9/24 Imperiali de Francavilla, Caterina (1926 - ) ‘Call me Katie.’ Donna Caterina Irena Helen Imperiali di Francavilla was born into one of the grandest of Italy’s aristocratic families. As a teenager, after being expelled from four schools and running away with an older man, her father had her locked up in an asylum. But her British-born mother helped Imperiali de Francavilla escape, and despatched her to London, where she married Richard Bentick Boyle (9th Earl of Shannon, Viscount Boyle, Baron of Castlemartyr and Baron Carleton of Yorkshire). Instead of resting on her pile of titles, though, the young bride began to pursue her own career — on stage and screen, using the name Catherine Carlton, and in the pages of fashion magazines as Katie Boyle.
Over the next four years, Viscountess Boyle enjoyed considerable success, both in London and Paris. She became the face of Ponds Cold Cream, and was chosen by Vogue (alongside Jean Dawnay and Della Oake) to show British fashion on a three-month tour of Australia. And on her return, she became one of a handful of models recruited by the BBC to act variously as continuity announcers, game show panellists and comic foils. She quickly became a household name, thanks to shows like ‘Quite Contrary’ and ‘The Name’s The Same’. (Although she quickly experienced celebrity’s flipside, when she began to received anonymous death threats; one letter, from a Chesterfield coal miner, ran “Because I hate you with all the integrity that a man can hate a person. I loathe everything about you: your supercilious attitude when you appear in front of the cameras. I hate all so-called aristocrats.”) But Boyle stuck to her guns, and became one of the grandes dames of British television. She was a regular on ‘What’s My Line’, ‘Jukebox Jury’, ‘Call my Bluff’ and ‘Blankety Blank’, wrote a long-running advice column in TV times, and became a late-life camp icon when she hosted the Eurovision Song Contest a record-breaking four times.
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