Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Duke of Beaufort, the Groom and the Mythical Badminton House

He is the son of Henry Robert Somers Fitzroy de Vere Somerset and Bettine Violet Malcolm and was educated at Eton College. He and his family are descendants in the male line from the House of Plantagenet.
The Duke of Beaufort
Born 23 February 1928(1928-02-23)
He was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards on 6 September 1946 as a Second Lieutenant. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 January 1949.
He held the office of Hereditary Keeper of Raglan Castle, was President of the British Horse Society between 1988 and 1990 and chairman of Marlborough Fine Art. He ranked 581st in the Sunday Times Rich List 2008, with an estimated wealth of £135m in land.

Monday, 1 May 1995

OBITUARY : Caroline Beaufort
The estate of Badminton after the Second World War was a world apart, where time and tradition had stood still for many years. It was best known to the outside world for the famous Horse Trials, attended each year by the monarch. Its owners, the old Duke and Duchess of Beaufort, were devoted to the chase and to the Royal Family. On hearing that their future heir was marrying, they did not ask: "Is she nice?" but "Does she hunt?"
David Somerset married Lady Caroline Thynne at St Peter's, Eaton Square, in July 1950, in the presence of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. Queen Mary, the Duchess of Beaufort's aunt, who had spent the war years - memorably - at Badminton, attended the reception at "Chips" Channon's house in Belgrave Square. David Somerset's father, Robert, a first cousin once removed of the 10th Duke, was drowned in 1965. David Somerset, dapper, handsome and well-dressed, the chairman of Marlborough Fine Art, then became heir.
Caroline Thynne was the only daughter of the sixth Marquess of Bath, the owner of Longleat, in Wiltshire, and a pioneer of the stately home industry ("We Have Seen the Lions of Longleat"), and his wife Daphne, later known (as Daphne Fielding) for her many books, such as The Duchess of Jermyn Street. Caroline's early years were spent at Longleat, where she was somehow not overwhelmed by a host of elderly Thynne aunts. While many of the Thynnes were (and are) arguably eccentric, Lady Caroline was surprisingly normal, wholly straightforward, and retained a refreshing innocence throughout life.
As a young couple, the Somersets were taken under the wing of the childless Duke and Duchess of Beaufort, with whom they lived at Badminton. The Duke was known as "Master" - he was the Master of the Horse to the Queen as well as Master of the Beaufort Hunt. "Obviously," he once declared, "the hunting of the fox has been my chief concern."
There was no special reason to expect that this arrangement would work so well, for the Somersets had wider and more cultural interests than their elders, yet the four were united by a strong mutual respect, love of Badminton and of the countryside. As their young family grew, the Somersets moved to a house nearby, only returning to Badminton when "Master" died in 1984. The 11th Duke took his place as Master of the Beaufort, and there occurred one of the best runs in years, causing the new Duchess to exclaim: "Master has inhabited the fox!" The old Duke was laid to rest under a mighty edifice to protect his remains from ill-intentioned hunt saboteurs.
The new Duchess set about her role as mistress of the great house with enormous good- humour. Badminton was in terrible disrepair, with buckets to catch the incoming water. She presided over the house's restoration, created a beautiful garden, planted thousands of new trees in the park; each year they undertook at least one major repair. Where her mother-in-law, Mary Beaufort, who lived on in the house till 1987, had occasionally taken up a post in one of the state rooms to answer questions from the tourists, suitably cordoned behind ropes, Caroline Beaufort's approach was very different. There can have been few more generous guides to a stately home.
Welcoming parties of visitors (by appointment), the Duchess would announce: "Chairs. Chairs are for sitting on, so sit on all of them, and take as many photographs as you like." Visitors roamed freely upstairs, even visiting her bedroom (where Queen Mary had resided in the war), and behaved better than had they been detained behind the traditional ropes. The Duchess's good-humour and charm were infectious.
She was also intrepid. With her husband she would depart for two months at a time to China, the Himalayas, Zimbabwe or the Amazon. Her idea of travel was "a quick dip" in waters infested with piranha or camping near lions. Active with charities - she supported 76 charities on a regular basis - she once abseiled from the outside wall of the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital to raise money for National Meningitis Awareness Week. This spring she received an honorary LLD for her charitable work from Bristol University.
The Beauforts had three sons and a daughter, Lady Anne Somerset, biographer of Elizabeth I. When cancer of the liver was diagnosed last summer, the Duchess was as open as ever. In a newspaper interview she spoke of her fate, her remaining hopes and disappointments and declared the disease "a bloody bore". She continued: "If I thought it would do any good I would scream like a stuck pig, but instead I will have to carry on as normal."

