Servant tells how his devotion to aristocrat led to him being left a fortune
The Caribbean stevedore’s son who has inherited the West Indian estate of the late Lord Glenconner has spoken for the first time of his 30 years' faithful service to the flamboyant aristocrat.
He spoke as relations gathered on Saturday for a memorial ceremony at the family’s Scottish kirk.
By Philip Sherwell, in St Lucia, and Michael Howie9:30PM BST 18 Jun 2011
Kent Adonai, who grew up in poverty in a shanty town, is now the proud owner of a vast estate on the island of St Lucia worth millions of pounds.
The peer’s family has walked away with none of his Caribbean fortune, Colin Tennant’s will having been changed seven months before he died last year in favour of his trusted manservant. Even in death at the age of 83 — just as in life — Lord Glenconner, infamous party host and close friend of Princess Margaret, was causing a furore.
His widow Anne had thought the estate was being left to Cody Tennant, their 17-year-old grandson.
Speaking after the memorial service at the family’s baronial home, Glen House, in the Scottish Borders, Lady Glenconner, 78, told The Sunday Telegraph: “We are not angry; we are surprised. There’s no rift. We feel Colin [Lord Glenconner] was very ill, that he changed his will, but was not well enough. He had cancer very badly and I don’t think he remembered making the will. The will wasn’t Kent’s fault.”
She said Cody, had accepted, having taken legal advice, that the new will was not open to challenge in St Lucia. “Cody was to get something. I would get something, and the others too,” she said, “There’s no rift but a will like this does make it quite awkward.”
She said the will trusted Mr Adonai “to carry out my [Lord Glenconner’s] wishes towards the family” although it does not appear to be clear what those wishes were. “Kent is illiterate. He cannot read or write. He doesn’t seem aware of the wishes of the family,” said Lady Glenconner.
More than 4,000 miles away in St Lucia, Mr Adonai was paying his own tribute, sat in a wooden chair overlooking his master’s whitewashed grave and the shimmering sea beyond. “He taught me so much about the world, about history and culture. Every day, I miss him terribly,” said Mr Adonai. “I was with him every day. We would talk for hours, I drove him everywhere. He was a wonderful man.”
Mr Adonai declined to discuss the will and his plans for the estate, a stunning sweep of rainforest on the south-west coast of St Lucia wedged between the towering volcanic twin peaks of the Pitons. “Mr Tennant asked me to do certain things and I will carry out his wishes. I will do what I think fit,” he said, speaking in a mixture of English and the local French-influenced patois. “I find all the pressure very difficult.”
As he does most days, Mr Adonai, 47, then went fishing for blue marlin and tuna, his escape from the loss of the man who transformed his life and died in his arms in August after a massive heart attack.
Over nearly three decades, he had worked for Lord Glenconner in roles varying from elephant-keeper to estate manager and had been promised he would be looked after following his master’s death. An unassuming, quietly spoken figure who has never given an interview before this weekend, Mr Adonai insisted there were no bad feelings between him and the family.
“I was invited to the ceremony in Scotland but I couldn’t go because it just would be too emotional,” he said, his voice breaking as he recalled the man he knew simply as “Mr Tennant”.
His common-law wife Mona did make the journey to Scotland, indicating that relations have indeed perhaps not frayed irrevocably despite suggestions of pending legal action. “Lady Anne and their children have also always been very good to me,” he insisted.
Close relations at the memorial included Lord Glenconner’s grandson Euan, 26, who has inherited the family seat, as well as surviving sons Christopher Tennant and Joshua Bowler, 54, who only discovered Lord Glenconner was his father two years ago.
This September, Bonham’s will auction some of the peer’s eclectic collection of Indian, Chinese and Balinese furniture and other artefacts — a sale that will help to pay for the estate’s upkeep. The auction will fetch between £750,000 and £1 million.
For as eccentric a figure as Lord Glenconner, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr Adonai met him in 1982 in circumstances that sound almost too outlandish to be true.
