Living on the dole and taking showers at public baths because he has no hot water: the life of the Earl of Cardigan after ex-wife leaves fortune to children


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The Independent Online

Relying on jobseeker's allowance when work as a delivery driver dries up, while living in an unheated house forces you to travel to local public baths for a shower, surely cannot be the kind of life one expects when born into aristocracy.

But for David Brudenell-Bruce, the Earl of Cardigan, that is exactly the life he faces every week, after a series of financial misfortunes befell him over the last few years.

Lord Cardigan, 60, went through a costly divorce and a much-publicised stint in rehab in the US, and has also faced angry legal confrontations with the trustees of his estate and a series of prosecutions for assault and criminal damage.

The most recent chapter in his financial downfall was revealed last week when probate records showed that his former wife, Lady Cardigan, who died shortly after the couple's divorce last year, left all of her £1,520,582 estate to her two children, excluding any mention of her ex-husband in the will.

The estranged couple's children are 27-year-old daughter, Bo (real name lady Catherine Brudenell-Bruce),  who was the runner-up in BBC's The Voice, and Thomas, 30, neither of whom have any contact with the Earl.

Bo and Thomas still live at Leigh Hill House on the Savernake Estate - England's only privately-owned forest - which was left to their mother as part of the divorce settlement.

Meanwhile, the Earl and his new wife Joanne live in comparative poverty in an unheated house on the otherside of the estate, taking showers in public baths in nearby Marlborough.

The divorce settlement between is reported to have cost the Earl about £2m and forced the trustees of his estate to sell valuable portraits by high profile artists, including Sir Peter Lely and Sir Joshua Reynolds, leading to further legal costs as the Earl battled to keep the paintings.

According to The Times, while Lord Cardigan works as a delivery driver, transporting goods from Harrods to private jets at Heathrow Airport, in the weeks where there is insufficient work, his wife and he are forced to survive on £71-per-week jobseeker's allowance.

Between the Earl's and his children's homes lays Tottenham House, a derelict building whose past occupant was another Lord Cardigan, a distant relative who led the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War.

The present Earl went to the prep school that occupied Tottenham House before going to agricultural college so that his father could leave the running of the estate in his son's hands while he worked as a stockbroker in the city.

In 2005 it looked as though the family's fortunes were taking a turn upwards as a deal was secured to turn the old house into a hotel, but this fell through when the credit crunch hit.

Officially, the Earl owns 49 per cent of the estate on paper but two trustees have overall control. A High Court hearing resumes later this year in which the Earl will contest the control of the estate.