Wednesday, 27 July 2011
7th Lord Bath ... Eccentric Aristocrat ? ... or ... Outrageous Psychadelic "Pasha"?
Alexander George Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath (born 6 May 1932), styled Viscount Weymouth between 1946 and 1992, is an English politician, artist and author. He was born with the surname Thynne but adopted the spelling Thynn in 1976.
Although born in London, he grew up at his family's seat, Longleat, a great Elizabethan house set in Wiltshire parkland landscaped in the 18th century by Capability Brown. After attending Ludgrove School and Eton College he was commissioned into the Life Guards as a lieutenant in 1951. He was then educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and travelled across Europe. Realising the strength in diversity amongst people he grew to believe that Wessex would be better off as a devolved region within the United Kingdom and stood in the February 1974 General Election as a Wessex Regionalist. Shortly after the election he was one of the founders of the Wessex Regionalist Party. He stood for the party in the first ever elections to the European Parliament in 1979.
He has written several novels and after inheriting the Marquessate of Bath from his father in 1992 sat in the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat. Amongst other things he spoke on the need for devolution for the regions of England, until he lost his place in the House of Lords after the Labour Government's reforms excluded most of the hereditary peers.
Lord Bath is known for his polyamorous lifestyle with "wifelets". In 1969 he married Hungarian born Anna Gael Gyarmathy, by whom he has two children, Lady Lenka Thynn and Ceawlin Thynn, Viscount Weymouth (pronounced 'Cee aww lin') who were sent to the local comprehensive school. After his father's death, he sacked Christopher, his brother, as estate comptroller and evicted him from his home.
He is known for his colourful style of dress which originated from a period as an art student in Paris during the 1950s, and is a prolific amateur painter who has decorated rooms of his home with erotic scenes from the Kama Sutra among other sources of inspiration. In March 2009, he appeared in 'Heston's Roman Feast'.
He is ranked 359th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2009, with an estimated wealth of £157 million. The peer passed the management of the business to his son Viscount Weymouth early in 2010. By one account, the present Viscount intends to evict the wifelets from their estate cottages, and possibly even remove his Lordship's murals.
A book by Nesta Wyn Ellis on the Marquess, initially written with his co-operation, was published in the autumn of 2010.
Lord Bath's autobiography, collectively called 'Strictly Private to Public Exposure', was published as a series by Artnik Books and has been acquired by Top Spot Publishing
Loveless lord of Longleat
Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, has a wife, two children, more than 70 girlfriends, immense personal wealth and his own lions. But has he missed out on something? 'Yes, I have,' he says, 'And it's too late now,' he tells Gyles Brandreth
20 Nov 2002 in The Telegraph
"My first erotic fantasy was inspired by Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies, which my mother read to me. I must have been four or five at the time. Won't you have some more pheasant?"
I am taking lunch with Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, descendant of Tacitus and Charlemagne, in the palatial penthouse at Longleat in Wiltshire, England's oldest unfortified stately home. He speaks a little hesitantly, in a light, husky, fluting voice.
"There was a girl in the fantasy with me. A real girl. Her name was Susan. She was about six, I think. She had long blonde hair. We met having swimming lessons in Bath. Are you sure you won't have some wine? It's rather good."
The Marquess, who turned 70 in May, is fabulously rich. As well as the 10,000 rolling acres of Longleat (where business is booming: there has been been a record number of visitors this year), he has a handsome flat in Notting Hill Gate and a fine estate in the south of France, which is where he grows the wine he is drinking now.
"Naked, Susan and I swam the high seas together, along with a string of other little girls, all of us trying to evade the nets of the adults who were fishing for us from above in boats.
"The adults, of course, wanted to eat us, but first they packed us into tins like sardines. I was always packed next to Susan. Cheese? Fruit? We haven't got anything sweet because I'm a diabetic."
Lord Bath, tall, broad and grizzled, looks well, if a touch ridiculous. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford (he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and got a Third); he served in the Life Guards; but his distinctive sartorial style he established as an art student in Paris in the 1950s.
Today he is wearing a floral waistcoat, mauve velvet trews and tan-coloured shoes, the toe-caps of which have been chewed off overnight by his labrador, Boadicea.
"Thanks to my ingenuity, we would always escape from the sardine tin and plunge back into the sea. Being the leader of the band, I swam at the head of the chain and the one immediately behind me was inevitably Susan, who grasped me between the legs by the most convenient handle. And so linked, we swam together, idyllically, for days and nights on end."
Lord Bath blinks back a tear and softly smacks his lips. He has pink cheeks and the look of Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas. He is nostalgic, sentimental and romantic, and he likes talking about sex. This is fortunate since, in many ways, it is his sex life that defines him.
