Descendant of Nell Gwynn makes last stand for lords

Click to follow
Indy Politics

MORE THAN 800 years of parliamentary tradition went out with a bang, not a simper, yesterday as the Earl of Burford staged a last-gasp protest against the abolition of hereditary peers' right to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

MORE THAN 800 years of parliamentary tradition went out with a bang, not a simper, yesterday as the Earl of Burford staged a last-gasp protest against the abolition of hereditary peers' right to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

In a stunt rivalling Michael Heseltine's legendary jungle swing of the Commons mace, the 34-year-old son of the Duke of St Albans caused uproar when he leapt on to the Lord Chancellor's woolsack to condemn the Government's plans.

Downing Street said that the earl, a direct descendant of the illegitimate offspring of Charles II and Nell Gwyn, gave Tony Blair all the proof he needed that the peers were ripe for the axe.

Charles Francis Topham de Vere Beauclerk ensured his status as a historical footnote with his own brand of direct action. Although not yet a hereditary peer, the heir to the St Albans dukedom was allowed to sit on the steps of the throne, from where he seized his moment of glory. Waving an order paper, the earl forced the Lords Deputy Speaker out of the way and delivered a short speech defending his pedigree chums: "This Bill drafted in Brussels is treason. What we are witnessing is the abolition of Britain."

Before the protest could continue, he was pulled down by ushers and ordered out of the peers' entrance by Black Rod, the Serjeant-at-Arms, General Sir Edward Jones.

The earl, who has made it his short life's work to prove that one of his ancestors, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the real author of Shakespeare's plays, declared: "If Blair gets his way in Britain, then, in the words of Shakespeare, our country 'will be a wilderness again,/Peopled with wolves'. It's time we woke up to this chilling reality," he told reporters outside the chamber.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman, however, had the last word: "It sounds to me like the desperate act of the spent forces of conservatism."

Comments