The irresistible rise of Princess

IT COULD hardly have come at a worse moment. Certainly, for Trudie Styler, it must have proved a most tiresome intrusion into her promotional campaign for her latest film, A Guide To Recognising Your Saints.

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Published: Sat 17 Mar 2007, 10:43 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:28 AM

For just five days after the movie's UK premier, the wheels abruptly fell off Trudie's bandwagon. The wide smile froze as Trudie, 53, found herself cast as villain in an uncomfortably domestic drama.

Last week, Trudie's chef of eight years told an employment tribunal that she had been sacked by Ms Styler after getting pregnant. Jane Martin-41, who worked at Sting and Trudie's Lake House, an 800-acre Wiltshire estate, described Trudie as a tyrant who subjected staff to a regime of abuse in order to 'feel royal'.

'She's my chef. She needs to be available to me,' Trudie was said to have thundered.

Of course, the case of the disgruntled former employee has still to run its course and is being challenged by Trudie, who is said to have been in tears over the allegations. But, while much has been written about her famous husband, little is known of Trudie's character and background save for the fact that it involves a personal odyssey from council house to country estate.

The Mail on Sunday has now spoken to a series of close childhood and family friends who tell a troubling sometimes sad story of an ambitious, talented woman who managed to rise above her humble beginnings.

In reality, although Trudie has created a perfect life for herself, it is far removed from the one in which she grew up and longed to escape. And, perhaps inevitably, as her world evolved, there were tensions with her parents.

Sisters Heather and Sabrina, with whom Trudie was once close, appear to have little in common with her and there is now little contact between them. Trudie's occasional phone calls have dried up, the little sibling niggles have turned into family rows and even her attempts at generosity have been misinterpreted as grand.

According to one close family friend who grew up alongside Trudie in relative poverty in the village of Stoke Prior, Worcestershire: 'The thing about Trudie is that whatever she does she makes the rules and you either play by them or go home.

'From the moment she was born Trudie was treated as special. Her older sister, Sabrina, was the apple of her father's eye and when Trudie arrived she was Mummy's Baby.'

Trudie was the second child born to Harry and Pauline Styler. The eldest, Sabrina, 55, lives in Fife. The youngest, Heather, is a 51-year-old neonatal nurse living modestly in Bristol.

Pauline's family had lived in comfort in Cheshire until evacuated to a relative's farm in Worcestershire during the war. There Pauline met and fell in love with Harry, a farm labourer and an eminently unsuitable match as far as her parents were concerned.

A family friend from the time recalled: 'We were always told Pauline's grand-father had been the Royal Train driver based at Crewe and for some reason this gave her and her family delusions of grandeur. They came close to disowning Pauline when she went for a lowly labourer.'

But however determinedly Pauline followed her heart, she never abandoned her own innate sense of social status.

Her husband found work in a lamp factory, she found employment as a school dinner lady and the family of five squeezed into a cramped council house. But Pauline was determined her girls would be special. A neighbour says: 'She was the original Hyacinth Bucket. She made them velvet dresses and they wore hats and gloves and were taken to the tea-rooms in Bromsgrove. There was no way they were going to be allowed to become ruffians and they certainly were schooled out of acquiring a common local accent.'

But it was Trudie who was always the special focus of Pauline's dreams. Her place as mother's favourite was unassailable. A relative who lives in the area remembered: 'There was a terrible accident and Trudie was hit by a baker's van in a road near their home. She could have been killed. She was only about two. She needed 80 stitches and her mother clung to her even tighter from then on.'

Pauline took the then extraordinary action of suing the Co-op (for whom the driver worked) for compensation and came away with £2,000 which she put in a bank account for Trudie.

Years later it would also pay for cosmetic surgery to remove the accident's scars: a faint white line around her left eye socket is the only visible evidence of the wounds inflicted 50 years ago.

Encouraged by her doting mother, Trudie developed into a theatrical little girl one imbued with an understandable sense of entitlement.

'There was never a dull moment with Trudie,' recalls a former boyfriend.

'There was always a drama about something. She was an actress in the making even then. She was always losing her gym kit or her hockey stick.

'Her mother would worry how they could afford to replace all the things she lost but whatever sacrifice the rest of the family had to make, Trudie got what she wanted.

But the lifestyle regarded by Trudie's Stoke Prior friends as fortunate was never going to be enough for the 'little princess' propelled onwards and upwards by her socially ambitious mother.

According to Trudie, 'escape' came at the age of 17 when she 'left one night in high dudgeon. I went to Stratford-Upon-Avon,' she has recalled. 'I thought that the world of acting would be waiting for me there. I'd been falling out with my dad a lot he'd never travelled, he wasn't educated beyond 12, because of the war, and, for him, to see me getting a job as a clerk in the local factory was as good as it gets.'

But instead Trudie won a scholarship to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She landed roles in television series Miss Marple and Poldark (the 'soap opera of the day, so my dad stopped worrying') and did a stint at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

An itinerant life in repertory followed with Trudie working in Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and eventually London a move that led to her meeting and having an affair with Sting.

In 1980 she was playing a witch in Macbeth alongside Peter O'Toole and Sting's then wife, Frances Tomelty. It was the breaking of that marriage and the making of Trudie Styler.

A former neighbour recalls Trudie paying a rare visit home. 'A few days later she was all over the papers. She might have been a well-respected actress but let's be honest no one outside theatreland really knew her. Suddenly she was with one of the country's biggest rock stars, being photographed and living the jet-set life. She loved it. She loved the glamour, the excess and the attention.'

In 1981 Pauline was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Her decline was rapid and she died in 1984. Most of her care fell to Trudie's little sister Heather. The inequity proved a source of abiding resentment on Heather's part.

One friend who witnessed the decline explained: 'What hurt Heather the most was that while she was caring for her every need Pauline would talk endlessly about Trudie.

After Pauline's death Harry found companionship with Joyce Woodhouse, with whom he lived for 12 years. Today she is 85 and has lived in sheltered housing since Harry's death in 2000.

At times Trudie's generosity was overwhelming her father and Joyce travelled the world on Trudie's largesse, flying to Australia, Thailand and Singapore, going to Venice on the Orient Express.

One friend who knows her well said: 'Every Christmas she would send Harry a hamper from Harrods. Harry was a very down-to-earth fish-and-chips man.

'He didn't know what half of the things in there were, let alone whether he liked them or not.

'Trudie liked her lifestyle and who could blame her? But she had airs and graces, just like her mother. She even banned Harry from bringing his copy of The Sun into her house.

When her father died, Trudie claims she became embroiled in a year-long tussle with her siblings over where his ashes should be scattered.

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