David Cholmondeley's Best Friend Spent Some Time in Prison

Francois Marie Banier and David Cholmondeley used to party hardy with A-listers in a Parisian home they bought together.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Mar. 15 2024, Published 7:16 p.m. ET

David Cholmondeley posing for a photo at a museum in Houston
Source: Getty Images

David Cholmondeley

The controversy surrounding a potentially missing Princess of Wales has kicked up all sorts of royal dirt. One story the press and social media is revisiting is a rumor that dates back to 2019 about Prince William and Lady Rose Hanbury. Kate and Rose were friends who were part of a group of pals call the Turnip Toffs, but things changed when rumors about an affair between the Lady and the Prince started circulating. William's lawyers sent letters denying this affair various British tabloids.

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What the media often failed to acknowledge is the fact that Rose has been married since 2009 to David George Philip Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley. The couple shares three children together, but what seems to have grabbed the public's interest is Cholmondeley's friendship with Francois Marie Banier, a man with a checkered past. Here's what we know about their decades-long friendship.

David Cholmondeley and Francois Marie Banier in their younger years
Source: Getty Images

(L-R): David Cholmondeley and Francois Marie Banier

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Francois Marie Banier and David Cholmondeley's friendship began in the 1980s.

According to Vanity Fair, Francois and David have been buddies since the early 1980s though we don't know how these two crossed paths. Their friendship has grown in the years they've known each other, so much so that Francois is the godfather to David and Rose's twin sons. Before these two had settled into adulthood, they had a proper good time in Paris where they bought a house together, per Inquisitr.

Apparently the duo would constantly throw massive parties with A-list celebrity guests including Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Richard Burton, and Liz Taylor in attendance. One source told the outlet that David returned to his Parisian roots — and his best friend — when the rumors about Rose's alleged affair hit all the tabloids. "Rose is up there in Norfolk in a nice stately pile," said the snarky snitch. "She’s a pretty girl and David is often a long way away in Paris or London." Hey, sometimes you gotta get away.

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Francois Marie Banier spent nearly three years in prison for exploiting the mental frailty of the L’Oréal shampoo heiress.

Perhaps Francois welcomed his friend back with open arms because he understood what it meant to feel ostracized. In 1987, Francois was tasked with photographing then-billionaire Liliane Bettencourt, per The Guardian. She was the hair to the L’Oréal shampoo throne and immediately took a liking to the young artist despite their 25 year age difference. He was 40 to her 65.

Paul-Louis Weiller and Lillian Bettencourt attend an event in April 1985
Source: Getty Images

(L-R): Paul-Louis Weller and Lillian Bettencourt

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She piled lavish gifts on him, things that most people can only dream of. There were Picasso paintings, life insurance funds, and of course cold hard cash. Twenty years later, Bettencourt's daughter began to suspect that this unlikely friendship was really a con perpetrated by Francois to sucker her mother out of cash and other valuable assets. She took legal action against him which led to a widely publicized trial.

Francois claimed Bettencourt was of "sound mind" when she bestowed upon him gifts worth €414m (over $500 million), including life insurance policies, paintings by Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian, manuscripts and cash." However, the court was made aware of the fact that Bettencourt was "suffering from increasing dementia and, by 2011, was unable to tell what year it was." Eventually Francois was found guilty in May 2015 and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

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