As an 18 year-old, he used to help his father load the banana boats that crossed the Caribbean to Britain. One day, word went round the dock that one of the boats had returned with a highly unusual cargo of exotic animals, including an elephant.
“When we got to Soufrière, the elephant didn’t want to come out of its box. I helped to encourage her out. I think that’s why Mr Tennant said he wanted me to look after her. To this day, many people here still know me as 'marrie l’elefant’ [the elephant husband in patois], not Kent.”
From there, he progressed to estate manager, driver and factotum for the aristocrat, whose family fortune was the product of an ancestor inventing industrial bleach.
He witnessed the peer’s infamous temper, but said the rages always passed quickly. “He was like a cane field on fire,” he said. “He would flare up but then it would be finished two minutes later.”
Mr Adonai says there has been no local envy. “Everyone knows that Mr Tennant was a very generous man who cared greatly for the local community. He was loved here.”
Mr Adonai has no plans to leave the spartan single-storey concrete house that he shares with Mona and their extended family, including two adult children. There he keeps hundreds of photographs of his life with the Tennant family — including trips on safari in Africa and to Hindu temples in Bali. Lord Glenconner is almost invariably dressed in his trademark straw hat and loose white muslin shirts.
And propped up in the corner is a blown-up reproduction of the front page of Hello! magazine from March 1994 featuring Princess Margaret attending the opening party of Lord Glenconner’s Bang restaurant in St Lucia. By then, Lord Glenconner had long made a name for himself as a host of infamous parties. He had risen to prominence on the back of his purchase of Mustique, the mosquito-ridden wasteland he bought for £45,000 in 1958 and which he transformed into a playground for the rich and famous.
In a row over the price of electricity, the “monarch of Mustique” sold up in the late 70s and moved to St Lucia, 45 miles away, in 1981. His fortunes were to take a tumble. His eldest son Charlie, a heroin addict, was disinherited in favour of his second son Henry. Charlie died of hepatitis in 1996 while Henry, who was homosexual, died of Aids in 1990. Their third and youngest son Christopher was disabled following a motorcycle accident in 1987.
Mr Adonai recalls some memorable parties, most recently for his boss’s 80th birthday at his Indian “palace”. But in his later years, the aristocrat, educated at Eton and Oxford, lived a tamer life.
He described the day Lord Glenconner died. Mr Adonai was with him as usual when the aristocrat was struck by a debilitating heart attack.
“I tried to pump his chest and bring him back to life as I held him, but it was no good,” he said tears in his eyes. He drove his master to hospital but the peer was already dead, and in tragedy Kent Adonai’s fortunes were transformed.
18th June 2011
Scots peer leaves tropical estate to his manservant
By Brian Donnelly
HE created a Caribbean Shangri-La for the rich and famous that became known for its wild midnight bathing parties and attracted stars such as Mick Jagger and David Bowie, as well as the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret.
Now flamboyant Scottish peer Lord Glenconner, who died aged 83 nearly a year ago, has proven to be as controversial in death as in life after it emerged he left his entire multimillion-pound Mustique estate to his manservant Kent Adonai.
The 48-year-old West Indian, who served the peer for decades, was favoured over Lord Glenconner’s whole family who had been cut out the peer’s will seven months before he died.
The celebration of the life of Lord Glenconner at Traquair Church, Peeblesshire, will be attended by scores of his family and friends.
He died almost a year ago in St Lucia after a battle against cancer.
Lord Glenconner’s wife of 54 years, Lady Anne Coke, has spoken of her disappointment at learning that Mr Adonai has inherited Lord Glenconner’s entire estate in the West Indies including his beachside house between the Pitons in St Lucia, all its contents and a valley overlooking the Caribbean.
She was quoted as saying: “Unfortunately, he changed his will seven months before he died and not one member of his family was named in his new will – not me, his wife for more than half a century, or any of his children or grandchildren.”
Mr Adonai was said to have been with the peer when he died, and he was best man at the wedding of Lord Glenconner’s only surviving son, Christopher.