Hugo Vickers

Caroline Jane Thynne: born 28 August 1928; married 1950 David Somerset (succeeded 1984 as 11th Duke of Beaufort; three sons, one daughter); died Badminton 22 April 1995.

Brian Higham: Badminton's long-serving stud groom
It is the end of an era at the Duke of Beaufort’s Badminton Estate. For after half a century of work, the stable manager Brian Higham is hanging up his boots and retiring at the age of 77.
Yet although he landed up working in the stable yard of one of Britain’s most iconic estates and a place immortalised forever in the adrenalin-filled sport of Eventing he had to learn his trade the hard way.
For his family was not a wealthy one and although he grew up in the countryside around the beautiful Yorkshire village of Snainton a horse of his own was not possible. His father was talented sculptor and artist who spent time in the services and it was just through working on the farms Brian learnt his trade.
“As a boy I was always keen to get a ride, and when they were getting the sugar beet out of the fields I would ride a carthorse,” he says, “and I used to beg rides to go hunting.”
But working with horses is what he always wanted to do and Badminton was his first proper horse job. He arrived here in 1959 as second man or in modern terms deputy and remained as such until 1966 when he took over the reins as stud groom or yard manager as it is known today.
And during this time he as seen some changes. He spent 25 years working with the 10th Duke, “which I was very proud of,” he says, “as he was a very famous man,” and then 26 working for the present.
“Today would not compare with the grandeur of that era,” he says, “manners have changed worldwide, there is a casualness now. You could set your clock by the old Duke if he said he was going to ride at 10 he did not five past or ten to. He would apologise if he were early. Whereas a lot of people now do not care if they are late, they should care, but they don’t.”
It is a life that his brought him the experience of mixing with people from all walks of life. He lists the Eventing greats, such as Sheila Wilcox, Mary King and Richard Walker as personal friends and admits to receiving Christmas cards and conversing regularly with Prince Charles, who he says: “Likes my homemade sloe gin which I give him every Christmas.”
And it has taken him all around the country and the world too as he has become a well-respected judge, judging at all the top shows. On the day after I met him he was jetting over to America to do some judging there. Not bad for a man in his eighth decade.
But when I suggest that he perhaps should consider himself a southerner as he has lived in the Cotswolds for over 50 years he is emphatic in his response.
“No,” he says, “I am Yorkshire born and bred and very proud of that.”
But that said he does love the area saying: “I have lived like a millionaire here,” and when he does have a free evening there is nothing he likes more than a quiet meal at The George in Nailsworth with his wife, Sherry.
So does he have any regrets on the path he has taken?
“I don’t think you can have regrets, I mean I have a great life, so many don’t have that,” he says. “But I would have liked to have trained. I have had a bit of success with the ones I did and I think I would have been able to do that.”
For despite being heavily involved in the Eventing and showing world he remains a national hunt man and over the years owned several successful pointers.
But the last few years have not been easy. Two years ago he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chemo and radiation followed. Thankfully he has now been given the all clear but this made him re-evaluate his life.
“It would have been easy just to carry on but the health thing made my mind up really,” he says, “If things can’t be done at the standards you would like then...”
Leaving the obvious unspoken. He is without doubt a perfectionist and one that likes to do a job properly.
So with retirement beckoning he can surely take things more easily - or maybe not as his plans reveal.
“Well I walk every morning and I like to ride and I will probably go to Yorkshire more. There will also be more time to travel. My wife is American and has a house in South Carolina so who knows I may go out there for a couple of weeks or a month or two.”
“I have also got a couple of pointers in training,” he adds and he does not rule out buying and selling the odd horse either.
And he will remain within sight of the stables at his estate cottage.
“The duke says I have a home for life here,” he says “and I will still be able to keep the odd horse or two on the yard.”
But the question then arises, ‘will he actually be able to retire when he will still maintain such close links to the place? Will he not be tempted to give his opinion if he feels they need it?’ After all it was his life for 50 years.
“I don’t think that would be fair on my successor, he says, “as she will want to do things her way, but my door will always be open if she needs advice.”
And there is no doubt it will not only be her seeking him out, for his door will surely remain a beacon for his numerous friends wanting to visit.

