Lord of all he surveys: Edward Richard Lambton the 7th Earl of Durham with wife Marina in 2011.
By GUY ADAMS
PUBLISHED: 22:46 GMT, 24 May 2013 in The Daily Mail / http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2330655/Their-father-quit-defence-minister-caught-prostitute-Now-Lord-Lambton-s-children-locked-bitter-battle-millions--week-turned-REALLY-dirty.html
Surely it is a sign of the times that Edward Richard Lambton, who as the 7th Earl of Durham is one of Britain’s loftiest aristocrats, should chronicle his daily life via Facebook.
Here, the blue-blooded 51-year-old, who calls himself ‘Ned,’ offers his circle of upmarket ‘friends’ a glimpse at his rarefied existence.
In one corner of the site, you’ll see his striking property Lambton Castle, the faux-Norman family seat in County Durham built by ancestor John Lambton, a Victorian statesman.
In another, you can see nearby Biddick Hall, a ten-bedroom Queen Anne house, surrounded by a 7,000-acre estate, where Ned was partly raised, and which he now rents out for weddings and corporate jollies.
Friends can watch videos of Ned, who also owns a motor yacht called Lone Wolf, playing guitar in his band, Pearl TN, in a studio near his apartment in Kensington. They can also, if they so desire, ponder pictures of Ned’s third wife Marina Hanbury, a former model 22 years his junior.
She can be seen variously showing off their bonny 18-month-old daughter, Lady Stella, beaming at her wedding to Ned in 2011, and posing in lace underwear, in the couple’s bedroom, later that year.
But the most striking images of his recent life were surely taken at the Villa Cetinale, his magnificent 12-bedroom pile in rural Tuscany. The vast property, with its marble floors, four-poster beds, and sweeping staircases, was purchased by Ned’s late father, Antony, in the Seventies.
It became famous as the bolthole to which Antony, the former Tory minister better known as Lord Lambton, fled after being forced to resign in 1973, when he was photographed in bed with two dominatrix prostitutes.
Last year, Ned invited Vanity Fair magazine, and its photographer, to tour the palatial Villa Cetinale, which is set in
Many of their photos captured the 17th-century baroque property’s priceless collection of art, and antiquities, along with its rambling gardens and olive groves. But some had an edgier feel.
Notorious: Lord Lambton at the Villa Cetinale, the magnificent 12-bedroom pile in rural Tuscany.
To the casual observer of these images, it would be fair to assume the playboy Earl, whose inherited personal fortune — including his estates — has been estimated at £180 million, enjoys a carefree life.
But reality is rarely quite as simple as it may first appear — especially in the turbo-charged world of our aristocratic elite.
Indeed, a rather closer examination of Ned’s online activity provides clues about the stupendously ugly controversy which has lately enveloped the House of Lambton.
You get an immediate whiff of it by perusing the Earl’s Facebook ‘friends’. There are 323, including an array of prominent toffs — from Petronella Wyatt to the notorious former jailbird and drug addict James, the Marquess of Blandford.
But not one of these ‘friends’ has the surname Lambton.
You get another clue from Ned’s ‘profile picture’ on the social network. Recently, it was updated to an image of a volcano, surrounded by mushroom clouds. Before that, it showed Ned, in martial arts clothes, preparing to deliver a karate chop.
Both images are grimly appropriate. For Ned is currently a man at war. And, as the absence of Lambtons from his friend circle suggests, his opponents are among his closest relatives.
Last week, it emerged that the Earl had recently served a writ at the High Court in London against three of his five elder sisters.
It was the latest development in an unseemly dispute that stretches back to 2006, when Ned’s father died in Italy, at the age of 84.
The death allowed Ned to inherit the Earldom of Durham. He also became the beneficiary of a vast property portfolio, which is largely controlled, apparently for tax purposes, by overseas trusts.
Controversy was soon to break out, however, over his father’s will, which valued his remaining estate at £12 million. It stipulated that all of this money would be left to Ned. Not one of the five sisters was to receive a penny.
Though in keeping with the English tradition of primogeniture, under which first born sons inherit everything, those terms are at odds with Italy’s Napoleonic law, which dictates that assets must be evenly split between siblings.
The three sisters, Beatrix, Lucinda (known as Lucy), and Anne, say they were led to believe that Ned would voluntarily offer them a small portion of their father’s estate.