He is celebrated (or notorious, depending on your viewpoint) as the eccentric muralist whose bedroom walls are covered with scenes from the Kama Sutra ("I painted them in '69," he says, cheerily, "a fortuitous year given the subject matter") and as the campaigning peer who preaches and practises polygyny.
"It's catching on, slowly," he tells me, adding by way of explanation: "A polygamist has more than one wife; a polygynist has more than one mate." Lord Bath acknowledges a current total of 73.
He used to call them "wifelets". To me he calls them girlfriends. Over the years they have come in all shapes and shades: a black model, a Chinese artist, a 17-year-old from Sri Lanka, a Wessex housewife.
He has executed three-dimensional portraits (in sawdust and oils) of every one of them. They are fixed to the walls of a spiral staircase (affectionately known as Bluebeard's Gallery) just off the kitchen, with the date he met each girl to the left of her face, and the date of painting to the right. "You can tell which were my active years."
Lord Bath is proud of his sexual prowess and of his painting. He has been busy in both areas, but he hopes his ultimate claim to fame will be as a writer. We are meeting to mark the launch of what he calls his "magnum opus": his memoirs.
"I have written six million words so far. That takes the story to 1990." Volume one, A Plateful of Privilege: The Early Years, is published by Artnik at the end of this month; it takes us, however, no further than his prep school.
I have read it: it is fascinating, elegantly written and extraordinarily intimate. Pre-pubescent Alexander's close encounters with his nanny, his nurse, his sister Cal, his sister's governess, his cousin Sal, to name but a few, are recounted in gripping detail.
The bedside game he played with a young nurse he nicknamed Fuchsia (after a flower fairy in a favourite book) when, aged six, he was a patient awaiting a mastoid operation at Bath general hospital, has to be read to be believed.
The book isn't just about sex. It is also (and this is its strength) a beautifully observed evocation of the lives of the English aristocracy in the 1930s and a telling portrait of an unusual upbringing in a now-vanished world. His relationship with his parents was not easy. What were they like?
"My father, Henry, the 6th Marquess, was the man who introduced the lions to Longleat and held the teddy bears' picnics here. He was a pioneer of the stately home as a visitor attraction.
"That is his legacy. He was considered a charmer by the women of his generation, but to me he was a disciplinarian, unbending and ungiving.
"He never once said anything encouraging about my murals. He humiliated me by appointing my younger brother, Christopher, to run the house. The loss of face was intolerable.
"When my father died, 10 years ago, aged 87, the first thing I did was tell Christopher to leave. It was an acrimonious parting, but essential. My father condemned us to a life of enmity. Six volumes of my memoirs are devoted to sibling rivalry.
"My mother, Daphne, daughter of Lord Vivian, had great warmth when I first knew her. She had vitality. She always made the party go with a swing. It was she who encouraged me towards the arts, though I believe she told her friends later that she regretted it. She died in 1997."
Were his parents happy together?
"Until the war, yes, but during the war, when my father was away, my mother was unfaithful, repeatedly. I did this terrible thing when he came home on leave. I don't think I meant to be malicious. I was just mischievous.
"I said to him, 'Papa, there's an awful lot of new men you've got to meet.' He wasn't amused. And after that he started having girlfriends.
"My parents were monogamists and serial adulterers. They cheated on their ideal. Seeing their example, I preferred to have a different ideal, one I wouldn't cheat on. And my childhood fantasy - swimming along with a string of girls - suggests to me that, regardless of my parents, I inclined towards polygyny from a very early age."
"But you are married?" I say.
"Yes," he nods. "I got married when I was . . ." He hesitates. "The year was . . ." He's lost. "1959," he says, at last, then he pauses and ponders. "Wait a minute . . . it was 10 years later, wasn't it?"
It was. He married Hungarian-born Anna Gael, then an actress, now a writer, in 1969. They have a daughter and a son: Lenka, 33, and Lord Bath's heir, Ceawlin, Viscount Weymouth, 28. Does his own marriage work?
"Yes," he says, emphatically. "Anna and I quarrel, but I appreciate the stability she has given the children. She watches over them. She lives in France mostly, but she comes to England one week in four."
There is clearly some tension in the relationship. Lady Bath has vetoed the publication of the volumes of her husband's memoirs that detail their relationship. "At least during her lifetime," he says, with regret.
He accepts, reluctantly, that he may not be easy to live with. "Anna doesn't like it when we are having Sunday lunch and I let the visitors troop through the dining-room. She thinks we should eat in private. I think, if the paying public want to see my murals, they should be allowed to do so."
Lord Bath tells me his wife has always tolerated his polygyny. He is anxious that I should know he approaches his romantic life as a gentleman.
"It's very rare that I've seduced anybody's wife," he tells me. "And if infidelity does occur, it should always be done tactfully, so that it doesn't offend anybody's pride. I don't want anyone to be hurt or lose face."
