Longleat brother's prophecy comes to pass

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ON WEDNESDAY evening Lord Christopher Thynne was sacked as comptroller of Longleat House - a position he has held for 15 years - in a tussle that makes the filial altercations between JR and Bobby Ewing in Dallas look like a children's spat.

The man who gave him his P45 was the new owner of the Elizabethan pile, the

Seventh Marquess of Bath - his brother, Alexander.

The brothers may share a taste in unconventional attire - Alexander, 60, favouring kaftans and bare feet while Christopher, 57, opts for leather trousers and cowboy boots - but that is about as far as their relationship went. Alexander did not get on with his father, seeing him no more than half-a-dozen times a year. Christopher was devoted to the Sixth Marquess and took his side in most disputes. Consequently, the brothers hardly spoke to one another.

The one thing they agreed on, however, was that, after their father's death, Lord Christopher's job was not the most secure in the aristocracy. 'It would be extremely tactless of me to comment on the future,' Lord Christopher said, prophetically, last week. 'That is a matter entirely for my brother to decide. I don't even know if I'll have a job next week.'

In a letter to the Independent, published on Wednesday, Alexander made his intentions clear. For several years, he wrote, he had made 'various attempts' to persuade his father 'to remove my brother as manager (of Longleat House)'. With his father dead less than a week, the new Marquess moved quickly to achieve his ambition.

After a short, tense private meeting on Wednesday night, Lord Christopher cleared his desk, removed the sign which read 'Charming considerate Chris in control' from his office door and addressed his staff, who were said to be 'devastated'. He then retired to his cottage on the estate, making only a terse statement: 'It is business as usual, thank you.'

The Marquess is understood to have returned to his summer retreat in St Tropez, to continue work on his autobiography, a hefty tome to which he adds up to 100,000 words every year. Doubtless he will soon add another chapter.