Curse of Cawdor: 'Macbeth's castle' once again setting for a dynastic struggle

A book by Lady Liza Campbell has reignited a family feud with claims of sex, drugs and lost fortunes. It even features a 'wicked' stepmother, who here tells her side of the story. By Martin Hodgson and Stephen Khan

Forever associated with Shakespeare's Macbeth, the castle is one of the Highlands' leading tourist attractions, and on Thursday evening the Dowager Countess of Cawdor, Lady Angelika, invited friends and staff to a party celebrating the 30th anniversary of its opening to the public.

It was an idyllic scene, reminiscent of King Duncan's comments in the first act of the Scottish Play: "This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses."

But - as the ill-fated monarch discovers to his cost - appearances at Cawdor can be deceptive. In the play, Duncan names Macbeth Thane of Cawdor, but is then killed in his sleep by the nobleman and his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth. Now - six centuries after the events portrayed in Macbeth - Cawdor is once again at the heart of a bitter dynastic rivalry.

Last week, the current Thane of Cawdor, Lady Angelika's stepson, Colin Campbell, found himself on the wrong side of Cawdor's drawbridge.

He was not at the party. Neither were his brother and three sisters, nor any of their immediate family. One of Britain's most distinguished aristocratic families has been frozen out of its ancestral seat.

The snub was the latest chapter in a 13-year feud involving a secret will, a string of court cases and a bitter fight for control of the 14th-century estate. The dispute broke out after the death of the previous thane, Hugh Campbell, in 1992 and will be reignited this week when his eldest daughter, Liza, publishes her memoir of family life at Cawdor.

In Title Deeds, Lady Liza said that her father had "shades of Macbeth", and described him as domineering and embittered alcoholic with a "hefty cocaine habit". Her father was allegedly obsessed with sex and lived on a diet of pink gins, warping his mind so badly he decided to cut his family out of their historical inheritance.

Now Lady Angelika has spoken out in defence of her late husband, accusing her stepdaughter of writing "fiction", possibly just to make money.

"The things she is saying are absolutely untrue. You can't libel the dead, but this is a terrible slur on his memory," she told The Independent on Sunday. "This book is very hurtful - not just for me but for the people of this area. My husband was greatly admired and a lot of people here are deeply hurt by what has been said. Some of the claims made me feel sick," she said.

Lady Liza says that her father's achievements in life amounted to a "list of perfidies". She accuses him of squandering the family fortune, "brutalising his first wife, my mother; discarding friendships like used tissues; indulging in fabulously injudicious sexual adventures [and] destroying his health".

According to Lady Liza, 46, her father was troubled by deep anxieties but terrorised his own family. In an uncanny echo of the ghostly subplot of Macbeth, Hugh Campbell was given to superstition, and at one stage became convinced that his stepmother was using black magic against him. To cover up his own insecurities, he turned to alcohol, which in turn made him "paranoid, belligerent, sexually incontinent and, on occasions, violent", Lady Liza said.

She accuses him of a string of extramarital affairs and describes the night, when she was 16, in which he ordered her to join him in bed - where he promptly passed out in a drunken stupor.

"To this day, I don't know what he intended. Maybe it was just a pre-dawn cuddle, but even that would have fallen far short of being welcome," she wrote.

Yesterday Lady Angelika dismissed the allegations as fantasy. "Quite simply she is making up these ghastly stories about her father. They are quite untrue. What she has written is a novel, a work of fiction ... I can't think why she has done this - to make money, perhaps," she said.

The dowager countess strenuously denied allegations that her late husband was violent or addicted to alcohol and cocaine.

"I was married to this man for 14 years and obviously came to know him well. There was never any shadow of the violence she talks about," she said. "To say that he was a drug addict is crazy. And the alcohol - well, Hugh liked a drink from time to time. But if you applied such standards across all of Britain the entire country would be alcoholics."

