Britain’s most famous aristocratic supermodel Stella Tennant has died at the age of 50, just months after splitting from her husband.
Her family praised the mother-of-four as a ‘wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all’ in a statement which confirmed her ‘sudden death’ yesterday.
In August it was revealed Mrs Tennant had separated from her husband David Lasnet after 21 years of marriage earlier this year. The couple owned a property empire that includes a luxury mews house in Edinburgh and a stately home near her father’s estate.
Mrs Tennant was the granddaughter of Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire and Deborah Mitford, one of the well-known aristocratic siblings.
The model was known for her androgynous looks during her 1990s heyday and soon became a muse for Karl Lagerfeld, which the fashion designer attributed to her resemblance to Coco Chanel.
The news comes as another tragic blow to the fashion industry, after the loss of the legendary designer Alexander McQueen in 2010, and his mentor, magazine editor Isabella Blow in 2006; both of whom took their own lives.
Mrs Tennant’s cause of death has not yet been ascertained, and police said there are no suspicious circumstances.
There was an outpouring of grief in the wake of the news, with former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman paying tribute to, ‘One of the loveliest people to work with and an exceptional beauty. And devoted mother. ‘
Mrs Tennant is pictured at her wedding to David Lasnet at Oxnam Kirk Church in 1999. In August it was revealed Mrs Tennant had separated from her husband after 21 years of marriage earlier this year
The mother-of-four was known for her androgynous looks during her 1990s modelling heyday and soon became a muse for Karl Lagerfeld (pictured together in 2012), which the fashion designer attributed to her resemblance to Coco Chanel
Tennant appeared with her daughters Cecily and Jasmine, then aged nine and seven, for a H&M campaign in 2010
Tributes poured in for the model after the news of her death, with Victoria Beckham calling her ‘an incredible talent’
British vogue editor Edward Enninful posted a picture of Tennant gracing the cover of the fashion bible in tribute to her
Stella Tennant’s blue blood ancestry
Stella Tennant had an aristocratic heritage stretching back nearly 700 years.
Mrs Tennant’s grandparents were Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire and Deborah Mitford.
Deborah was one of six famous high society sisters who moved in the same circles as Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, Adolf Hitler and Evelyn Waugh.
The siblings – who also included Nancy, Pam, Diana, Unity and Decca – were symbols of a glamorous and raucous aristocratic lifestyle which no longer exists.
Deborah, who passed away in 2014, was the last surviving sibling.
Collectively, the sisters created more scandal than that seen in the fictional Downton Abbey.
The most controversial was Diana – Mrs Tennant’s great aunt – who married the notorious Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists.
The sisters were also prolific writers, with Nancy writing entertaining stories with characters which were based on her own family.
The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate were her most popular novels.
As for Mrs Tennant’s grandfather the Duke of Devonshire.
As a Cavendish, he was a member of one of England’s noble houses which was founded in the 14th-Century.
The Duke, who died in 2004, served as a minister in the Conservative governments of Sir Alec Douglas Home and Harold Macmillan.
Her first shoot made the cover of British Vogue in 1993, and at the end of that day’s work she was asked to do a Versace campaign in Paris, which ended up as the cover of the Italian edition.
Mrs Tennant died five days after her 50th birthday on December 17. Her family said today: ‘It is with great sadness we announce the sudden death of Stella Tennant on December 22, 2020. Stella was a wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all.
‘She will be greatly missed. Her family ask for their privacy to be respected. Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced at a later date.’
Fashion designer Stella McCartney led the tributes pouring in online for Mrs Tennant, writing: ‘My darling Stella, I f****** love you and will miss you so, so terribly. What sad, horrific news to end this already shocking year!
‘My heart goes out to your stunning family who must be in such undeserving pain. I am speechless… Rest in peace, you inspiring woman. Your soul and inner beauty exceeded the external perfection, Stella. May you ride high above us all on the most perfect horse, eternally in peace.’
Elsewhere, British Vogue Editor-In-Chief Edward Enninful wrote: ‘R.I.P kind and wonderful Stella. My thoughts and prayers are with your family.’
Former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman wrote: ‘So sad to hear the news of Stella Tennant’s death. One of the loveliest people to work with and an exceptional beauty. And devoted mother. Tragic for all of the man people who loved her. ‘
Photographer Josh Olins, who photographed the Duchess of Cambridge for the Vogue Centenary cover in 2016, posted on Instagram a portrait of Stella Tennant and recalled: ‘I took this portrait of Stella Tennant in Scotland as part of a story for Holiday Magazine.
‘We shared a pint of Guinness and took a few portraits and chatted like friends even though we had only worked together a few times.
‘She was a kind and generous person and a true professional. I’m very saddened to hear the news of her untimely passing. My heart goes out to her family and friends.’
Leading casting director Russell Marsh posted a behind-the-scenes photo of the model eating an apple and wrote: ‘Dearest Stella RIP Heartbreaking news. You will be greatly missed.’
Princess Diana’s hairdresser Sam McKnight posted on Instagram: ‘Stella!!!! Totally unique and universally loved. I’ll cherish the times we had together. My heart goes out to your family, [followed by three hearts].
Make-up artist Kay Montano wrote: ‘I can’t bear posting you in past tense Stella… Unbelievable news of this lovely woman’s sudden passing. Stella was loved by everyone who met and worked with her.
‘A rare and individual beauty, adjusted, clever, fun, gracious – kind of perfect if there is such a thing. Bless you, Stella. may you rest in sweet peace’.
