It is one of the banes of my existence that every time I see a movie or read a novel that details the life of Coco Chanel, they focus on one aspect. That she was once in love with an Englishman named Boy Capel. She met him when she was the mistress of a wealthy man, and, according to Justine Picardie’s excellent biography Coco Chanel: the Legend and the Life:
His name was Arthur Capel, but his friends called him Boy, in an Edwardian era when English gentlemen were still able to celebrate their continuing freedoms long after they had turned from boys to men. Boy’s origins were swathed in romance, and he came to Paris amidst murmured speculation that he was connected in some mysterious way to the British aristocracy.
“In Pau I met an Englishman”, Gabrielle Chanel said to Morand. “We made each other’s acquaintance when we were out horse-trekking one day; we all lived on horseback.” They drank wine together; it was young, intoxicating and quite unusual, and so was the Englishman. “The young man was handsome, very tanned and attractive. More than handsome, he was magnificent. I admired his nonchalance, and his green eyes. He rode bold and very powerful horses. I fell in love with him. I had never loved MB. ” Yet at first, she and Capel did not speak. “Not a word was exchanged between this Englishman and me.”
“One day I heard he was leaving Pau.” She asked him to tell her the time he was travelling to Paris; no other conversation was necessary. “The following day, I was at the station. I climbed onto the train.”
This tale is, indeed, very romantic. And, God, they looked good together:
Spoiler: Boy dies. They’re together only briefly, it’s great, they frolic by a seaside, Coco wears all of his clothing and gets the idea for a striped shirt, and then he dies.
In 1919. He died in 1919. Coco Chanel lived until 1971. I’m apt to believe that in the intervening 50 years Coco Chanel did something. And by something I mean “became a Nazi” which is perhaps why so many people like to end her story with Boy’s death.