What about jealousy between girlfriends? I assume he doesn't ever have two of them simultaneously under the same roof.
He flushes. He is not embarrassed. He is excited. "Well," he says, softly, "I might."
"Doesn't that cause problems?" I ask.
"Oh, no," he purrs, warming to the theme. "Hopefully they might even fancy each other."
Realising (not without a twinge of envy) that I am way out of my depth here, I bring the conversation back to his children. What do they make of his domestic arrangements?
"I regard myself as a pioneer, as an experimenter, but I am afraid my children felt it was an intrusion on their lives having me bring my girlfriends home. Ceawlin has always been better at coping with it than Lenka, but, over the years, they have both shown their disapproval by not being as polite to my girlfriends as I would have liked.
"Lenka has always been more critical. She's fiercer. She'd say she's never been overtly rude, but sometimes . . ." He sighs.
Ceawlin and Lenka are the only children Lord Bath lists in the latest edition of Debrett's People of Today, but I understand he has a third. "Yes," he says, hesitating, "another daughter."
"And what is she called?" I ask. "I can't really say," he says, unhappily, "Her mother wouldn't like it."
"Can I ask how old she is?" I persist. "My daughter? She's three." He grins, proudly.
"Congratulations," I say, "Are you enjoying being a father all over again?"
"No," he says, firmly. "I don't see my daughter and her mother as much as I would wish. Lots more needs to be done so they bring me into their lives. I hope it will happen. This is part of the experiment on which more work is required."
It suddenly occurs to me that Lord Bath is rather lonely. He has a kindly couple who look after him, beautiful labradors yapping at his heels, at least two girlfriends in the village, he assures me; but his family is missing.
Cal, his favourite sister, is dead; Val, his favourite brother, committed suicide; and he is estranged from his remaining brother, Christopher. "He avoids me at parties," he says. And it's evident that his wife and children are not as close to him as he would like.
Alexander Thynn is a gifted and original individual. He acknowledges that his wealth and position have made it possible for him to live his life the way he does. He has had a lot of fun along the way (as well as the occasional visit to the clap clinic); and the girlfriends of his that I have met have all regarded him with affection (he is both a vain old goat and a sweet old darling). But, I wonder, has he had much love?
"What happens," I ask, "when one of your girlfriends begins to fall in love with you?"
His answer quite shocks me: "I don't let it get that far," he says. "I recognise the symptoms and nudge her carefully in a different direction."
Does he think he might have missed out on something in his life?
He stares into his goblet of wine, then he looks me straight in the eye. "Have I missed out on the pairing with a soulmate?"
He hesitates, then, with a wan smile and poppy, shining eyes, he says: "Yes. Yes I have. And yes, since you ask, which I don't think anyone has before, I do think it would have been nice to have had that experience. But I haven't. And it's too late now."
So, there you are: Lord Bath is richer than us, and poorer too.
The Marquess of Bath: the old lion abandons his pride
One of England's great hedonists stands accused of being as ruthless a businessman as any other, reveals William Langley.
The Marquess of Bath at Longleat House, Wiltshire Photo: Rex Features
By William Langley
27 Nov 2010 in The Telegraph
Earlier this year, with the approach of his 78th birthday, the Marquess of Bath announced that he would be stepping down from the business of running Longleat, his family's 500-year-old stately pile in Wiltshire.
It would be nice to record that the lions, slumbering in the grounds of the attached safari park, arose and howled in beastly tribute, that the erotic murals with which the Marquess has redecorated his classical interiors shrank demurely back into their ancient plaster, and that the bizarre collection of kept women he calls his "wifelets" fell to their knees as one, begging the old boy not to go. In fact, hardly anybody noticed. Gradually handing the dynastic bean-counting on to his son Ceawlin, Viscount Weymouth, has been probably one of the more conventional things Lord Bath has ever done.
It was only last week that events at Longleat began to assume a familiarly troublesome flavour. More than two dozen of the staff, all aged 65 or over, were told that they were losing their jobs. Among those getting the lordly boot were tour guides, ticket sellers, gardeners and cleaners. Several were in their seventies, like the Marquess, and at least two in their eighties.
Many had been employed at Longleat for decades, and the sense of outrage was felt far beyond its velvety expanses. Not least because persuading people to work for as long as possible is one of the prime aims of a government with no money to pay their pension bills, and, within a year, the practice of sacking anyone on the basis of age will become illegal.
Yet the Longleat lay-offs raised the further question of just how much of a national treasure the high-living, hard-wenching, proud-to-be-different 7th Marquess really is. For at least 40 years, Alexander George Thynn – swaddled in velvet kaftans and his own peculiar preoccupations – has been receiving warm notices for his role as a throwback to the merry nobles of yore.
