'It' girls miss out after death of drug-addicted aristocrat

It was therefore hardly surprising that when the 7th Marquess of Bristol, Baron Hervey of Ickworth, died in 1999 at the age of 44, it was after a lifetime of high-living and drug addiction, during which he was twice jailed.

And yesterday it was disclosed that a man who once boasted he was worth £35m had died leaving very little. Probate records published showed his UK assets were worth just £5,000, which was largely used for funeral expenses.

It is not know whether his two main bequests, of £100,000 to his close friend James Whitby, and £25,000 to his butler, Thomas Foley, were paid. Their whereabouts are unknown.

A family trust fund in Jersey, the contents of which have not been disclosed, was left to his half-brother, Frederick Hervey, whose sisters are the society "It" girls and gossip column favourites Lady Victoria and Lady Isabella Hervey. Lord Frederick, now the 8th Marquess, has declined to comment, but Lady Isabella said recently that the family had been left "virtually nothing".

The 7th Marquess spent his final years living quietly, renting Little Horringer Hall, on the Ickworth estate; Mr Whitby lived in a cottage near by. The estate was once owned by his family, but left to the National Trust by his father in lieu of death duties. He died from multiple organ failure due to drug addiction.

His half-brother, George Lambton - their mother was the first wife of the 6th Marquess - said there were "no hard feelings" from the family at the fact that the money had all gone.

Mr Lambton, 43, a Conservative councillor, added: "He made the most of his life; he packed more in his 44 years than most people do in their whole lives. But he definitely mellowed a bit in the last five years.''

It was a far cry from the 7th Marquess's heyday, when he spent the family fortune on drugs, parties, luxury cars, yachts and constant hedonism. His addiction to vodka is said to have begun at Harrow, but heroin and cocaine were his downfall. He was jailed for a year after he was caught with cocaine worth £1,000 on a flight to Jersey and again for 10 months in 1993 after police found cocaine and heroin at his home.

When the money began to run out, he made £ 2.3m by selling most of the contents of the 60-room east wing of Ickworth House, where he had been allowed to live by the National Trust after the death of his father. He also sold off his remaining farmland worth £4m and lord of the manor titles which had been in his family for hundreds of years.

He was following tradition. His father was a notorious party animal in the early 1930s, nicknamed "Mayfair Playboy No 1" by the gossip columns. He once gave a party that lasted 30 hours during which the 700 guests drank 1,000 bottles of champagne. In the Spanish Civil War he became an arms dealer to both sides.

Earlier Herveys were not much better. John, the 1st Earl of Bristol, a Whig MP when the title was created in 1714, fathered a large number of children and rejected his family for a man. His brother, the 3rd Earl, was a womaniser said to have a taste for nuns. The 4th Earl's daughter lived in a ménage à trois with the Duke of Devonshire and Georgina, his duchess; her daughter by the duke was born in a brothel.