One New York’s finer, he was born Rufus Arnold Alexis Keppel, grandson of the then 9th Earl of Albemarle on his father’s side and Count Serge Orloff-Davidoff on his mother’s side. When he was three years old, his father, whose official English title was Viscount Bury, died at age 77, with Rufus succeeding to the title. When his grandfather died in 1979 (at 97!) Rufus, at age 14, became the 10th Earl of Albemarle and eventually the youngest member of the House of Lords.
This family of Albemarles (the title died out and was revived more than once since the 11th Century) has had a prominence since the first Keppel – Arnold Joost van Keppel accompanied William, Prince of Orange to the throne of England in 1688, leading a rebellion against James II, father of his wife Mary. James II was exiled to France and William and Mary succeeded to the throne.
Arnold van Keppel, being a “favorite” of William, was given the then defunct title of Earl of Albemarle and quite a bit of land in Ireland – which was later denied him by Parliament. Arnold’s son, the 2nd Earl was the governor of the Virginia Colony in the early 18th Century, hence the prominence of the Albemarle name in the state (Charlottesville is in Albemarle County).
That said, the young Earl known as Rufus, who grew up with his Russian-born mother, mainly in Italy, came to New York in the late 1990s, as an industrial designer to seek his fortune (the Albemarles, as Rufus has described his family, are “land-rich and cash poor”). In 2000 at a wedding in Mexico, Rufus met a young sculptress named Sally Tadayon (pictured left). From the sound of it, it was love at first sight. They were married in a big international wedding in Havana, the Albemarle’s (very) old stomping ground in May 2001.
They live comfortably (if modestly for the image of an English noble) in a loft in the Chelsea/Clinton section of Manhattan, eschewing, as Rufus intended, the sleeker Upper East Side where many of their friends do live. Last year, an heir, Augustus, was born to the couple.
The Albemarles are a very popular couple in Manhattan and with the international set. On weekends, if not invited to stay with friends out of town, they, especially Sally, like to haunt the flea markets. She of the current Best Dressed List, and he, tall and handsome as laid-back a movie star (without the accompanying vanity or ego), mix well in any company and are invited everywhere. I’ve never heard of him referred to by his title here which, although it may be impressive to a certain set in New York, means nothing to the American ear anyway. Rufus seems to like it just like that and whatever long term prominence may come to him, it will likely come through his professional life.