Except that behind the gates at Longleat, he wasn't really merry at all. Or even very different. In her biography, Lord of Love – written with the Marquess's co-operation (although he later rescinded it) and published earlier this year – Nesta Wyn Ellis paints a poignant picture of a confused oddball, torn between his obligations and desires, and burdened with a traumatic upbringing that left him "unsure what love is".
Sex has, indeed, played a huge part in his life, with women, as Ellis puts it, "positively swarming to share his bed". And why not? The young Thynn was solid and handsome, Oxford-educated with the dash of a former Guards officer and an eagerness to vault social boundaries. "A woman on either side of him in bed every night was a basic requirement," she writes. Perhaps his mistake was to turn promiscuity into an ideology, in the form of a "sort of commune of happily existing mothers and babies" exclusively beholden to himself.
So came about the phenomenon of the "wifelets" – more than 70 of them at peak times – who orbited Longleat, competing for his lordship's favours. To the average bloke, struggling even for a chat-up line, it might sound like an unbeatable deal. But like most such deals, there are catches, and the main catch in this chaotic ménage was that affection appeared to be entirely absent.
The women appeared to loathe each other – "jealousy is rampant", reported Ellis – with the atmosphere prone to turn particularly ugly whenever two or more of them were in proximity. At Bath's grand villa in the south of France, the author witnessed "a sense of repressed hatred", with the wifelets stealing each other's clothes and goodies, and, on one occasion, resorting to violence that necessitated a visit from the gendarmerie. Lady Bath, the Hungarian-born actress Anna Gael, whom Alexander married in 1969, isn't too thrilled, either. She lives in Paris for most of the year, visiting Longleat only on condition that the wifelets are absent.
For his part, the great roué snores like a dustbin rolling down the road, serves his guests cheap wine from supermarket boxes and, while in France, refuses to dine out on the grounds that the food will be "too French". He calls himself a "pioneer" and "experimenter", but the bulk of his energies have gone into the traditional business of guarding the family silver.
Such are the follies of the aristocracy, and while we can only wonder what the founding Thynns – an upstanding breed of soldiers, courtiers and diplomats – would make of the present Marquess's lifestyle, it's hard to argue that it hurts anyone but himself.
Except that the hurt was almost certainly done before he came on the scene. His late father "Harry" Bath, the 6th Marquess, was a storybook monster who hero-worshipped Hitler and, while desperate for money, hit upon the idea of turning his grounds into a safari park.
Old Harry's favourite expression was "Put them up against the wall", and his no-nonsense approach to discipline was enthusiastically honed on his children. "I was at home once, bathing my dog," Alexander has recalled, "and some water splashed on the floor. My father ordered me to his study where he beat me with a riding crop. It was totally unjust and I was humiliated. So I just withdrew."
His mother was the society beauty Daphne Vivian, of whom Evelyn Waugh wrote: "Daphne has written her memoirs. Contrary to what one might have expected, they are marred by discretion and good taste." She was chronically unfaithful, and the inevitable divorce left further scars on their eldest son.
It doesn't take a psychologist to deduce that Lord Bath saw, in his mother's infidelity, evidence that all women are easy and, in his father's brutality, proof of the fallacy of love. From such certainties he has fashioned his strange life. It's one full of frailties and doubts – yet one that has given him and his son the confidence to declare that if the master has to give up work at a certain age, so should the serfs.
Marquess of Bath hands Longleat to his son
The flamboyant 7th Marquess of Bath is to hand down the firm that owns his Longleat safari park, to his son, Ceawlin, Viscount Weymouth.
By Richard Savill
12 Mar 2010 in The Telegraph
Lord Bath has run Longleat Enterprises, which also includes the Cheddar caves tourist attraction, since he inherited the estate from his father, the 6th Marquess, 18 years ago.
He is to continue to live in Longleat House, Wilts, and will remain active in some areas of the business, but he said it was "the right time for me to retire to my chair and slippers and watch as Ceawlin brings new life into this very special place.
“Longleat is very much my home and I'm looking forward to a future where I can sit back and let Ceawlin do the work!"
Lord Bath, 77, is 359th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2009 with an estimated wealth of £157 million.
When his father, the 6th Marquess, opened the safari park more than 40 years ago, local residents were so alarmed that questions were asked in the Houses of Parliament.
07 Nov 2010
There were fears of lions escaping into the countryside and newspapers expressed concern about "a quite gratuitous and unnecessary risk to life".
But the 6th Marquess ignored the furore and opened the park, allowing curious visitors to get close to wild animals previously only seen in zoos in Britain.
The success of the enterprise under the mural-painting 7th Marquess has been attributed not only to his energy, but also to his bohemian image. His series of mistresses, or "wifelets" as he has called them, and his colourful style of dress, has ensured publicity.
His 35-year-old son, Viscount Weymouth, yesterday paid tribute to his parents stewardship of Longleat.
