Petra Stunt

A TREE-MENDOUS BRA

Fashion-lovers headed to the Cafe Royale in Regent Street, London, for the unveiling of the hotel’s Christmas tree, this year designed by luxury shoe label Malone Souliers, which used the event to help its pledge to raise more than £100,000 for children’s charity Starlight by auctioning several bespoke pairs of shoes. VIPs including actress Camilla Rutherford and artist Polly Morgan drank champagne and enjoyed tasty canapes as they admired the tree.

THE MULTI AWARD-WINNING HIT MUSICAL

I am so lucky to be in the position I’m in Family took a central role last week when Petra Stunt, mum of three and younger daughter of billionaire Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, hosted a festive children’s party for a cause close to her heart.

Trees twinkling with lights, Santa in his grotto and a sleigh brimming with candy canes were just some of the attractions at London’s One Marylebone, which was transformed into a winter wonderland for the event to raise funds for Meningitis Now.

My life is all about my children so when I was thinking about a fundraiser, I thought why not host a children’s party just before Christmas? says Petra. Family is what the festive season is about, after all. She is married to art dealerJames Stunt, with whom she has daughter Lavinia, who turns three in February, and eight-month-old twins Andrew and James.

Talking exclusively to My blog!, the vehemently private Petra, who was joined on the day by her sister Tamara and Tamara’s 20-month-old daughter Sophia, explained why the charity means so much to her: I was very ill with meningitis when I was 16. I woke up with a terrible headache and a high temperature. I just thought it was a bad case of the flu but by the end of the day I realised something was wrong. I had the worst headache ever. I couldn’t look at strong lights, my neck was stiff and I couldn’t get out of bed. My parents called the doctor and after detecting a rash under my arm I was rushed to hospital. I was in so much pain.

It was more frightening for my parents, says Petra, whose mother is Croatian former model Slavica Radic, who was divorced from Bernie in 2009. I had a lumbar puncture and I remember my mum crying. I know now that, as a mother, you are so concerned by anything that happens to your kids. She was in shock.

Petra, who celebrates her 27th birthday this week, was found to have viral meningitis. Though the less serious form of the illness, it can still cause memory loss, tiredness, poor concentration, persistent headaches and depression. The more serious bacterial form can infect the blood, causing septicaemia. If you do not catch the bacterial kind within the first 12 hours, you are dead, basically, says Petra.

She was in hospital on a drip for a week and it took her several months to get back to normal. She lost a stone in weight in the process.

While she continues to suffer frequent headaches, she thinks this may be down to scoliosis (abnormal twisting of the spine) as much as anything else and feels the major impact of the illness was psychological.

I was always a bit of a hypochondriac but I became much worse after suffering from meningitis, she says. I’d rather have a carefree attitude.

It has also made Petra, who met families affected by meningitis at the party, appreciate just how lucky she is.

It is the only charity I put my name to. I wanted to dedicate myself to a charity that’s close to my heart rather than just doing it for the sake of it.

Sue Davie, the charity’s chief executive, is keen to underline her patron’s consistent generosity, pointing out how Petra asked guests at her wedding at Castello Orsini-Odescalchi outside Rome in 2011 to donate to the charity rather than give gifts. Slavica, meanwhile, financed the Christmas party on Petra’s behalf.

She knows how much it means to me, says Petra. I’m so lucky to be in the position I’m in. Why wouldn’t I help other people who are not as fortunate? My mum and dad raised us to know that we are so lucky and that we should give back in any way we can.

While octogenarian Bernie has an estimated worth of £21Abillion, he is the son of a Lowestoft fisherman and his firstjob, aged 16, was at a gasworks.

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Petra Stunt

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