But it wasn’t forthcoming. They are therefore now attempting to sue for a slice of the £12 million pot, which was largely comprised of paintings by the neo-classical artist Josef Zoffany.
The sisters argue that since Antony had lived in Italy with his mistress for two decades — and been resident there, for tax purposes, until the time he died — his will ought to be subject to Italian law.
Indeed, in his will — a copy of which has been obtained by this newspaper — Antony declared himself to be ‘domiciled, resident, and ordinarily resident in Italy’.
Family Lambton: Baby Ned with his mother Lady Belinda known as Bindy Lambton and sisters
None of them will now speak further about the Downton Abbey-style dispute, saying they do not wish to jeopardise proceedings.
‘My lips are sealed,’ says Lady Lucinda, the 70-year-old TV personality and architectural commentator, when I call.
But no such concerns trouble Lucinda’s husband Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, the former newspaper editor.
‘It’s a very sad business,’ he tells me. ‘It has broken up the family, and it is poisoning our lives. Ned has been entirely irrational and completely selfish. His treatment of his sisters has been highly insensitive.’
Sir Peregrine, 89, denies that the sisters are motivated by greed, or an irrational jealousy of their younger brother. He says they’re seeking a small portion of his estate, equating to roughly £1 million each.
‘A million sounds like a lot, but it’s nothing to him,’ he adds. ‘He wouldn’t have to sell off the castle or anything. He’s very rich, and they’re not asking for something he couldn’t easily provide. But Ned just doesn’t like being told what to do.’
And if the Earl fails to relinquish the cash, Sir Peregrine claims that the sisters will be left almost penniless. ‘This isn’t a case about greed, but necessity,’ he says.
‘I mean, Lucy hasn’t got a bean. She’s worked all her life in TV, and she’s 70 now. I’ve got my own children, so when I die she will be left pretty hard up.’
Some of the money has already been promised by Lucinda to her grandson to pay for him to attend boarding school. Because the cash has yet to materialise, the child’s school was recently informed that he cannot attend.
‘It was rather embarrassing,’ adds Sir Peregrine.
The other two sisters — Anne, 58, is an actress and Beatrix, 63, is a widow — are for their part ‘extremely hard up’, he says.
‘They really have very little. They were never sent to university, or allowed to learn how to earn a living. It’s terribly sad.’
Sir Peregrine argues that aristocratic tradition gives Ned a moral duty to provide for siblings. ‘We just assumed that he would do something for them, in good time. But of course he never has. So it has come to this.’
Ned, for his part, appears to believe otherwise.
‘Lord Lambton’s will left everything at his death in 2006 to his only son, having already provided for his other children,’ his lawyers said this week.
‘Three of Lord Durham’s five sisters are now claiming under Italian law a share of everything that Lord Lambton ever owned, even assets that were no longer owned by him at his death.’
The lawyers claim a recent agreement to settle the dispute ‘fell apart’ at the last minute. ‘Lord Durham made a proposal.
Unfortunately his sisters’ lawyer sought to include a term in the wording of the agreement, which can’t be agreed,’ the lawyers say. ‘An offer in excess of this sum remains on the table.’
A friend of Ned, meanwhile, tells me he believes the sisters were ‘looked after’ during their father’s lifetime, and are now being ‘greedy’.
‘The simple fact is that you just can’t keep estates like this together if everything gets divided equally. The money, the capital, has to go with them, otherwise they won’t remain a going concern for the next generation. That’s why we have primogeniture.
‘Tony knew this. He was a very generous man, and a very rich man. He gave Lucinda her home, for example, which is now worth a million or two. And he certainly helped Beatrix, so don’t go thinking they got nothing.’
Whoever you believe, the coming legal dispute is certainly shaping to be a deeply unpleasant.
Indeed, Sir Peregrine says that during the course of the dispute Ned — whose parents were famously promiscuous — has already gone so far as to suggest that the sisters might not be Lord Lambton’s biological daughters.
‘That was completely below the belt,’ he adds. ‘And of course Ned’s paternity is just as chancy as theirs. When you look at the dates, the only child who was unquestionably [Lord Lambton’s] is Lucy, actually. The others are all in question.’
Presumably his rationale is that Lucy was conceived at the beginning of her parents’ marriage, before they both slipped into a life of casual adultery.
Should things continue to escalate, it is by no means impossible that the Earl of Durham and his sisters could be forced to submit to paternity tests.
So how did a family which supposedly occupies the highest echelons of polite society become embroiled in a dispute headed for the sort of denouement you might expect from the Jeremy Kyle show?
