EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Earl Bathurst attacks late stepmother for her ‘lack of standards’ after feud over family portraiture and antiques worth millions
Earl Bathurst would seem to have the most enviable of inheritances: 15,000 Gloucestershire acres and a superb stately home, Cirencester Park, where Princes William and Harry play polo.
Yet this magnificent setting is, I can disclose, the backdrop for a feud which even death cannot curtail.
Indeed, it is only now that Lord Bathurst, 57, who inherited the estate in 2011, has finally felt able to speak his mind about his American stepmum, the Dowager Countess Bathurst, who died last week aged 90.
‘It was no secret that my stepmother, Gloria, and I did not see eye to eye, despite a number of attempted reconciliations being made, all of which were thrown back in our faces,’ Allen Bathurst tells me.
Lord and Lady Bathurst from Cirencester (pictured together left). Lord Bathurst had previously said he could not speak out about the Dowager Countess Bathurst (right)
Gloria brought a High Court action against him in 2017, as she unsuccessfully sought the ‘use and enjoyment’ of family portraiture and antiques worth an estimated £13 million.
With devastating candour, he claims Gloria traded on her aristocratic status after she became his father Henry’s second wife in 1978. ‘Having married into the family, she was happy to use the family name,’ Allen says. ‘It was just disappointing that she could not follow in the manners, standards and loyalty of the family of the past.’
Given that Gloria’s funeral is not until Friday, the earl’s comments might seem outrageous. But sympathy comes from those who knew Gloria and her late husband, who was known as ‘Barmy Bathurst’.
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One family friend says: ‘I know one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but she was a very difficult woman — at all times, I’m afraid.’
Evidence supports that assessment. After Barmy’s death in 2011, Gloria declined to renew the lease on Cirencester Park Polo Club, before eventually relenting.
Her husband had branded Prince William ‘some young yob in a beat–up car’ after his Land Rover was overtaken on an estate road by the Prince’s VW Golf.
And, in 2013, Gloria closed Cirencester Hospital car park, situated on land she owned, causing her stepson — president of the Cirencester Hospital League of Friends — acute embarrassment.
The smart set’s talking about…Duke’s ‘wild’ girl Lady Eliza
Eliza Manners (left) and boyfriend Thor Winkler (right) pose in front of a Christmas tree
The Duke of Rutland’s elder daughters, Lady Violet and Lady Alice Manners, are two of London’s most sprightly socialites. But the party-loving pair were broken up this week when Violet, 25, moved to the U.S. to enrol as a student in Los Angeles.
Happily, there’s another sister waiting in the wings: Lady Eliza Manners, 21. She is said to be the ‘wild’ one of the family, who live in Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire.
Eliza, who threw a circus-themed 18th birthday party, enjoys showing off her high-spirited side on social media. When she’s not dancing until the early hours, she’s recovering the following morning with a vitamin C drip.
Belvoir Castle (pictured above) where the family live in Leicestershire
She works as hard as she parties, though, and is due to graduate this summer from Newcastle University.
Happily, she has found more than just an education there — she has fallen for Thor Winkler, 21, a former pupil of £38,325-a-year Radley College. His German father, Olof, is the director of firms with combined assets of £102.9 million. ‘They’re very serious and even spent New Year’s together in Mustique,’ a friend tells me. But can he keep up with the Manners sisters?
Paddy’s last battle to finish writing book
Paddy Ashdown (pictured above) died just before Christmas after a short battle with cancer
Even Paddy Ashdown’s political opponents had the utmost respect for his resilience and energy — qualities which, it appears, remained almost undimmed until the end.
For I can disclose that the former Liberal Democrat leader and Royal Marines captain, who died aged 77 just before Christmas after a short battle with cancer, was still working on a final book. Fittingly, it concerned wartime heroism, not parliamentary skirmishes.
‘It’s about the Special Boat Service in World War II,’ I’m told. Ashdown served in the SBS in the Sixties. ‘He’d been sending draft chapters to military friends to check, right up until his death.’
James’s very useful pup’s a therapy dog
James Middleton’s dog, Ella the cocker spaniel (pictured above) is said to have helped to attract his new girlfriend
James Middleton’s adored cocker spaniel, Ella, is a very useful pet.
Not only did she help attract his new girlfriend, Alizee Thevenet, as this newspaper revealed yesterday, but she has just qualified as a Pets As Therapy dog. She is now officially registered to provide therapeutic help to humans.
‘Proud of Ella becoming a PAT dog this year,’ the Duchess of Cambridge’s 31-year-old brother tells his friends online. ‘Animals can provide a sense of calm, comfort, or safety and divert attention away from a stressful situation and toward one that provides pleasure.’
Marshmallow-maker James (right) says he’s a ‘huge believer’ in animal-assisted therapy, which has helped him cope with unspecified problems. He declares: ‘Ella has done so much for me.’
A man’s best friend: James Middleton (left) walking his cocker spaniel Ella (right)
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