I was born in the Yorkshire village of Snainton in the Vale of Pickering. I came to Badminton in 1959 and was stud groom at Badminton Stables from 1966 to 2010. You can imagine that during that time, I saw many changes! Although I no longer hunt myself (I don’t want to fall off any more!), I hack regularly around the estate either with my wife Sherry or alone. I thoroughly enjoy it and it helps to keep me fit and healthy – as does my daily 2 mile walk!
I have been married to Sherry for over 15 years, after meeting by chance when she visited from America to buy a horse. The rest, as they say, is history! We both love the lifestyle we have – I feel we live like millionaires in this beautiful place! Our cottage is near the stable yard, and I have lived there since I first came to Badminton all those years ago.
One of the highlights of my year during my time at the yard, was Badminton Horse Trials at the beginning of May. The stables became a frenzy of activity as we undertook an enormous spring clean to prepare 80 to 100 stables for the world’s top event horses to come and stay.
During the summer, I do a lot of show judging (and have done for many years) and am one of Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain’s longest serving judges. In the past, it was always a nice break from the hunting season at Badminton and I still look forward to it each year. As well as judging, people often come to me for my opinion on their horse’s health and fitness, or when buying and selling. I am not a vet but do have many years of experience and am happy to advise people, where I can. I also get asked for my opinion on the design of new yards, based on my experience at Badminton. I enjoy passing on my knowledge and I believe you never stop learning, even at my age!
I retired as Stud Groom to Badminton Stables in 2010 after 50 years of service!

How the hunt shot Labour's fox: Although hunting was banned three years ago the sport is MORE popular than ever

By Sue Reid

Cowering down a rabbit hole deep in the English countryside at 11 o'clock last Thursday morning, a year-old fox has a few seconds to live.

An inch in front of the fox's furry face, blocking all chance of escape, is Tozy the terrier with his razor-sharp teeth.
Three feet above, in the open air, two men from the local hunt are digging down towards him. Soon it will be over.

Worse off? Although Labour banned fox hunting in 2005 more foxes are being killed because hunters now have to shoot them

As the men's spades crash into the warren to reach the terrified creature, Tozy's owner takes a 3.2 Taurus pistol from his pocket and fires a shot into the the fox's forehead, killing it instantly.

After all, the terrier man, Richard, has a job to do.

For weeks, the young male fox has been causing mayhem at a farm four miles from Swindon, in Wiltshire. He has been doing what foxes like doing best: killing young pheasants, often just for fun.
'Before the ban on hunting in 2005, this fox would have stood a chance,' says Mark Hill, a 50-year-old land agent and Master of the flourishing Vale of the White Horse Hunt, which rides over a 20-mile area of the Cotswolds which includes the farm.
'If we had hunted him with hounds, he might well have got away. It was the old, the sick and the injured foxes that we used to catch then. Now that we have to shoot them, we think more foxes are being eliminated. The fox has fared the worst out of this ban.'

It is hard to disagree. For, astonishingly, today - three years after New Labour banned hunting to hounds - the hunts are flourishing. Last week, one of the country's most ardent fox hunters, former Daily Telegraph editor and Old Etonian Charles Moore, sang the praises of his favourite sport.
In the right-leaning Spectator magazine, he revealed that on a recent autumn day he and 65 other followers on horseback had ridden with his local hunt, and that hunting was now more popular than ever.
Last Boxing Day, a traditional high day in the hunting calendar, a record number of 300,000 people on horses, in cars and on foot turned out to watch 314 fox, deer and stag hunts in action in Britain. And, in another unexpected triumph for the huntsmen, there are now three more hunts operating than there were before the
ban was pushed through Parliament by Tony Blair.

Under present hunting laws, the hounds can only be used to follow a scent, but not to kill a fox. They pick up a trail laid across the land by hunt workers dragging a piece of cloth laced with fox's urine. If the hounds come across a real fox by chance, as they are apt to do, they must be called off the chase by the huntsmen.
Yet, despite this strange set of affairs, hunts are thriving. As Lord Mancroft, the Conservative peer and former Master of the Vale of the White Horse Hunt (VWH), said in a recent article in Hunting Magazine: 'We expected our world to be turned upside down - hunts to fail, hounds to be put down, and hunt staff to lose their jobs. In fact, the reverse is more accurate.