He said: "Longleat and Cheddar Caves are among the top tourist attractions in the UK and it is my hope that I may follow on in the footsteps of my remarkable father and take both attractions very firmly forward."
Ceawlin Henry Lazlo Thynn, who is named after a Dark Ages king of Wessex, uses his father's subsidiary title, Viscount Weymouth, as his courtesy title.
As a teenager he cleaned the lavatories at Oscars Nightclub on the Longleat estate to earn his pocket money and attended a local comprehensive school on the insistence of his father.
However, he used his trust fund to pay for his own private sixth form education at Bedales School, Hants, before being expelled after a year for smoking cannabis.
The property developer was recently fined £250 and ordered to pay more than £1,000 costs, for annoying neighbours by playing loud music and operating an antique printing press in his flat in Notting Hill, west London, at 4am.
He blamed the incident on partial deafness caused after surviving a terrorist bomb blast 14 years ago in a hotel in India, which killed 17 people, including his girlfriend and best friend.
His lawyer told the court he normally made a positive contribution to society and he had received praise from police after chasing off a mugger attacking two people in the street.
Hugh Cornwell, director of the part of the company which owns the Cheddar caves, praised Lord Bath's stewardship of Longleat.
"I know that both at Longleat and Cheddar it is a far stronger business than when he took over," he said.
"Visitor numbers grew from about 4,000 to 7,000 a year and that enabled him to do all sorts of renovation on the fabric of Longleat House."
Ceawlin Thynn interview: It was a different normality, says the young lion of Longleat
Ceawlin Thynn, heir to the 7th Marquess of Bath, has just taken over running the estate. He tells Jasper Gerard about his radical plans for it and his extraordinary upbringing .in The Telegraph
Those huge, bulging eyes are unmistakable. So, too, the informality (to even the most junior employee he is “Ceawlin”, pronounced See-aw-lin, rather than Lord Weymouth). Oh, and when my invitation to lunch at Longleat turns out to be a sarnie in a cellophane wrapper from the tourist café, there can be little doubt he is fit to inherit the title of Britain’s least stuffy aristocrat.
But there the similarities with papa seem to end. While the marquess, also known as the “Loins of Longleat”, keeps an estimated 75 “wifelets”, the viscount remains unmarried (though perhaps for appearance’s sake he has been accused, wrongly it now transpires, of fathering a daughter out of wedlock).
While the father favours a wardrobe of velvet kaftans and colourful fezzes the son appears in an elegant grey suit. And while the great Lothario spends his declining days painting over Longleat’s 18th century wallpaper with erotica, his heir is busy working with Hollywood designers to turn the house and safari park into one of Europe’s most commercially successful visitor attractions.
Oh, and while Lord B was a Liberal Democrat peer until he was shooed out of the reformed Upper Chamber, Lord W is a Cameron supporter who admits to “political ambitions”.
Childhood, I venture to Ceawlin (an ancient Wessex name) must have been unimaginably bizarre. He smiles nervously, replying: “When you are in that environment it is absolutely normal.”
He attended the village primary school where friends would invite him to homes he found “rather different”, like the “attire” of their fathers. But, he concludes, back at the stately home he would content himself that Longleat possessed a “different normality”; friends would walk a dog on a lead, he a baby tiger. It is, in every sense, an animalistic place. “From my bedroom,”
he reflects, “I can hear lions roar and wolves cry.”
Surely, as he matured, the abnormality dawned, what with one kind of bull elephant in the boudoir and another in the garden?
“I didn’t lie awake at night when I was 13 worrying about it,” he says loyally of his old man. “I rather treasured his eccentricity.” Perhaps this is the forgiving perspective of a man, 36, whose father is gravely ill.
Once he was quoted saying that he “blanked” the “wifelets” and that he gave up arguing with his father “long before I reached the age where it would have been remotely cerebral.”
“Dad”, a devout believer in equality for others, sent his son to a comprehensive, but aged 16, Ceawlin dipped into his trust fund and, to Lord Bath’s rage, decamped to Bedales.
Surrounded by permissiveness, was running away to public school the only defiance left to him? “It wasn’t about rebellion, it was about expanding horizons,” he insists.
Still, gaining acceptance at a comp must have been tricky for the future 8th Marquess: “Children love working out how to niggle and the early things were about Longleat, but within a fortnight it was all settled.”
He seems almost supernaturally balanced given his upbringing. “I’ve had wilder periods of my life but my main mission is to build solid platforms,” he says, by which I think he means the safe inheritance of Longleat and developing other businesses.
Wilder moments included expulsion from Bedales for smoking cannabis, opening a nightclub called Debbie Does Dallas, being prosecuted for playing loud music and moving to the Himalayas.
