abused as a child and goes on to make sexual and emotional havoc in other people's lives. Her co-stars are Miranda Richardson, Douglas Hodge, Bob Peck, Virginia McKenna and Sian Phillips - and quite honestly, she is equal to any of them.
The theatre was her teenage escape route from provincial life. "We all lived on top of one another, three girls growing up together. It felt confining." She ran away to Stratford-upon-Avon, and eventually won a scholarship to the Bristol Old Vic theatre school.
But Trudie's career as a serious actress slid to a halt in the Eighties after her name was linked with Sting, who was at the time married to Frances Tomelty. "Acting used to be my bread and butter, all I cared about; waiting for the phone to ring, the joy of finally getting a job. But the work just dried up. There was too much negative publicity; it was very hurtful. Things got better because our relationship stuck."
She had hoped for a film career but "there weren't many choices here at that time - or they certainly weren't being offered to me." By now, with two small children in tow she went to Italy to work for three years. "None of the films I was in was very good, but it was a happy time in my life. It paid very well and I had my little ones with me."
A desire to be more in control and a need to prick consciences led her to set up her own production company, Xingu Films, named after a tributary of the Amazon. She made two powerful documentaries, 'The Boys From Brazil', about transvestite prostitutes in Rio, and 'Moving The Mountain', which dealt with the Tiananmen Square demonstration.
In 1992, Trudie's and Sting's lives altered by the acquisition of their favourite home, Lake House, in Wiltshire. Until then, they had not felt the need to marry. "It was a great love affair," Trudie says. "Sting regarded his first marriage as the great failure in his life. He took it very seriously, and didn't want the hurt and failure again. Things changed when we moved to the country, where people's attitudes to us not being married with children were a little bit old-fashioned. Our children got teased: it wasn't worth it."
Having decided to take the plunge, they went for a ceremony that "really represented the 10 years of happiness we had had." Not only were all the protagonists wearing Versace, but Versace himself was there to adjust Trudie's train as she walked up the aisle.
Buried in a froth of lace, Trudie rode from the church on horseback. "It was Sting's idea. He said he wanted to lead his bride away on a dappled mare - he's a very romantic man." There are now four children - Mickey 14, Jake 13, seven year old Coco, and Giacomo, two.
It seems entirely possible that there may be a fifth. "I'm at my happiest and healthiest when I'm pregnant. I always said, from being a very young person, that I would like five children - and I usually get my way."
She insists that her children are being brought up to take nothing for granted. "They go to good, but not grand schools. They have small amounts of pocket money and, if they want some treat, they have to give me a good reason. It's not automatic. They have a natural gratefulness when things come their way. I had a pretty strict upbringing. Manners were extremely important in my mother's household and they are extremely important in ours. They get pulled up good and proper."
Nevertheless, she knows her privileged children cannot, as she and her husband can, "feel acutely what it is like to have not and then to have." When they get older and go out into the world without the resources they are used to, then, she says with some satisfaction, they will have some idea of the other side of their inheritance.
© The Daily Telegraph