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In the process, her work has become a fascinating barometer of social change: when Stella first started her agency in the early Sixties, newspapers refused to carry her adverts for fear of causing a scandal.

But some things remain comfortingly constant, among them people's expectations - which are, she says, on the whole, generally unrealistic.

Those Stella has helped over the years include television personalities - although Stella is resolutely declines to name them - and members of the aristocracy.

There have been hundreds of weddings and, today, in a world of speeddating and internet romance, she still has around 400 clients of all ages hoping Stella's personal touch can help find them their Mr or Miss Right.

Like the one from the widow with three children who came to see her despairing that she would find love again.

"She had watched her husband being swept out to sea and drowned, and had been devastated by it," Stella recalls. "I put her together with a local widower who had five children of his own and feared no woman would want to take him on.

Born in Farnborough, Kent, in 1924, Stella Flanders, as she was then, initially trained as a nurse.

Then, aged 24, she married Ernest Groschel, a Czech engineer 13 years older who had come to Britain to escape the war.

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