The rebel son who inherits Longleat

(Photograph omitted)

AT THIS time of year, most of Britain's hippies are being thrown off other people's land. But yesterday, Britain's premier hippie, Lord Weymouth, inherited one of England's finest stately homes and became the seventh Marquess of Bath.

That the new Marquess's relationship with his father was strained was not surprising, in view of his unconventionality. But the bitterest blow to his father - who died yesterday of cancer, aged 87 - was his plan to turn the grounds of their home, Longleat, into an pounds 80m holiday village.

The late Marquess made Longleat famous when he opened Europe's first safari park, complete with lions, in 1966 after inheriting huge debts with his title. But he balked at his eldest son's latest scheme.

The new Marquess, 60, with long hair and heavy beard, joined the Center Parcs leisure group to draw up the plan, and is now awaiting a decision from the Department of the Environment, which is considering it following a public inquiry.

But the tensions with his father, from whom he inherits a share of the pounds 140m estate, were nothing new. It was these strains which led him to change his name from Alexander Thynne to Thynn in 1976, in an effort to distance himself from the rest of the family.

It was entirely in keeping with the man who has kept himself in the forefront of the nation's great misfits. In his younger days, his Wessex Regionalist Party was dedicated to the establishment of a world government based in the Sinai peninsula. But, approaching his thirties during the 1960s, he hit his stride. After his 'anti-marriage' in 1966 came the anti-divorce, followed by another marriage, to Anna Gael, a Hungarian actress. The marriage, which survives, was unusual. His wife based herself in Paris and returned to Longleat only one week each month.

The distance between them allowed the Marquess, a self-confessed polygamist, to indulge in countless highly-public affairs with 'wifelets', known as the 'loins of Longleat' in the tabloids. His passion for women is equally evident in his Kama Sutra room at Longleat, which features his murals of ingenious performances of sexual intercourse.

Obituary, page 14

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