Aristocrat jailed for attacking wife during rows over drug-taking

Violent Lord Edward Somerset led 22-year campaign of abuse, moved girlfriend into the marital home and openly used crack

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The Independent Online

An aristocrat whose life of “privilege and almost limitless opportunities” spiralled into drug abuse and violence has been jailed for two years for attacking his wife after he moved his girlfriend into their stately marital home.

Lord Edward Somerset, 55, admitted assaulting his wife on a number of occasions over 22 years after she confronted him over his drug use and argued over his decision to bring his girlfriend for weekday stays at their home on the  22,500-acre Badminton Estate.

The second son of the Duke of Beaufort – who appeared gaunt and dishevelled in the dock – was told by a judge that he had inflicted “repeated and deliberate” acts of violence against his wife because of his addiction to drugs and alcohol and his uncontrollable temper. He admitted four counts of causing actual bodily harm.

The attacks – in which Lady Caroline suffered bruising, scratching, hair pulling and a fractured finger – took place on the estate in Gloucester where the couple lived with other members of the family between 1990 and 2012.

She needed hospital treatment last year from two attacks after she argued with her husband because he took crack cocaine in front of his youngest daughter.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Lady Caroline moved out of the Badminton estate three years ago while she had treatment for alcohol addiction.

She went back to Badminton at weekends – while Somerset’s girlfriend was there during the week. He kicked out at his wife she challenged him about the arrangement.

His violence was reported to police by doctors after his wife was taken to hospital having been kicked and punched in the stomach on a later occasion when the aristocrat was confronted over his drugs use. When he was questioned by police, he said: “I shouldn’t do it, I know. That is what worries me, I think I could go further one day. It was all so undignified.”

Judge Mark Horton said that the case was one of two tragedies. “ A tragedy of a man born to privilege and almost limitless opportunities whose life has been marred and destroyed by an addiction to alcohol and drugs and an uncontrollable temper,” he said.

“The tragedy with which the court is concerned is the tragedy caused to your wife by you over a period of 22 years by your repeated and deliberate violence.

“You abused your position of power over your wife, not only physically but more importantly by psychological and emotional damage caused by that physical control.”

The couple, who have two daughters, are getting divorced. The judge also imposed a restraining order to protect Lady Caroline who is in Australia.

The couple, who were married for 30 years, lived a hedonistic lifestyle when they began married life in New York and they were initially happy, the court was told.

But during a holiday to visit a friend in France in 1991, an argument led to Somerset dragging his wife across the floor and punching her in the head and body, the court was told. However they remained together and moved into Essex House on the Badminton Estate in 1992 when the violence became more frequent.

After the jailing of Somerset, senior CPS prosecutor Rob Allen said: “This case is a reminder that domestic violence permeates all sections of our society.”