'Hunting is enjoying a renaissance, with many packs recruiting new followers in unprecedented numbers. Some hunts even have waiting lists as never before. Everybody knows the truth and few pretend otherwise. The hunting ban is a national farce, and a massive political failure.'
So what is the truth about the 300-year-old sport? We visited two of the 174 fox hunts in England and Wales - The Duke of Beaufort's Hunt, which covers an enormous 500-square-mile tract of the countryside from Bath in the south to Cirencester in the north, and the smaller VWH based on the border between Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

We spoke to those who run the hunts, those who work for them, and the people who follow them - either on horses, on foot, or in cars.

Captain Ian Farquhar, 62, a farmer and landowner, has been Master of The Beaufort since 1985, as was his father before him. It is the hunt which Prince Charles and Princes Harry and William used to enjoy following before the ban.

Class war? Captain Ian Farquhar leads the Beaufort Hunt, he thinks the ban was a class war and says the sport is really egalitarian

Captain Farquhar has broken almost every bone in his body - bar his neck - out hunting. He says: 'The fight to get a hunting ban was a class war, and yet hunting is one of the few sports that is really egalitarian, involving people from every age group, every social background, and every income bracket.'

So what kind of people are behind this hunting renaissance? This week, out hunting I saw four state school children (their farm worker families had decided that following hounds astride ponies in the autumn sunshine was preferable to a day behind a desk at the local comprehensive).
There was also a farmer called Jo with his wife (who milked the cows before they set off at dawn), and a girl from a Cirencester supermarket who told her boss she had the sniffles.

Watching from the sidelines, as followers in cars, were two retired herdsmen and a family from Swindon who were on benefits. One, a teenage boy, had a hood over his head, but still called out 'Good morning' to Captain Farquhar as he passed by in the back of a shabby 4x4 that would have looked more at home on a council estate.

'Our oldest mounted follower is 87 and has a military background,' says Farquhar. 'We have a bricklayer, shopkeepers, a fencer and some housewives. During the week it is the locals who come - at the weekends it can be 200 from all over the country.

Recently, a lady of a great age who was still riding side-saddle was persuaded to give up hunting with us on the advice of her family and her doctors. She couldn't keep up very well towards the end, but no one minded.'

Meanwhile, over at the VFH, it is much the same story. John Manners-Bell, 39, runs a market research company in the village of Brinkworth, Wiltshire. His wife is a local vet and he has two children, aged six and two.

He moved to the village two years ago from Cambridgeshire, and began to learn how to ride. On Wednesday, he went hunting in the morning, and soon after noon he was back at his desk. He has two horses, Tabitha and Holly, which he keeps at a local stable.

'I love hunting,' he says. 'I ride out with the hounds at least once a week. I don't take much notice of what the hounds are doing up at the front. I can't tell you if they have ever started to chase a fox and then been stopped by the huntsmen.

'I spend all my time concentrating on staying on the back of my horse,' he adds with a grin.

But what of the foxes themselves? Every huntsman and farmer will tell you that they are wily characters. They are omnivores and opportunists. They will eat almost anything. They can carry away a baby lamb with ease. One fox might kill 70 pheasants in a night, just for the joy of it.

Once they get the bloodlust, there is no stopping them. A fox will massacre a pen of hens yet take just one to eat. A vixen will kill a lamb and carry only the liver and the heart back to her cubs. Wha's more, the fox has no predator, apart from man.

In the year before the ban, the Beaufort Hunt's hounds killed 140 foxes. Today no one knows how many are being shot, gassed, or even snared on the 1,500 farms and smallholdings which the hunt covers. 'We suspect it is far more than it ever was,' says Captain Farquhar, his face looking grim.

And worse for the fox, research from the pro-hunting lobby has shown that for each one killed by a shotgun or rifle, another one is left horribly injured. He faces a long and lingering death.

Foxes are nimble and tend to move just as a shot is taken. They are notoriously difficult to shoot cleanly, which is why some farmers and gamekeepers have turned to more efficient ways of killing - gassing or snaring.

The Countryside Alliance, the major lobby group which fought furiously against the introduction of the ban - says that hundreds of foxes are now being exterminated as vermin, rather like rats.

Spokesman Tim Bonner said this week: 'The fox is being eliminated. It is impossible to say how many have been killed since the ban, but we believe it is more than when the fox was professionally hunted. A third of hunts say they are counting fewer foxes than in 2004.'

And far more pregnant vixens are being killed, too. When a marksman takes aim or a snare is set, it is almost impossible to tell if the victim is an expectant female.

Yet, in one of nature's strange quirks, a vixen gives off no scent when she is pregnant. So, ironically, pregnant females were completely safe from the hunts as the hounds could not follow her trail.

