Going into the Guards depot at Caterham was very, very different from going to Eton. I was raced around, called all manner of names, suddenly made to feel that I was the most insignificant person who was doing extremely badly. When I got through basic training and had passed out with a commission I began to see how, in the handling of men, and in the handling, say, of mechanical things, I didn't really know how to cope with life.
Let me put Eton into context by saying that I didn't send my son there. The principal reason was the class structure, the divisiveness - the fact that the system immediately groups you according to whether you are middle class, or upper-middle class, or one of the others.
I was successful at Eton, but my life there made it very difficult for me, as a young man, to feel at ease with someone who didn't come from a particular group of two or three public schools. That lasted 10 years. It began to break down when I moved to London in the Sixties - I bought a flat for no particular reason and began to make friends across the board and particularly across the ethnic board, so that I found I was mingling and barriers were removed. It made me feel less isolated, a part of humanity.
Coming out of National Service there was still a lot of bounce in me - after all, I did get my commission and I did, at the end, get the respect of my troop. But I was beginning to lose complete self-confidence, to withdraw into myself.
I went to Paris for nine months to paint, and I was feeling, 'Yes, I am getting a style together, I am cut out for success as a painter'. But at the same time I was becoming reclusive and not able to mingle with other artists, partly because I couldn't bridge to foreigners, but also because the English people there didn't come from the background of those I knew how to mingle with, so I kept myself very much to myself.
From there I went to Oxford where, socially, I was back in the group I knew, and self-confidence was extreme again. But I also thought I was going to prove myself intellectually and I didn't, I got a Third, and I really did think I was going to get a good degree.
After that, I had to get back into the business of sorting myself out and sorting out what I believed in, and I was somersaulting all round - in religion, politics, morality, the idea of how the universe works. Oxford was preparing the tools for changing my beliefs, and the
period of fitting them together and deciding what I believed was immediately afterwards.
The whole period was enormously formative. I still believed in myself but knew that others didn't - they were beginning to see me as slightly ridiculous or eccentric. I told myself I would have to work it out within myself and emerge again later.
I don't feel that the person in the photograph was on the wrong track, but the working- out process was all ahead of him. I feel that he had still to come to grips with life and learn how to contend with it. Essential belief in myself never did waver, but there was so much to internalise and the belief was no longer apparent: I knew the doubts everyone else felt.
I very gradually regained some of that self-confidence - although I never have, as yet, managed to attain what I felt at the moment that photograph was taken. I think it would come if acclaim arrived, but it hasn't. I think I still have a few problems. Press coverage of me over the last few decades hasn't been congratulatory. I feel there is still some way to go. But the tale hasn't ended yet.
Lord Bath is currently developing the tourist facilities at Longleat, including new labyrinths and a 'Thynn-henge' megalithic circle.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content