Her aristocratic beauty had a mysterious, subtle sensuality that perfectly represented the glamour of a period in which elegance was never an opinion. She was a true English, better yet, Scottish rose.
Sir Cecil Beaton said that she was his favorite muse, with the type of mysterious, sophisticated face that he adored and the gracefulness of a lady.
Fiona Frances Elaine Campbell-Walter, better known as Baroness Fiona von Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon after her marriage to the steel magnate and super-art collector Hans Heinrich Thyssen, a.k.a.“Heini”, left her mark on almost three decades of the 20th century, starting in the fifties when she first worked as a model. She was born on June 25, 1932 in Auckland, New Zealand, to a rear admiral of the Royal British Navy and the daughter of Sir Edward Taswell-Campbell.
Her brilliant career, which was immortalized by interpreters of an evocative, sleek, dreamy photographic style such as Henry Clarke and Norman Parkinson but also by the nuanced modernity of David Bailey, brought her to incarnate the creative lines of Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, Grès, Nina Ricci, Lanvin, Dessès, Jacques Fath, Dior and Valentino.
Her chic look blended a neo-classical and impressionist artistic mood with a vibrant idea of modernity. Combining Edwardian references and the revolutionary youthful feel of Swinging London, Fiona passed from photos with extremely complex, theatrical poses to the simplicity of a beach, where she posed makeup-free and wrapped in a towel, as she was portrayed by Georges Dambier in 1954, draped in a Givenchy beach towel. Her marriage to Heini (who had reached his third wedding) that took place in 1956, twelve hours after first meeting on the ski slopes of Saint Moritz, floundered and ended bitterly in 1965.
She returned to London with their two children Francesca and Lorne, leaving behind the palazzo on Lake Lugano filled with fabulous works of art. Love would return again thanks to her tumultuous affair with Alexander Onassis, which was strongly contested by his father Aristotle also due to the difference in age because Fiona was 16 years older than Alexander. Today, still gorgeous and proud, as if time could not fade her beauty, Fiona mainly divides her time between the islands of Greece and Vienna. She is often seen in company of her daughter Francesca, who became the Archduchess of Austria after marrying Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen.
Now living a secluded life and taking care of the grandchildren, Fiona Thyssen is certainly far from the dazzling, frenetic and glamorous limelight.
[Cesare Cunaccia, excerpt from Vogue Italia, September 2014, n. 769, p.366.]