The manservant led tributes at Lord Glenconner’s funeral, at which Bryan Adams sang, when he said: “There are no words that can sum up how much he meant to me, my family and the village. I am now lost. I cannot describe how big the gap is that has been left in my life. He was not only a father to me but to everyone.”
It had been expected that Cody would receive the West Indies estate.
Today’s thanksgiving service will take place at 2.30pm and will be conducted by the Reverend Janice Faris.
It is less than a mile away from the family seat at The Glen which was built in 1852.
Yesterday, Lord Glenconner’s daughter-in-law Tessa Tennant – the widow of his son Henry and mother of Euan who has inherited The Glen – said: “It is a thanksgiving service and is mainly for the people who were unable to go to the West Indies for the funeral. It is an opportunity to remember him and give thanks for his life at the same time. The service is not private but it is a family occasion focussing on his life.”
She confirmed The Glen was not affected by the will contents in St Lucia.
Among the guests will be Lord Glenconner’s recently discovered illegitimate son, Joshua Bowler. Glenconner had five other children, though his two eldest sons died before he did.
Kent, 48, who was also invited, will not be there. Instead, he will be represented by his former common-law wife.
Manservant who was left £30m by Lord Glenconner WILL share it with peer's grandson
Kent Adonai's had been facing a legal battle with 20-year-old Cody Tennant, who became the fourth Baron Glenconner when his grandfather died
By SHARON CHURCHER and COLIN MAXIMIN
PUBLISHED: 00:51, 2 March 2014 | UPDATED: 03:25, 2 March 2014
He became the world’s richest manservant when left a £30 million fortune by his playboy boss who cut his heir out of his will.
But now Kent Adonai – who was Lord Glenconner’s valet and carer for 30 years – has struck a secret deal to share the windfall with the peer’s grandson.
The 51-year-old had been facing a legal battle with 20-year-old Cody Tennant, who became the fourth Baron Glenconner when the former owner of Princess Margaret’s favourite island retreat died in 2010.
He had expected to inherit the family estate – only to discover his grandfather rewrote his will seven months before his death aged 83.
The Scottish university student was backed in his battle by his family, including Glenconner’s widow, Lady Anne, who was also shocked to learn she had not been left a penny.
Mr Adonai, who cannot read or write, hired a top legal team on St Lucia, Glenconner’s home after leaving Mustique, where he once hosted Royalty.
The inheritance included the peer’s Indian-style mansion, jewellery, art and antiques, and 192 acres of shorefront development land.
However, appearing before a judge last week at the East Caribbean Supreme Court, Mr Adonai’s representatives agreed he will share the property with the new baron.
A court insider told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The lawyers who represent Kent and Cody respectively each handed a sealed brown envelope to the judge. The deal was in them.
'My understanding is that Cody is getting a share in the land that potentially will make him a multi-millionaire.’
Cody’s lawyer Peter Foster – also speaker of the St Lucia Parliament – said: ‘Yes, there was a dispute over the will and now it has been settled amicably.’
He declined to put a value on the property relinquished by Mr Adonai, but added: ‘The way it has been settled is to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.’
Although the grounds of the challenge have not been revealed, one legal expert said it may have involved a clause in which Glenconner directed the servant to ‘apportion’ the fortune ‘to himself and heirs in whatsoever manner he wishes as I have discussed with him’.
‘One might argue that Glenconner expected Kent to look after his heirs, including Cody and Lady Anne,’ the expert added. ‘It also might have been argued he was elderly and not in his right mind.’
Lady Anne has also pointed out that her husband was battling cancer when he died.
Mr Adonai has always maintained that, along with inheriting land worth millions, he was also saddled with Glenconner’s debts which, he claims, left him impoverished. He says this was the reason he sold the peer’s belongings two years ago.
However, at the time of his death, Glenconner was sitting on one of the Caribbean’s most desirable pieces of land and had plans for a resort development that was to include seven villas priced up to £7 million each.
‘Developers are vying for land in the area,’ a Caribbean property specialist said. ‘Cody and Kent each stand to earn millions.’
Mr Adonai’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.