Visiting Delhi in 1996 he suffered a life-changing catastrophe, the one event he declines to discuss, when his girlfriend and his best friend were killed in a terrorist explosion; Lord Weymouth was finally dragged from the rubble and, it seems, the haze of hippydom.
He became a successful property mogul and built Wombats, an international chain of hostels. Now he looks every inch the eligible aristocrat, with 10,000 acres, one of Britain’s finest Elizabethan houses and a family piggy bank estimated at £157 million.
He drives a zebra-painted Land Rover, proudly pointing out new attractions (elephant sanctuary, monkey enclosure and, fittingly, magnificent new lions).
Is he under pressure to produce an heir? “I’m seeing someone but I’m not married. Pressure is too strong a word, but that is a Rubicon that needs to be crossed”: a curious phrase, a reflection perhaps of the five centuries of tradition weighing on his shoulders.
He was accused of fathering a girl in 2008 with a mystery Russian woman after a brief romance but says now “it turns out she’s not mine”.
Has Lord Bath interfered in his running of Longleat? “He has given me some sage pointers but my father is a big man,” Lord Weymouth answers. “He doesn’t suffer from that old bull/young bull neurosis.”
When the son recently opened a new “Jungle Kingdom” he asked the marquess to cut the ribbon: “He stole the show, and long may that continue.”
While “Dad very much enjoyed being in public life” his son will only talk to the fourth estate to promote his estate, and then only about once a decade. He is promoting his new enclosures and expanded drive-through safari park, the world’s first outside Africa when opened by his grandfather in 1966. Was it daunting, taking over? “Not really, I was always cognisant it was coming,” he enunciates carefully. “I don’t understand people saying 'it’s such hard work’; it’s an amazing privilege.”
He concedes that there is tension between heritage and commerce and says he strives for balance.
But his passion appears to be commerce, driving down to Longleat to work then returning to London most nights.
There is talk of “leveraging the brand” and even of opening “Longleats” across Europe. At one point he says: “Our core clientele, frankly, are children.”
He has hired a “CEO” from Legoland as well as an American builder of Hollywood film sets, including Titanic. Said builder swings by and announces that when creating an attraction Stateside “I just blow and go”, while Longleat will keep him busy for three years. New barns and enclosures are springing up, literally, overnight.
“My ancestors would likely be horrified, but only because they wouldn’t understand the realities,” says Lord Weymouth. But arguably he is maintaining the family tradition. When the 6th Marquess, an enthusiast for Nazi memorabilia, opened his gates to the proles to pay crippling death duties, other toffs were shocked – but quickly followed.
Lord Weymouth reveals that there is now a group of entrepreneurial aristos who visit each other’s houses and host “return matches” to share tips on exploiting their heritage. Country houses now must offer more than scones and Earl Grey.
“I don’t resent tourists at all,” he says. “They’ve always been an integral part of life here. There are private apartments.” Indeed, he hopes to attract more with his Jungle Kingdom and Monkey Temple. Monkeys have been a favourite of his since childhood when they “ripped the wipers off Dad’s car”. The Jungle Kingdom has been well done, and unlike a conventional zoo, strange creatures hop about without cages.
“This is the only meerkat walk in the world,” he says, and I don’t doubt him. A male coati, he announces, has been “done” which seems like one law for humans and another for animals. Yet their homes look suitably baronial: a 50-year-old silverback gorilla even enjoys Sky TV.
Leaving Longleat I gaze down at the exquisite house across Capability Brown parkland, set off jauntily by giraffes; but also at the coaches and cottages, some occupied by “wifelets”. It’s a monumental inheritance, but not one I envy.
Voracious: The Marquess of Bath with wifelet
The loins of Longleat
THE MARQUESS OF BATH: LORD OF LOVE BY NESTA WYN ELLIS (Dynasty Press £13.99)
By Roger Lewis
5th November 2010 in Daily Mail
How splendid to think that in our dour, politically-correct and buttoned-up world there exists still a carousing mad aristocrat, dedicated to wenching and revelling.
Alexander, the 7th Marquess of Bath, seems to have stepped out of a drawing by Hogarth. He wears bizarre multi-coloured velvet kaftans and tasselled fezes, leotards and capes. He lives on the 10,000-acre Longleat estate and has a personal fortune of £157 million.
But his most splendidly rakish element is his attitude to women.
Lord Bath is ‘positively swarming with women who are queuing up to share his bed’, Nesta Wyn Ellis informs us in this brilliant biography, which has the complex richness of an Iris Murdoch novel.
‘A woman on either side of him in bed’ every night is a basic requirement. Lord Bath has 75 official mistresses, known as the wifelets, who live in cottages dotted around Longleat’s safari park.
The ‘free-love free-for-all’ sounds like Paradise. Of course, the reverse is the case.