Lord Lambton with Belinda Ned and Isabella, in the grounds of their home at Biddick Hall, County Durham in 1973
But he failed to practise the conservatism he preached, was serially unfaithful to wife Bindy, visited prostitutes regularly and took drugs.
In 1973, when he was a junior defence minister in Edward Heath’s government, the News of the World obtained photographs of him in bed with dominatrix Norma Levy and another woman, smoking cannabis.
After being exposed as her client, Lambton promptly resigned. In a TV interview with Robin Day, he said he enjoyed visiting prostitutes because ‘people sometimes like variety’. In a debriefing with MI5, Lambton added that he had turned to debauchery because of the ‘futility’ of his day job in government.
Soon afterwards, he was fined £300 for possessing cannabis and amphetamines, and fled to Italy, where he took up residence at the Villa Centinale with a mistress, Claire Ward, who had been 1954’s debutante of the year.
For the ensuing decades, until his death, she and Lambton held court at the villa, where he was dubbed the ‘King of Chiantishire’ and famed for hosting drug-fuelled parties.
It was a legendarily debauched existence.
One former lover of his from the era claimed that Lambton would pay black male prostitutes to sleep with her, while he watched. Countless others spoke of his relentless libido.
Petronella Wyatt has claimed that he attempted to seduce her, while she was a teenager, by exposing himself.
House guests over the years included everyone from the Rolling Stones to Princess Margaret and Prince Charles. In later years, Tony and Cherie Blair also paid a visit.
Meanwhile, Lambton’s wife Bindy — who died in 2003 — remained in the UK, with their son Ned, who was 11 at the time of the Norma Levy scandal and went on to be unhappily educated at Eton.
It is hardly surprising, given these circumstances, that the current Earl’s adult life would follow an unorthodox course.
Though he’s never had what you might call a day job, Ned did play guitar with a rock band called the Frozen Turkeys in the Eighties.
In 1983, he married Christabel McEwen, the mother of his eldest son, Fred, who is now a left-leaning environmental activist.
They split up in the mid-Nineties — she moved swiftly on to the TV personality Jools Holland — after which Ned took up with second wife Catherine Fitzgerald, who is now the other half of actor Dominic West.
In 2000, Ned moved to a mud hut on a beach in the Philippines, saying he wanted ‘to indulge all my Robinson Crusoe, Tarzan fantasies’ and, shortly afterwards, fathered a daughter called Molly, by then-girlfriend Jennie Guy, an Irish artist.
He wooed third wife Marina, an old family friend, by sending her a Facebook message declaring: ‘I know I am way too old for you but I love you.’
This privileged, if unstructured existence is said by Sir Peregrine to be at the root of the current family rift.
‘Ned has never been crossed in his life before, a life of complete self-indulgence,’ he says.
‘This is the first time he’s been questioned by anyone in his life. And, as someone who shares his father’s wilfulness, he seems to find that a very disagreeable experience.’
The dispute has been hugely upsetting for Ned’s two other sisters Rose and Isabella (who is financially secure having married the wealthy landowner Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland).
Both sides in this legal dispute have not spoken for over a year, including at family weddings and funerals, where according to Sir Peregrine ‘we now sit on opposite sides of a large church’.
Of course, the longer things continue, the more both sides will pay to lawyers. The three sisters say the source of their legal funds is a ‘private matter’, though I understand that their costs are being underwritten by a wealthy acquaintance of the family who has a property near Villa Cetinale and is not fond of the Earl.
Ned, meanwhile, has deep pockets, meaning that the dispute could yet continue for years.
‘If he really wanted to settle this, he could do it tomorrow,’ adds Sir Peregrine, wearily.
‘We all could. But, sadly, he’s left us no choice but to pursue this until it brings a result.’
Lord Lambton was forced to resign in 1973, when he was photographed in bed with two dominatrix prostitutes
Ned Lambton with first bride Christobel on their wedding day in 1983. The couple divorced in 1995
The Luck of The Lambtons
In the wake of the 1973 sex scandal that ended his political career, Antony, Lord Lambton, fled to Tuscany, where he turned the 17th-century Villa Cetinale into a shabby-chic Shangri-la for his aristocratic pals. Six years after Lambton’s death, his son, Ned, the seventh Earl of Durham, has completed a dazzling restoration, James Reginato reports, despite some Downton Abbey-worthy family drama
By James ReginatoPhotographs by Jonathan Becker
In Vanity Fair / November 2012 / http://www.vanityfair.com/society/2012/11/ned-lambton-villa-cetinale-restoration
Constructed in 1680 and situated on some of the most breathtaking acreage in Tuscany, Villa Cetinale may be the world’s most delightful haunted house. According to legend, the builder of the property, Cardinal Flavio Chigi—a nephew of Pope Alexander VII’s—murdered a rival, as princes of the church were inclined to do in those days. Some believe the ghost of the vanquished cleric has rattled around Cetinale ever since. Nevertheless, the magnificent 12-bedroom Baroque villa, designed by Bernini’s great pupil Carlo Fontana, has endured as “one of the celebrated pleasure-houses of its day,” as Edith Wharton noted in her 1904 study, Italian Villas and Their Gardens.
In May, Cetinale’s latest chapter began, after Edward Richard Lambton, the seventh Earl of Durham, known as Ned, moved in following a five-year renovation. Still, there seems to be a remaining specter or two to deal with, beginning with Ned’s father, Antony, who died on December 30, 2006, at the age of 84.
As anyone over a certain age in Britain remembers, the late Lord Lambton resigned abruptly in 1973 from Prime Minister Edward Heath’s Cabinet, where he had been a junior defense minister, after being photographed in bed with two prostitutes and a joint in his mouth. The tryst, in a Maida Vale flat, had been captured on a hidden camera rigged by the News of the World. In the annals of great English political sex scandals, the episode ranks just under the Profumo affair.
Tony, as the longtime Tory M.P. was called by friends, gave up his political career and went into a grand exile in Italy. In a Lord Marchmain moment, he left his wife and their six children in Lambton Park, their enormous estate in County Durham, in the Northeast of England, and acquired the fabulous but then disheveled Villa Cetinale, near Siena, which was still owned by the Chigi family. For nearly three decades, Lambton held court here, with his mistress, Claire Ward. Highly charming at one moment and lacerating the next, he reigned as the “King of Chiantishire,” as he was dubbed, and entertained the likes of Prince Charles and Tony Blair. “When you were invited to Cetinale, you felt like you had really arrived,” recollects an English grandee.
Upon his father’s death, Ned inherited the earldom and became the beneficiary of his father’s entire estate, which included
7,000 acres in England.
In accordance with the English practice of primogeniture, his five elder
siblings—females all—were bypassed.
Six years later, Ned has just completed an arduous renovation that has restored the villa to its glory. Nonetheless, a bit of drama continues to hover over Cetinale. Some of it is of a happy nature. Fifty-one-year-old, twice-divorced Ned—who has a 27-year-old son by his first wife and an 11-year-old daughter with a former girlfriend—surprised his social circle in March 2010 when he announced his engagement to a longtime family friend, the very lovely Marina Hanbury, who is 20 years his junior. The couple married 10 months later and then welcomed a daughter, Lady Stella, last October.
On the less joyful side, Ned recently stopped speaking to at least a few of his five sisters—Lady Lucinda, Lady Beatrix, Lady Anne, Lady Isabella, and Lady Rose—after the first three threatened legal action against him in a twist that sounds like a Downton Abbey plotline. Because Tony lived so long in Italy, they contend they are entitled to shares of his estate under the Napoleonic Code, the revised version of ancient Roman law, upon which Italian law is still based. Furthermore, Ned’s niece Rose Bowdrey, 39 (Beatrix’s daughter), who had been managing Cetinale for him, made what has been described as a stormy departure around the time she began spending time with 52-year-old Domitilla Getty, wife of Mark Getty (co-founder of Getty Images). The Gettys, who have three children and who occupied a nearby hamlet, which they had restored, separated after nearly 30 years of marriage by late 2010, according to reports in the British press.
Needless to say, there has been plenty of chatter in Tuscany, and beyond, regarding recent events Up at the Villa.
‘It’s the vibe-iest house in the world,” Lord Johnson Somerset tells me over drinks by the pool. Somerset, the bon-vivant youngest son of the Duke of Beaufort and a music producer for Bryan Ferry, is part of a merry weekend house party of close friends who have come from England to help Ned inaugurate the newly renovated villa this past May. Like most members of this group, Somerset was also a guest here in the old days.
Marina, who is cradling in her arms the angelic-looking Stella, came here first as a baby herself, brought by her parents, Emma and Timmy Hanbury, scion of an old brewery family, who are here for the weekend, too. Even before they met each other, both Timmy and Emma came to Cetinale, as they were Lambton-family friends. Emma was a frequent visitor in the late 70s when she was the girlfriend of Jasper Guinness, who lived nearby. Cetinale itself has just been redecorated by Camilla Guinness, who was Jasper’s wife from 1985 until his death, last year.
Over lunch in the garden, near a magnificent avenue of towering cypress trees on the 165-acre property, Emma talks about Cetinale then and now: “When I first came here, I was blown away by its beauty. But Tony and Claire lived here in a very unflash way. It was incredibly nice and relaxed, but, let’s just say … by the pool you had a couple of rickety chairs and towels thrown around. Ned has preserved the history of the house, but now it’s like a five-star hotel.”
The Cetinale veterans at the table all agree, too, how vastly the food has improved, thanks to the first-rate chef Ned just hired, who blends classic Italian cuisine with Asian influences. Though reminiscing about the English nursery-school fare served in the old days seems to amuse everybody—when Prince Charles came to lunch, he was served fish pie, reportedly frozen, from Marks & Spencer.
“It was disgusting,” Ned recalls of Cetinale’s former cuisine. “Mrs. Ward, instead of hiring a chef, had these Australian girls on their gap years do the cooking,” he explains. “I wasn’t here when Prince Charles visited, but he went to Gordonstoun, where the food is horrid, so it must have reminded him of his childhood. He may have liked it.”
Alean, lanky fellow with handsome features, Ned Lambton has a wonderfully dry English sense of humor. And he is refreshingly honest about the class he comes from. “I can’t claim that I worked,” he tells me that evening over drinks in a vaulted-ceilinged salon.
“We’ve always lived in County Durham,” he says. “Some people look down on me because the Earldom of Durham was only created in
1833.” The first earl, he
recounts, was John George Lambton, a radical Whig statesman who served as
ambassador to Russia and governor-general of Canada.
“I loathed Eton,” he continues. “My father hated Harrow, so he sent me to Eton. His father had hated Eton, so he sent him to Harrow. How much nicer it would be to stay home, under the loving roof of your mother and father … ” This last sentence he delivers with faux wistfulness.
Which brings the conversation to his father’s scandal, which exploded when Ned was 11. “It was on the front pages of the newspapers. They kept them away from me, so I didn’t know what was going on. But one day the school matron took me in her room. I remember her explaining it to me. She didn’t explain it very well.
“She said, ‘Your father went to see a woman.’ She didn’t explain what kind of woman or what he did with her. I was mystified. I later found out what ‘went to see’ means. When it was explained it was about sex, I understood it better, but this vital fact was kept from me.”
As the scandal raged and school holidays arrived, Ned’s parents took him and his sisters to a private island in the Bahamas. “We hid out there until it had died down,” Ned recalls. “Then everybody forgot about it—except for the fucking Daily Mail. They mention it again and again, to this day. Can’t bear the Daily Mail.”
In the 33 years between when the scandal broke and Lord Lambton’s death, not once did he discuss the matter with his son. “He never mentioned it. He knew we knew about it. That was enough. I don’t know what we would have discussed. As far as my father was concerned, he got caught, he resigned, and that was the end of the story.”
In an interview he once gave to a British journalist, Lambton was unrepentant. Pressed to explain his actions, he replied, “People sometimes like variety. I think it’s as simple as that.”
(Norma Levy, one of the prostitutes he had patronized, was then reputed to be London’s most sought-after dominatrix, with a client list said to include Stavros Niarchos, the Shah of Iran, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, and John Paul Getty. In 2007, Levy gave an interview—to the Daily Mail, natch—in which she recalled some of those clients’ proclivities. According to Levy, Getty would have her lie down in an open coffin and he would then just stare at her for an hour.)
Today, Ned looks at the scandal philosophically. “If it hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have resigned and moved to Italy and we wouldn’t be sitting here now. So thank you, Norma Levy, prostitute.”
In the ensuing decades, Lord Lambton would occasionally come home to County Durham and rejoin his family for Christmases, or to take part in shoots on his estates. He remained married to Ned’s mother, Belinda, who was called Bindy, until her death, in 2003. “She was what is politely known as an eccentric,” explains Ned. “My mother lived in a sort of make-believe world where everything was ideal. We knew it wasn’t, but since she thought it was we didn’t suggest otherwise, because we knew it was futile. Her fantasies were frustrating if you didn’t go along.”But Bindy was not so blithe as to allow her teenage son to go off to Italy to stay with her husband and his mistress. “Because he was living with Mrs. Ward, she wouldn’t allow me to come here. I didn’t come until I was about 16, and even then I had to make things up, like saying I was going to France. But then I started coming here regularly and fell in love with it.”
Needless to say, Lambton was not particularly hands-on as a parent. An early, rare effort to mold Ned was not a success. “After I left Eton, my father told me he had a friend in Argentina. So I was sent to Argentina to become a man. Didn’t work.”
Back in England, a brief career playing the electric guitar in an acid-rock band he formed called the Frozen Turkeys followed. “We played the Marquee club once, which for a band is supposed to be a step on the ladder to making it, which we certainly didn’t. It was great fun, but I’m glad it’s over,” he says. (Currently he plays acoustic guitar in a country-music band, Pearl, TN, which has just released a debut album, Leave Me Alone.)
In 1997 he stood for Parliament, in Jimmy Goldsmith’s Referendum Party. The run, in his father’s old constituency of Berwick-upon-Tweed, was quixotic. “I knew I wasn’t going to get elected, but that was part of the attraction of doing it,” he says. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be an M.P., but it was fascinating to go knocking on people’s doors up there.”
In 2000 he moved to a remote beach in the Philippines, where he lived for about six years in a grass-roofed house he had built. “People ask me, ‘Why the Philippines?’ If I showed you one picture of the spot I lived, you would understand. I was able to indulge all my Robinson Crusoe, Tarzan fantasies.”
But it wasn’t all playtime. Through a dish antenna he installed at the domicile, he communicated constantly with the manager of the family estates. By then, Tony had ceded most responsibilities to his son. Notwithstanding Ned’s self-effacing statements, running big properties such as these is serious work.
The seventh Earl of Durham’s agreeable manner extends to his former wives and girlfriends. “We are all still very good friends,” he says. In 1995 he ended his 12-year marriage to Christabel McEwen, granddaughter of a Scottish baronet who is the mother of his heir, Frederick, Viscount Lambton, and married Catherine FitzGerald, daughter of the 29th Knight of Glin, a union that lasted seven years. Through a short relationship with Jennie Guy, an Irish artist, he has a daughter, Molly, 11, who lives with her mother in Dublin.
Attempting to break the family cycle of public-school misery, Ned sent Fred to the liberal Bedales School. But then a friend persuaded Fred to transfer to the more traditional Stowe. “He absolutely hated it,” says Ned. “One day he rang me up and said, ‘I’ve run away from school. I’m at the Savoy hotel.’ I thought it showed a bit of style that he checked in there.”
Lambton says he is proud of his son’s post-collegiate work as an environmental activist, but had concerns about an occupational hazard. “He kept getting arrested,” Ned recounts (protesting airport expansions, etc.).
In late 2009, Ned’s life was transformed. It started with a dream, near, of all places, Seattle, where he was preparing to embark on a voyage across the Pacific on the Lone Wolf, his Nordhavn long-range motorboat. “I had this dream that Marina and I were married. We were in love and blissfully happy.” Then he woke up in his rented house. “I’ve known Marina forever. But I never thought I would end up with her. There is a 20-year age gap,” he explains. Hanbury, who had worked as a model and also was a parliamentary assistant, came to Cetinale nearly every summer of her adolescence on holidays with her parents.
But that morning, Ned contacted Marina via Facebook and confessed his dream to her. “I know I am way too old for you but I love you,” he explained to her.
A day later, he was amazed by the reply. “I told him I’d loved him since I was
Marina recounts to me. “I’d always had a crush on him, but I felt it was
unrealistic. I never thought anything would happen. But we met up for dinner in
London, and three weeks later we were engaged.” The pair married in a London
register office in January 2011. “We both felt so sure,” says Ned. “And it has
turned out great. We are very happy and compatible. And as Marina has pointed
out to me, I can’t afford another divorce,” he says with a laugh. Ned and
Marina kept their romance quiet in its first months, however, which made the
announcement of their engagement a happy surprise for most friends and family.
But the gossip mill was soon distracted by the new friendship between Ned’s
niece Rose, who is known as Ro-Ro, and Domitilla Getty. “When Ned and Marina
got together we were like, wow,” says a family friend. “But then Domitilla and
Ro-Ro got together, and it was WOW. Domitilla and Ro-Ro trumped Ned and
Marina.” (Around the same time, there had been another momentous match in the
Hanbury family, when Marina’s younger sister, Rose, married David Rocksavage,
the seventh Marquess of Cholmondeley, who is the Queen’s Lord Great Chamberlain
and lives at Houghton Hall, one of England’s greatest stately homes.)
Restoring Cetinale was a daunting task. While Ned’s father and Mrs. Ward had done a spectacular job restoring the garden, which is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy, they had done little more than spruce up the ancient building itself. So it fell to Ned to replace the roof, as well as the plumbing, wiring, heating, and so forth.
For interior decoration, he turned to London-based Camilla Guinness. “My main aim was to alter the villa as little as possible. Barring [extensive] damage by dog pee to all the curtains and gilded table legs, and a shortage of bathrooms, it was pretty perfect the way it was,” Guinness says. “The real challenge was to make sure things weren’t over-restored and to try to keep the patina of walls and furniture.”
“What Camilla has done is amazing,” says Marina, the Countess of Durham, “but the house has still got all its charm and magic.”
It remains to be seen, however, if the potential legal challenge introduced by the Lambton sisterhood will alter Cetinale’s future. Ned does not appear to be particularly worried. “My father was an Englishman, and it’s an English will,” he says. The lawyers who wrote the document for his parent knew what they were doing, he reveals. Estate planners—and screenwriters—take note: “Cetinale is not legally owned by me, but by the trustees of a company set up by my father, Cetinale, Ltd., based in New Zealand,” he explains. “I am a beneficiary of this trust and run the company on its behalf.
“Why they are threatening to sue now, when I got on with them for 50 years, I don’t know,” says Ned. “But whatever the court decides—if it comes to that … ” he says, his voice trailing off. “My lawyer told me it might take 20 years, so I will let you know in 20 years. But if [my sisters] want to pay lawyers it’s not for me to stop them.”
Four months later, however, a thaw in the frost seemed to be setting in. On September 15, Ned e-mailed to report that lines of communication with his siblings were open, “so perhaps the whole sorry mess can be sorted out.” A day earlier, an attorney representing the sisters called to tell me his clients were hoping to resolve the situation “by diplomatic means.” He added, however, that the ladies “are quite resolute” in the goal.
According to a longtime family friend, what blame there is lies with the siblings’ late father: “It’s Tony’s fault. He failed to make provisions for them.” (“Them” is meant to apply as well to Claire Ward, who was also left out of Lord Lambton’s will and departed Cetinale immediately after he died. She lives in Hampshire today.)
But, of course, the situation is owed to England’s custom of primogeniture.
For wisdom on this practice, I recall a conversation I had a few years ago with someone who knows its consequences as well as anyone—Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. In 2007, following the death of her husband, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, she had to vacate her 297-room home, Chatsworth, after 50-some years. “It’s deeply unfair and very wise,” she sums up about primogeniture. “We were all brought up with the idea of it, so no good grumbling about it. That’s just how it ’tis.”
Her experiences on the Continent, seeing the fruits of the Napoleonic Code, never persuaded her to alter her opinion. “The old ladies and everyone all live in a heap together I cannot imagine anything more conducive to family rows,” she says. And those big houses are practically empty, too, “as every child has had a go at the furniture and the pictures.”
But, on the basis of a weekend at Cetinale, it would appear that there is little more conducive to happiness than possession of a fabulous Tuscan villa. At the end of a long, excellent dinner, the table having gone through countless bottles of Brunello, Somerset has everyone in stitches as he recounts tales of his gaffes when the Queen weekended at Badminton House, his family’s fabled estate in Gloucestershire. Then ghost stories are traded, and the conversation turns to Cetinale’s resident spirit.
“I did feel something sneaking around my bed once,” Marina recalls.
“It must have been my father,” says Ned, roaring with laughter.
LEFT, FROM THE DAILY MAIL/REX USA (LORD LAMBTON); RIGHT, BY NICK ROGERS/DAILY MAIL/REX USA (LEVY).
LORDS HAVE MERCY Lord Lambton at his home in County Durham, 1974. Right, prostitute Norma Levy.
May 1973 Daily Mirror and Evening Standard coverage of the Lord Lambton call-girl scandal.
VILLA CETINALI ...
|Lambton Castle, the faux-Norman family seat in County Durham|
|Biddick Hall, a ten-bedroom Queen Anne house, surrounded by a 7,000-acre estate .|