But what of the law which brought in the ban? According to the Countryside Alliance, now campaigning for a repeal of the 2005 Hunting Act, it is an utterly confusing piece of legislation.

One such example is that it is perfectly legal to send a terrier underground to root out a fox - and then for a VWH hunt worker like Richard to shoot it, if the fox is killing a game bird, such as a pheasant or partridge.

However, if the fox has been slaughtering lambs or piglets - which it loves to do - then it is illegal to use the same methods.

In a further oddity, the huntsmen can go out with two dogs to 'flush out' a fox from a rabbit hole, and then kill it with a gun. However, if he has three dogs it is against the law. And, even more strangely, a pack of hounds can hunt a fox if a bird of prey, such as a Golden Eagle, is then used to kill it.

Unsurprisingly, a national survey undertaken by Opinion Research two years ago found that fewer than three in ten adults in this country believe that the Hunting Act is working.

The police say it is almost impossible to enforce anyway (they have other, more pressing priorities, and cannot watch every mile covered by every hunt), while even a crown court judge, overturning the first ever conviction of a huntsman, observed that the law was 'far from simple to interpret or apply'.

Tony Wright, a Devon huntsman, had originally been found guilty of chasing two foxes across Exmoor with two hounds. The case was brought by the League Against Cruel Sports, which argued that he had allowed 'a prolonged period' of pursuit - which is also illegal.

Mr Wright, 52, said he was using the 'two dog' exemption in the Hunting Act, and thought he was obeying the rules. The case is now going to appeal in the High Court, after thousands of hours of lawyers' time and huge costs on all sides.

If the Government's intention was to spare the fox an inhumane death, while simultaneously eroding support for what it saw as a pursuit reserved for the upper classes, then it has signally failed.

The attention the ban has brought to the sport seems to have kindled an interest in it from people who might otherwise have remained uninterested. As for the foxes, ask the pro-hunt lobby, how can gassing, snaring and wildly inaccurate shooting of ever-increasing numbers be deemed as humane?

So what of the future? A lot depends on the result of the next election. David Cameron, who has hunted to hounds, says he will allow a free vote on the issue in Parliament. 'If the vote went through, there would be a Government Bill to get rid of it. I mean, in my own view, the ban is not working. It's a farce really,' he pronounced recently.

No one believes that more than the 50 men, women and child riders galloping behind the Beaufort Hunt hounds on Thursday morning. As the pack, with their green-coated Master and huntsmen, followed the scent of a piece of urine-soaked rag across the beautiful countryside, I saw a fox watching them.

They didn't see him. But he seemed to have a cocky stance. And I fancy that I saw a grin on his face.

Badminton Horse Trials - The Facts & Figures

It was the 10th Duke of Beaufort - Master - whose idea it was to hold an event in his Gloucestershire park in order that British riders could train for future international events. The first event was held in 1949.
When Golden Willow won the first Badminton in 1949, there were 22 starters from two countries, Britain and Ireland. .
Since then Great Britain has won three team golds and two individual gold medals in the Olympics; four team golds and four individual gold medals in the World Championships, and no fewer than 20 team golds and 17 individual gold medals in the European Championships.
For the first 10 years, the dressage and show-jumping arenas were sited on the old cricket ground in front of Badminton House. Torrential rain in 1959 turned the park into a sea of mud and the arenas and tradestands were moved to the present site.
The very first European Championships were staged at Badminton in 1953. The winner was Major Laurence Rook on Starlight XV.
The Trials were first televised in 1956. in 2007 there were some 16 cameras covering the event for the Outside Broadcasts Unit of the BBC.
In 1955, the Trials were moved to Windsor for one year at the invitation of The Queen, to hold the 2nd European Championships.
In 1956, the Steeplechase course was moved from the Didmarton point-to-point course to the site at The Slaits, where it stayed until discontinued in 2006.
In 1959 it was decided to run the Trials in two sections - The Great and Little Badminton. This was due to the popularity of the sport and the number of entries. This was abandoned after the 1965 competition, since when there have always been two days of dressage.
In 1961, Messrs. Whitbread took over the sponsorship of the Badminton Horse Trials and this continued until 1991, one of the longest sponsorships for any sport.
Bad weather has forced the cancellation of the Trials on three occasions - in 1966, 1975 and 1987. The terrible weather of 1962/63 which continued into the spring, forced Badminton to down-grade to a one day event. Foot and Mouth disease caused the cancellation of the 2001 Event.

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