Ellis has done her research in the harem, and the reality is that the wifelets are ‘far from happy in each other’s company’. Though Lord Bath had hoped ‘to create a sort of commune of happily existing mothers and babies’, with the latter exclusively fathered by himself, in practice ‘jealousy is rampant’ and there is always a particularly nasty atmosphere when ‘an ex-wifelet encounters a newer model’. Also, Lord Bath ‘has a low sperm count’, though that surely is a blessing.
Ellis witnessed outrageous scenes in the South of France, where she went to stay at Lord Bath’s summer villa. The wifelets were stealing each other’s clothes, hiding fresh fruit from each other and the atmosphere was ‘intensely claustrophobic’.
Between three wifelets there was ‘a sense of repressed hatred’ which turned violent and the police were called. His Lordship, meanwhile, was out on the terrace, using a hand mirror while painting a self-portrait.
It is Ellis’s theory that far from being irritated or embarrassed by the dramas, Lord Bath ‘actively encourages’ the internecine squabbles. It arouses him to think he is being fought over. ‘He lets it go on as if he’s enjoying it. By doing nothing to stop it, he’s encouraging the Rottweilers to attack the others.’
By these means, Lord Bath is a monster of selfish passivity and manipulation. Ellis, her patience snapping, says Lord Bath has never shown true respect for women, and that the very word ‘wifelet’ is demeaning and squalid, with its overtones of concubine or tart.
The Marquess outside Longleat House: but if invited, don't expect a lavish country house weekend
What it all boils down to, in effect, is that women have to be ‘sexual playthings, they should be focused on Alexander in company, and they should flatter him by showing jealousy of other women who may be considered rivals for his attention’.
This is pretty antediluvian. What are Germaine Greer’s views?
Lord Bath recruits his wifelets, ‘former glamour girls, actresses, singers and aspiring models’, at book launches and PR parties in London.
Lord Bath is now 78, deaf and snores, but this didn’t stop him from attempting to chat up Scary Spice, who visited Longleat on a purely platonic basis - so platonic, indeed, that she left during the night, her virtue intact.
If you receive an invitation, don’t expect a lavish country house weekend. Lord Bath is so mean he serves his guests boxed plonk that tastes of ‘horse’s urine’. His preference is for tinned food and ‘ancient deep-frozen stuff from his freezer’. In France he refuses to eat out because the place is ‘too French’.
Shirley Conran, a former wifelet, thought the problem was that Lord Bath had no sense of smell or taste, but parsimony must play a part. Though an Old Etonian, Lord Bath sent his own children to the local comprehensive. He has never provided for any wifelet, and if they choose to stay on in a Longleat property, rent has to be paid for their ‘white-walled nests’, which anyway are blatantly ‘consolation packages for wifelets who are being sidelined’.
Lord Bath is a man of considerable contradictions. Though he pays lip service to socialist and meritocratic ideals about the iniquities of inherited wealth and landed gentry, he made sure he clung on to his own unearned fortune, his titles and rights of primogeniture.
He banished his brother, Lord Christopher Thynne, from Longleat because ‘of course I wasn’t going to let my younger brother be lord of the house’. Much family bitterness has ensued.
Furthermore, having denounced monogamy as a bourgeois convention, in 1969 Lord Bath married Anna Abigail Gyarmarthy, a Hungarian, ‘for the sake of the legalities’ involving the eventual inheritance of his son and heir, the oddly named Ceawlin, Viscount of Weymouth.
The Marchioness of Bath lives in Paris and is rarely seen, though we are told ‘she had the most gorgeous shape’. Lord Bath ‘seemed terrified’ of her, but has been known to slap her face if she starts nagging.
As Ellis says, Lord Bath ‘is deeply conservative and a traditionalist, while giving the impression of a Sixties hippy’.
That pose was originally adopted to upset his father Henry, the 6th Marquess.
Henry was a fan of Hitler and collected Nazi memorabilia. A stickler for discipline, he once beat Alexander for ‘washing the dog in the kitchen’.
It was Henry who introduced lions to Longleat in 1965 as a successful tourist attraction.
Alexander particularly resented his father for selling off items from the Longleat library, hence diminishing his inheritance. Nevertheless, in 2004, he himself parted with art and antiques worth £24 million - ostensibly to cover revenue lost due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
Ellis found that when discussing his father, Lord Bath went puce with rage. If anything, his recollections of his mother made him even more volatile.
It seems that Lord Bath has never recovered from his parents’ divorce 70-odd years ago. His mother ‘took up with Xan Fielding, a war hero ten years her junior’, and in Alexander’s eyes she had become a common slut.
‘Alexander became used to seeing strange men in dressing gowns in his mother’s bedroom when he came in for his morning kiss . . . He still harbours some anger and even disgust at his mother’s multiplicity of lovers.’
