Aristocrat resorts to television to find an heir for his estate

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The Independent Online

Sir Benjamin Slade, an English aristocrat with an enormous country house and no heir, is seeking a television company that will pay him to go abroad in search of close relatives.

Sir Benjamin's hunt for an heir to inherit his 13th-century mansion was thought to have ended when he met Isaac Slade, the 26-year-old lead singer of American rock group The Fray last year.

Denver-born Isaac's bloodline traces back to Sir Benjamin through the Worcester side of the family which started the Slade Art School, and the Christian singer has spent two nights at the Slade ancestral home, Maunsel House, in Somerset. He is said to have particularly enjoyed his time there, despite an incident in which Sir Benjamin's dog destroyed an expensive pair of the rock singer's underpants.

The 61-year-old lord of Maunsel House is hoping that the rock star will come again, to perform at the wedding of Lord Rotherwick's younger brother, Avon Cayzer, who is getting married in the local church, where Geoffrey Chaucer's Wife of Bath is supposed to have married her five husbands. The reception will be at Sir Benjamin's home, which has belonged to 20 generations of Slades.

Yet despite that happy meeting, Sir Benjamin is still ambitious to meet some of the thousands of other hopefuls called Slade who have contacted him, each hoping that a DNA test will prove positive and that he or she will be the next owner of Maunsel House, which, when renovated, could be worth £7.5m. Thousands of these Slades can be found in the US.

"There is a website in Arkansas called whatever it's called where they have all these registered Slades," Sir Benjamin said yesterday. "In North Carolina, there is even a small town called Sladeville. I have been invited to go quail shooting in North Carolina. I can't wait to go there. In Maryland, they have a party every year for Slades. They have it on the 4th of July. I'm determined to go.

"Some of these people only think they are Slades, because their ancestors changed their name from Sladesky or because their great-grandmother jumped over the garden wall, so they'll all have to be DNA tested."

Sir Benjamin has said that his intention is to leave his 1,500-acre estate, including the 33-room house and 100 acres of parkland, to whichever person with the surname Slade appears from DNA testing to be most closely related to him – provided they meet certain qualifications.

"I have said that drug-takers are out, which upset the people of Amsterdam where the entire population seems to be on drugs," he explained. "I have also said that I don't want a communist, because they would give it all away and because I don't think Stalin was any good, or Castro.

"I don't want homosexuals, because they don't breed. I don't want Guardian readers, because this is a Guardian-free household. Independent readers are marginal.

"I had an email from Papua New Guinea and sent them a reply. I'd rather like to go there, although there aren't any Slades in Papua New Guinea, but I do worry about getting eaten or speared. So I sent them an email saying, 'Do your women have bones in their noses and if they have them how then can I give them a bit of tonguey?'

"I also asked about bows and arrows. I said we hadn't used them since Agincourt. I never got a reply. I suppose it's lucky no one got hold of the email; it could have got me in an awful lot of trouble."