After many years of sotto voce whispering, racism has been very publicly blamed for a monster family fall-out at one of Britain’s most eccentrically run stately homes, Longleat, the seat of the Marquess of Bath, who is famed for having dozens of mistresses whom he terms his “wifelets”.
The heir to the estate, Bath’s son Ceawlin, aka Viscount Weymouth, who has taken over the day-to-day running of the vast Elizabethan house and grounds from his father in recent years, has now publicly accused his mother, the current Marchioness, of making racist remarks about his half-Nigerian wife, Emma.
Emma is the daughter of a Nigerian father, oil tycoon Ladi Jadesimi, and a British mother, Suzanna McQuiston. She will become Britain's first black marchioness when her husband inherits the title on his father’s death.
The allegations came about in a dramatic phone call with The Sunday Times writer Camilla Long. Long had visited the estate for an interview scheduled to promote a new three-part BBC series on the house and its inhabitants, which begins next week. In the course of the interview, Ceawlin and Emma repeatedly maintained that everything at Longleat was “wonderful”.
However, a few days later Long received a call from the couple, who said they were fed up of ‘pretending’ and, she writes, all the details of how the marchioness objects to Emma ‘tumble out’:
Long writes that when Ceawlin informed his mother that he wished to get married to Emma, she asked him: “Are you sure about what you’re doing to 400 years of bloodline?”
Ceawlin “demanded she return the wedding invitation and made it clear that under no circumstances would she be attending”, and had “security on standby to prevent her from accessing the area. All the doors were manned and various corridors and outdoor areas.”
Since the wedding, the couple said, the marchioness routinely ignores Emma whenever they cross paths in the grounds.
The marchioness, who is 71, has now been banned from contact with their son, John. “I don’t want him contaminated by that sort of atmosphere and those sort of views,” Ceawlin told Long.
The marchioness told the paper she “did not know” she was banned from seeing her grandson, although she admitted she told her children she would “tell them what I think about their serious partners”.
McQuiston has spoken before about her father-in-law’s absence at her wedding. Lord Bath (who has long lived a largely separate life to his wife) reportedly refused to attend the wedding after his son removed one of his sexually-themed murals.
Now there will inevitably be questions whether this was the real reason for his no-show.