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Flesh & Blood RTÉ One, Tuesday 9.30pm

Antonia Leslie

Locked out of her home at 5 years of age, Antonia Leslie looks at the impact her father's infidelity had on her own life.

This first episode of the new series of Flesh and Blood tells the fascinating story of Sunday Independent columnist Antonia Leslie's upbringing and explores the impact her father's infidelity and hedonistic existence had on her own life.

Antonia Leslie was to the manor born. A princess living in Castle Leslie, Glaslough in County Monaghan with her parents Desmond Leslie and Agnes Burnelle and her two brothers Mark and Sean. However her idyllic childhood was shattered when 5-year-old Antonia arrived home from a holiday with her mother and brothers to find that their father had locked them out of the castle.

Desmond Leslie moved his lover Helen into the castle along with the couple's two daughters while his other family were holidaying in Venice and Yugoslavia. Upon their return, there on the steps of Castle Leslie, Desmond evicted his family from their own home. When her brother Mark asked if he could retrieve his treasured train set Antonia recalls "There was a bit of ruckus between Mark and dad...if he put a foot over the doorstep he'd get a punch!"

The dramatic 'lock out' had far reaching effects on the children."I'd say it had great emotional consequences for the rest of my life," admits Antonia.

The local county council housed the family in a cottage in the village, a far cry from the luxurious surroundings they were used to. Antonia's brother Mark remembers the experience of "Antonia seeing strangers walking past the door with her dolls pram."

At 15 Antonia ran away to London, a runaway punk with a pink Mohican she lived in squats and dabbled in drugs. At 16 she lost her virginity. She phoned her mother to tell her the news, "That's great darling but where are you?" Her mother's cool response disguised the relief of knowing her child was still alive.

Antonia was then sent to Paris to become a Cordon Bleu Chef and thereafter became a 'creature of the night' on the Paris club scene. Following the break up of her first love affair, a year of one night stands followed. Antonia confesses "They were gorgeous looking men I could never remember the sex.. I'd drink so much I'd wake up in the morning and not remember it."

When Flesh and Blood reporter Mick Peelo poses the question 'who was the main man in your life?' Antonia hesitates briefly then simply says "my father!"

Using archive footage, photos and flashback sequences featuring Antonia's own daughter Lola, the Flesh and Blood team weave an intricate family history that consistently surprises and offers a unique insight into the powerful Leslie dynasty.

 

Antonia Leslie