Brought up in Rhodesia by parents who fled Czechoslovakia during the Second World War, Lady Angelika married Hugh Campbell in 1979, and remained with him until his death in 1992.

The dispute between Lady Angelika and her stepchildren erupted two weeks later when the contents of his will were revealed. In the words of Lady Liza, it was a "dirty bomb".

Breaking with aristocratic convention, Hugh Campbell did not leave his lands to his eldest son, Colin Campbell, the 26th Thane and 7th Earl of Cawdor. Instead, he left everything to Lady Angelika. His children saw the decision not just as an insult to them but as an affront to centuries of tradition.

"My father had neither earned nor bought Cawdor. These possessions were entrusted to his care. Not only had he shafted his own son in the will rewrite, he had shafted the previous 24 generations. This treasure had survived 600 years of wild Scottish history ... yet it took only one drunken rake to piss it away," wrote Lady Liza.

In a seemingly inexplicable twist, however, the one-page will bound the rival parties together, by making both Lady Angelika and her stepchildren shareholders in the family estates and naming the Earl, Colin, as a shareholder of the company that ran the castle.

The effect of Lord Cawdor's final testament, wrote Lady Liza, was to tie the earl and dowager together "in a way that seemed almost consciously designed for maximum friction".

Tensions grew when Lady Angelika banned her stepson from cultivating GM crops on estate lands, and the situation only grew worse when she accused him of trying to take over the company that manages the castle.

Then, in 2003, came the final straw: while Lady Angelika was on holiday in New York, the young earl took advantage of her absence and moved his family into the castle. It took a court action to evict them, and by then relations had broken down altogether. Three lawsuits arising from the dispute have yet to be resolved.

Lord Cawdor now lives in London with his wife, Lady Isabella, a former fashion editor at British Vogue and Elle. When the couple visit Scotland, they stay in a 12-bedroom "croft" across the moors from Cawdor, where they have entertained guests including the Beckhams and fashion photographer Mario Testino.

But what the children of the 25th Thane of Cawdor want most of all is to regain the castle from their stepmother - who is legally entitled to sell or bequeath the estate to whoever she chooses.

"Angelika could leave it to Robert Mugabe," wrote Liza Campbell.

Lady Angelika has said that she has no intention to sell Cawdor - but this week she hinted at a possible future reconciliation. "I moved in to protect the castle. That is what Hugh wanted. To keep it safe for the future. I will pass on the castle at some point to my stepson - or his eldest child," she said.

Judging by Lady Liza's book, however, neither side seems ready to make peace yet.

Six hundred years after an ambitious thane met three witches on a blasted heath, more "toil and trouble" seems inevitable at Cawdor Castle. For the heirs of Macbeth, the hurly-burly is far from done, and the battle is neither lost nor won.

Extract: 'In his will my father shafted 25 generations'

He died [in June 1992] aged 60. Whatever vulnerability I felt at losing a parent, there was also a sense of deliverance. His angry presence no longer loomed. The power he once wielded had gone. The sense of release within the muddle of grief was short-lived, however, and it vanished altogether when I discovered that there was a grand finale from beyond the grave. None of us had any idea that he had concealed a dirty bomb, timed to detonate only after his death...

My father had neither earned nor bought Cawdor. These possessions were entrusted to his care. Not only had he shafted his own son in the will rewrite, he had shafted the previous 24 generations. This treasure had survived 600 years of wild Scottish history, including a crucial battle fought on its doorstep, yet it took only one drunken rake to piss it away.

Pa's life achievements amounted to a list of perfidies: demolishing Stackpole, the mansion in Wales he inherited as a young man, and selling the family's Welsh estate; brutalising his first wife, my mother; discarding friendships like used tissues; indulging in fabulously injudicious sexual adventures; destroying his health; and then revealing his most wretched act only after his final exit.

From 'Title Deeds' by Liza Campbell, published by Doubleday, £14.99

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Systems Developer Technical Lead

£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Energy Engineer

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment