Tuesday, 8 September 2015

BBC 1 / Coming next Monday : All Change at Longleat.

Episode 1
All Change at Longleat
Episode 1 of 3
Next Monday

Lord Bath has handed control of the £190 million estate to his son, Ceawlin, but the handover isn't going smoothly. Ceawlin upset his father when he moved back in, and the pair are no longer on speaking terms. In the village on the estate, there's further unrest after Ceawlin puts up the villagers' rents.

Meanwhile, Ceawlin's wife Emma is settling into life as Lady Weymouth. She now has her own servants and the run of the 130-room historic house - but she must get used to sharing her home with a daily stream of visitors.

In the safari park, the animal keepers watch the family from afar and wonder how Ceawlin will compare to his father. Lord Bath was a flamboyant, controversial figure. Although now in retirement, he continues to enjoy a famously open marriage. Various 'wifelets' still visit when his wife is away.

All Change At Longleat sees a new couple take over one of the country’s most extraordinary aristocratic estates. As the ever-flamboyant owner, Lord Bath, winds down his involvement, his eldest son has moved in downstairs, along with his new wife, Emma, who will be Britain’s first black marchioness.

Built in 1580, the stately home of Longleat has been in the same aristocratic family for 14 generations. In the 1960s, Lord Bath’s father opened the first safari park outside of Africa after it became increasingly difficult to afford the upkeep of Longleat. He installed a menagerie of wild animals in the gardens, including lions, hippos and chimpanzees. Today, a host of exotic animals continue to prowl the grounds.

This national treasure is now theirs to enjoy. But challenges lie ahead, as Lord and Lady Bath take on a staff of hundreds, two villages and a safari park, along with the enormous but fragile Elizabethan stately home filled with priceless antiquities. As they try to adjust to their new responsibilities, some of their decisions aren’t welcomed by everyone...

This series is an intimate upstairs-downstairs portrait of an aristocratic family at a time of transition, and the colourful characters that work for and serve them.

Actress and Viscountess Weymouth Emma McQuiston (left) with her husband, businessman Ceawlin Thynne

Ceawlin, 41, arrived separately at last month's fayre with wife Emma, 12 years his junior, who will become Britain’s first black Marchioness when Lord Bath dies

The family pictured on the grounds of their Giraffe Park in happier times - almost 50 years ago

Why the big beasts of Longleat are at war AGAIN! How a battle over the 'wall colour' at the stately home of Lord Bath has reopened the wounds in his aristocratic family
Lord Bath and his son Ceawlin in dispute over colour of Longleat House
Pair ignore each other, with businessman Ceawlin already avoiding mother
It's said family only speak through lawyers, with estate atmosphere 'tense'
Extraordinary state of affairs will feature in new BBC series about changes at Longleat
PUBLISHED: 22:16 GMT, 2 September 2015 | UPDATED: 23:30 GMT, 2 September 2015

There was all manner of entertainment to be had at this year’s June summer fayre, held in the Longleat Estate village of Horningsham — hook-a-duck, Morris dancers and an exhibition of vintage cars.
But the most enjoyable diversion was surely provided by the spectacle of Lord Bath, 83, that most libidinous and eccentric sprig of the aristocracy, smiling benignly at the villagers while apparently cheerily avoiding his son, daughter-in-law and new grandson.
The family have once again fallen out, it seems. This time, the row is ostensibly over a new paint colour being used on the walls of their magnificent Elizabethan stately home, Longleat House.
In reality, however, the tensions are more fundamental: whether Lord Bath will ever approve of the way the 10,000-acre estate and safari park in Wiltshire is being run by his heir, Ceawlin, to whom he ceded control in 2010.
On the day of the Fayre, this meant that for much of the afternoon the various family members kept their distance. Lord Bath was ferried around the event in a motorised buggy — he is increasingly infirm, though still dressed for the day in a magnificent patchwork waistcoat, his tangle of long grey hair only slightly tamed by a neat Alice band.
There was no sign of his wife, Anna, who has been caught up in the new Longleat feud.
Meanwhile Ceawlin, 41, arrived separately with wife Emma, 12 years his junior, who will become Britain’s first black Marchioness when Lord Bath dies. As Ceawlin took to the Tannoy to help as Master of Ceremonies, Emma was spotted with her infant son, John, passing time by the stand selling fried churros, looking lost in thought.
And well she might. Her baby will, in time, himself inherit Longleat — and Emma must surely be praying that little John’s relationship with his dad is far less fractured than that of Ceawlin and his father, Alexander, 7th Marquess of Bath.
As the afternoon wore on, it seemed to dawn on Lord Bath that he could scarcely ignore his son completely. He drove over for a chat in front of locals who, having heard all about the fresh tension between the pair, were naturally agog.
I’m told that there was brief contact, on terms that appeared ‘friendly enough’, before both went their separate ways back to Longleat.
Since then, they have apparently maintained their mutual policy of ignoring each other — a sulk which persists even though their Longleat apartments are within roaring distance.
The extraordinary state of affairs will no doubt bubble uncomfortably to the surface in a forthcoming three-part BBC series, All Change At Longleat, about the aristocratic family and the future of its glorious estate.
One family member familiar with the estate’s internal politics confirms that the atmosphere at Longleat is tense to say the least. As well as falling out with his father, Ceawlin is not on speaking terms with his mother following an argument two years ago and ‘works hard to avoid her’ when she visits Longleat from her home in Paris.
The marriage of the octogenarian Lord Bath is famously elastic: over the years, he has maintained a string of ‘wifelets’ in a series of cottages on the estate. Anna, his Hungarian-born wife, traditionally opted to stay away and allow him to dabble in peace for much of the year.
Now even though all the wifelets have died or moved on, Anna remains semi-detached. But as the Mail revealed on Friday, even without her, the atmosphere is decidedly dicey.
 ‘Everything within the family is so touchy,’ says one observer. ‘They feel if you want to speak to other people, you have to do it through lawyers. And there are no family values. They never all sit down together for Sunday lunch and say “hello” to each other like normal families do. In fact, generally, they don’t talk to each other.’
Back in 2010, Lord Bath was suffering from type 2 diabetes and generally feeling his age. He decided to hand over the reins to his son, Ceawlin, Lord Weymouth, who had grown up at Longleat believing his childhood was ‘absolutely normal’.
As a boy he would walk a tiger on a lead and wake up to hear the famous lions in the safari park roaring. Matters were scarcely less exotic in the house, with his father, known as the ‘Loins of Longleat’, bringing home his string of young women to live there for as long as they took his fancy.
One biographer asserted that Lord Bath required a woman to sleep either side of him in the four poster bed. He immortalised all his ‘wifelets’ in lurid paintings, daubed on panelling at Longleat, reaching a final total of 74.
Ceawlin told an interviewer he ‘rather treasured’ his father’s eccentricity while also saying he ‘blanked’ the girlfriends as a matter of course.
Ceawlin was sent to the local comprehensive school by his Old Etonian father, who thought that a spot of social equality would do him good. In an act of rebellion, Ceawlin dipped into his trust fund and sent himself to Bedales instead.
Soon after, he was expelled for smoking cannabis and apparently set out to be as wild as his father. He opened a nightclub called Debbie Does Dallas in London, then moved to the Himalayas to find himself.
Eventually, though, he left hippiedom behind and built an international chain of upmarket hostels. By the time he was asked to take over at Longleat he had worked in hotels in Europe, and was prepared for the task.
‘I was always cognisant it was coming,’ he explained when he took control. His father had given him some ‘sage pointers’, he added, and said he felt that Lord Bath would be relaxed about what transpired. ‘My father is a big man. He doesn’t suffer from that old bull/young bull neurosis.’
How wrong he was. Relations between the men were so bad that Lord Bath missed Ceawlin and Emma’s wedding in 2013. Many of Ceawlin’s management initiatives were reversed owing to his father’s disapproval. One of Ceawlin’s first measures as chairman of Longleat Enterprises Limited was to appoint the former Legoland boss David Bradley in a senior role. Bradley, a bracing influence, set about trying to ‘modernise’ the place.
Dog owners were astonished to be asked to pay a full admission fee for using what was known as the ‘Pleasure Walk’ on the estate. Locals were told that if they wanted to picnic, they would have to buy a day ticket.
The practice of discounting tickets for anyone living within a 20-minute drive of Longleat was also axed. Longleat started demanding market rents for properties on the estate.
And 27 long-serving members of staff aged over 65 — many of them guides who had been showing visitors around for 40 years — departed.
On a positive note, two new attractions were opened and the ‘tired’ safari park was given a revamp.
But such was the controversy over the changes, that Bradley was suspended in mysterious circumstances, and then resigned a month later, in October 2013. At that point, the local discounts came back, as did the practice of allowing dog walkers to roam.
Next came the damaging revelation that Longleat had put down a number of lions after there was overbreeding in the pride.
Ceawlin admitted that on his watch there had been an unsustainable expansion of the lion population at Longleat to ensure there were always cubs on view for visitors — a practice he was now ending.
Amid all of this conflict and upheaval, Ceawlin made what must at the time have seemed the least dramatic decision: to move some murals painted on panels by his father for Ceawlin and his older sister, Lenka.
The brightly coloured images of children and animals were spread across three former nursery rooms and a corridor. And when Ceawlin moved into the rooms with Emma, the daughter of a Nigerian oil tycoon, he took some of the panels down and stored them.
He reasoned that his father had, essentially, covered 12 rooms, two corridors, two large hallways and two staircases which, he said, was ‘nearly all the space on the private side of the house that can sensibly be occupied’.
He added: ‘If, when pushing 40, you’re looking at the same walls you were looking at when you were four, you can understand that a moment can arise when you snap.
‘I need to make this space relevant to who I am now, not harking back to the four-year-old child.’ Promising that he was preserving the murals in storage he vowed not to touch his father’s Kama Sutra mural, Lord Bath’s pride and joy. However, enormous upset was caused.
Lord Bath sniffed: ‘I suppose I just have to accept what has happened. But my relationship with Ceawlin will not be the same again.
‘I only found out once the removal had started. It’s my life’s work…it’s killed my relationship with him and I don’t feel inclined to pay any interest in his wedding.’ Instead, he and wife Anna went to a different wedding, of a friend in Hampshire.
It transpired that Lady Bath, who was a soft porn actress in her past, did not wholly approve of publicity-loving Emma, an aspiring celebrity chef, and had asked Ceawlin to call the match off.

I suppose I just have to accept what has happened. But my relationship with Ceawlin will not be the same again.
Lord Bath

To what could she object? Well, the future Marchioness is an ambitious young woman who appears bent on achieving fame in her own right.
She told an interviewer that she was toying with the idea of styling herself Emma Thynn [the family surname] rather than Lady Weymouth, noting: ‘Thynn could be useful in building up my brand — it’s a funny and lucky coincidence that it fits so well with the philosophy on food that I have developed through my blog.’
She added: ‘The sky is the limit — product-wise — with the name Thynn. Thynn Truffles, Thynn Cocktails, Thynn Ketchup. And there is definitely room for a Thynn Cookbook.’
Nevertheless, Ceawlin told a local paper last year that, slowly, he and his father were patching up a relationship.
‘We’ve had something of a rapprochement and have had dinner a couple of times recently.
‘It was just a case of swallowing a tiny bit of pride,’ he revealed.
‘I think my father was genuinely very hurt when the paintings were taken down. If I could go back and do it differently, I would.’
But the rapprochement was short-lived. It seems the older man is happy to throw his weight around whenever a decision is made of which he doesn’t approve — however minor.

The men have once again fallen out over interior design — this time because Ceawlin apparently approved a paint colour without consulting his father. There’s an old lion at Longleat, it seems, who still can’t give up his position at the head of the pride.

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