Mrs Tennant with British Vogue’s Editor-In-Chief Edward Enninful on November 7, 2017, in London, left, and right, at The Fashion Awards 2019 held at Royal Albert Hall on December 2, 2019 in London
Mrs Tennant appeared in numerous advertising campaigns, including Calvin Klein, Chanel, Hermes, and Burberry. Pictured, Mrs Tennant kisses Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace after the presentation of his 1997-98 fall-winter collection, in Paris
The Scottish art graduate who tore up the fashion rule book and became a muse for Karl Lagerfeld, Versace AND Tom Ford – but shunned the showbiz world
Stella Tennant walks with designer Karl Lagerfeld during the Metiers D’Art Show for Chanel fashion house in Paris December 6, 2011
By Amie Gordon for MailOnline
In an era where heroin chic occupied the catwalks and the ‘Supers’ reigned supreme, Stella Tennant took the fashion world by storm, tearing up the rulebook with her androgynous features and devil-may-care attitude.
Tennant had just finished a degree course at the Winchester School of Art after British boarding school Marlborough College, with a view to becoming a sculptor, when she went along to a shoot for American Vogue photographer Steven Meisel.
The Scottish art student sashayed into the room in 1993 aged 23, with a ring through her septum which she refused to remove.
With her lithe 5ft 11in frame, chiselled cheekbones and waspish features, her stubbornness won over Meisel and he took her to Paris the following day for another shoot.
Though she was hesitant to become a model and initially turned down an offer to join an agency, an agency booker eventually won her over, cementing her place as one of the hottest models in demand.
She went on to walk the runway for designers including Versace and Alexander McQueen and grace the cover of fashion bible Vogue.
The granddaughter of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, Andrew Cavendish, and Deborah Mitford, Tennant rose to fame in the 1990s, posing for magazines including French, British and Italian Vogue as well as Harper’s Bazaar.
In the late 90s, Karl Lagerfeld announced Tennant as the new face of Chanel, with an exclusive modelling contract, and became a muse for the fashion designer, which he attributed to her resemblance to Coco Chanel.
Mrs Tennant also appeared in numerous advertising campaigns, including Calvin Klein, Chanel, Hermes, and Burberry and became a clothes horse for the likes of Tom Ford.
In 2011, there was a backlash when Tennant appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia, with ‘Avant-Garde’-themed styling in an ode to Ethel Granger, a lover of corsets and facial piercings who tightened her midriff into epically tiny proportions.
Photographed once again by Steven Meisel, Tennant donned a dark Prada gabardine coat and a gypsy-style nose ring, with her waist cinched to just 13-inches.
The shoot had a Tim Burton-style darkness about it but her miniscule waist raised eyebrows, with critics arguing it was glorifying a skinny body.
Tennant retired from the fashion industry in 1998, returning on a part-time basis to shoot clothing campaigns and appear on the runway.
In June 2012, Mrs Tennant was inducted as Model of the Year in the Scottish Fashion Awards Hall of Fame.
She was among models representing the British fashion industry during the closing ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, on the final day of the London 2012 Olympics.
She married French-born photographer David Lasnet in the small parish church of Oxnam in the Scottish Borders in 1999. They had four children together.
After attending school at St Leonards in St Andrews, Mrs Tennant caught the attention of photographers Steven Meisel and Bruce Weber – thanks to her 5ft 11 frame and chiselled features.
In 1993, aged 23, Mrs Tennant broke into modelling, posing for magazines such as French, British and Italian Vogue as well as Harper’s Bazaar.
In the late 90s, Karl Lagerfeld announced Mrs Tennant as the new face of Chanel, with an exclusive modelling contract, and became a muse for the fashion designer, which he attributed to her resemblance to Coco Chanel.
Mrs Tennant also appeared in numerous advertising campaigns, including Calvin Klein, Chanel, Hermes, and Burberry.
In 1993, aged 23, Mrs Tennant broke into modelling, posing for magazines such as French, British and Italian Vogue as well as Harper’s Bazaar. Pictured: Mrs Tennant in 2003, left, and right, with fashion designer Stella McCartney during a party in London to celebrate the December issue of British Vogue in November 2017
Alexandra Shulman, Mrs Tennant, Vivienne Westwood and Sam McKnight pictured together in London in November 2016
Fashion house Versace tweeted, alongside a 1996 photo of Mrs Tennant by Richard Avedon: ‘Versace is mourning the death of #StellaTennant. Stella was Gianni Versace’s muse for many years and friend of the family. We will miss you forever Stella. Rest In Peace. Stella Tennant for Atelier Versace SS 1996, ph. Richard Avedon
And i-D fashion magazine said on Twitter: ‘Everyone at i-D is devastated to hear of the passing of Stella Tennant, a true original who appeared on our own cover, and those of many other magazines, more times than we can count. Our thoughts are with Stella’s family and friends at this time. #StellaTennant’
She was among models representing the British fashion industry during the closing ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, on the final day of the London 2012 Olympics. In the same year, she was inducted as Model of the Year in the Scottish Fashion Awards Hall of Fame.
Mrs Tennant met her husband Mr Lasnet while at the height of her fame, when he was a French photographer assigned to a New York shoot with her.
After a high-profile society wedding, they lived together near her parents’ sprawling 16th century estate in the Scottish Borders. Mr Lasnet became an osteopath, and the couple went on to have four children, now aged between 15 and 22.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: ‘Officers were called to an address in Duns around 11.30am on Tuesday, December 22 following the sudden death of a 50-year-old woman.
‘Her next of kin have been made aware. There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.’
Mrs Tennant with her father Toby Tennant on her wedding day at Oxnam Kirk Church in 1999, pictured left, and seen right, during a catwalk run
Mrs Tennant was the granddaughter of Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire and Deborah Mitford (pictured), one of the well-known aristocratic siblings