Monday, January 18, 2010

Toffs behaving badly

Lewis Jones in the Spectator reviews Marcus Scriven’s Splendour & Squalour, four mini-biographies of 20th-century toffs behaving badly. One is Angus Montagu, 12th Duke of Manchester (d. 2002), whom Scriven describes as:
Squat and ugly, with appalling taste in clothes (drip-dry blazers and shoes with Velcro fastenings), he worshipped money and devoted his life to binges, strip clubs, limos and inept confidence tricks. The Old Bailey judge who tried him over some forged bonds in 1985 described him as ‘absurdly stupid’, an assessment vindicated by a letter he wrote from a state penitentiary in Virginia, where he served two years for fraud in the 1990s, in which he confessed, pathetically, ‘I AM VERY VERY WARY OF EVERY THINK.’
Others are Edward FitzGerald, 7th Duke of Leinster (d. 1976), Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol (d. 1985) and his son John Hervey, the 7th Marquess, who died on 19 January 1999 aged 44. Victor was bad news but John was even worse: Jones calls them “this unappetising pair of Bristols”. (For US and other international readers, that is a rude joke based on Cockney rhyming slang.) John Hervey spent his life, as Jones puts it, on:
wrecking his inheritance and health by spending about £20 million on drugs. He preferred boys to girls — Rupert Everett makes a cameo appearance, sulking in leathers and a diamond choker — and his marriage was not a happy one. Shortly before dawn on their wedding night his bride found him in the East Wing at Ickworth, freebasing cocaine with some friends. She told him she wanted to go to bed, and he told her to fuck off.

He loved fast cars, and used to take the drive at Ickworth at 100 mph in his Ferrari, scattering National Trust visitors with their children and dogs; he also liked to brandish his shotgun at visitors and call them ‘fucking peasants’, and to ram his friends’ cars with his own. He was especially fond of helicopters, and after a few bottles at dinner would hover over the quarters of the estate’s National Trust employee and scream abuse at him through a megaphone. Flying home from London once while smoking heroin, he mistook his house for a sugar beet factory in Bury St Edmonds and landed on its roof.
I don’t know. That sounds rather fun. The next time I am smacked out on heroin flying my helicopter, I think I shall hover above my employees’ cottages and scream abuse at them through a megaphone. There’s a first time for everything.


Bob Smith said...

Wow, you have a helicopter. I'm impressed.

Stephen Stratford said...

Sorry, Bob, I lied about the helicopter. Maybe I could hover above my employees' cottages in a hang-glider.