Ellis doesn’t need to be Sigmund Freud to deduce that if Lord Bath never forgave his mother for her infidelity, here was proof that to him, all women are ‘incapable of being faithful’; they are all inherently flighty. The contemptuous misogyny behind the wifelet business would, thus, seem to be based on Lord Bath’s personal feelings of guilt and betrayal.
Lord Bath felt unloved as a child, and is still ‘not sure what love feels like’. As we read these words, we can’t help but feel sympathetic towards its subject, particularly when Ellis describes his sad and lonely days spent painting his brightly coloured murals ‘of vaguely erotic scenes’, which now cover up the 18th-century wallpaper at Longleat. Or else he is to be found compiling his memoirs - seven million words at the last count.
‘He has so far failed to find that cosiness for which he yearns,’ Ellis concludes.
This is a book of exceptional psychological penetration and forensic subtlety. As it incorporates 40 hours of taped interview material, Lord Bath, too, must be congratulated for his candour and for allowing himself to be turned into a fascinating case study of rampant male ego and hurt pride.
Libidinous Lord Bath is brought to book
The Marquess of Bath, who has had at least 73 'wifelets', distances himself from a biography with which he had cooperated.
By Richard Eden
After 41 years of marriage in which the Marquess of Bath has enjoyed the company of at least 73 "wifelets", his real wife has finally had enough.
The Marchioness of Bath, 66, is, though, not objecting to her husband's latest infidelity, but to his cooperation with a biographer, Nesta Wyn Ellis.
The author, whose book about Lord Bath, 78, will be published this autumn, tells Mandrake: "Lady Bath has put her foot down. I think she has decided that it is undignified for her to read about all these different women."
The marquess, who lives at Longleat, his family seat in Wiltshire, has now made it clear that he does not wish to be associated with the book. "He gave me 95 per cent of my material, so I am not worried," says Wyn Ellis, who wrote a biography of John Major, the Conservative former prime minister.
"I have all the tapes and transcripts of our interviews, but Lord Bath has decided now that he doesn't like the book. I think he got worried when he saw it all in black and white."
Alexander George Thynn, the 7th Marquess of Bath.
Women come to blows as they fight to sleep with Lord
June 13, 2011 in The Age
British police were called to the Marquess of Bath's estate in Wiltshire after one his "wifelets" was allegedly injured during a late-night fight with a rival.
The woman suffered a suspected broken nose during an altercation over who would "sleep with the peer" at Longleat House that evening, a source said.
Lord Bath, 79, who has been described as the country's most eccentric aristocrat, had apparently already retired for the evening, saying: "You sort it out, I'm going to bed."
Officers went to the stately Elizabethan home following an allegation of a domestic assault. A 45-year-old woman from London was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm while the 62-year-old alleged victim was taken to hospital suffering from a cut eye and a suspected broken nose.
The source said: "The argument had clearly turned nasty but Lord Bath wasn't interested at all. As one of [the women] pleaded her innocence over the bust-up he was overheard to remark, 'You sort it out, I'm going to bed.'"
Alexander George Thynn, the 7th Marquess of Bath, is known for his polyamorous lifestyle. His series of mistresses, or wifelets as he has called them, and his colourful style of dress, acquired during his time as an art student in Paris in the 1950s, has ensured publicity. He claims to have had up to 75 "wifelets", some of whom lived at 10,000-acre Longleat.
In 1969 Lord Bath married Hungarian-born Anna Gael, by whom he has two children, Lenka, and Ceawlin, Viscount Weymouth. He passed the management of Longleat to the viscount last year.
When asked during an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2002 if marriage worked, he replied: "Anna and I quarrel, but I appreciate the stability she has given the children. She watches over them. She lives in France mostly, but she comes to England one week in four."
Interviewed about jealousy between his girlfriends, and whether he ever had two of them simultaneously under the same roof, he replied: "Well, I might."
Asked whether that caused problems, he remarked: "Oh no, hopefully they might even fancy each other."
Nesta Wyn Ellis, the author of a book on Lord Bath published last year, said "wifelets" were made to feel insecure because he was continually searching for a new woman. "Every time a new female guest appears at Longleat, whatever her reason for being there, a tidal wave of gossip surges through the "wifelet" community on the estate," she wrote.
"He [Lord Bath] is often the victim of violence from the 'wifelets', who verbally or physically assault him. Between the 'wifelets' themselves open warfare develops into full-scale cat fights at times, with blood being drawn."
Wiltshire police confirmed on Friday that they had been called to Longleat House at 11.15pm on Sunday, June 5, after the report of an assault.
"It appears that two female guests of Lord Bath had been in an altercation," a spokesman said. "The injured lady was taken to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, for treatment."
The spokesman said the arrested woman had been bailed pending further inquiries but her bail was subsequently cancelled and police said no further action would be taken.
Publicada por Jeeves em 00:16