Rich men behaving badly: Return of the cad

The upper-class philanderer is staging a comeback. A rash of stories from the society pages reveal attitudes belonging to another era. So who are these latter-day Terry-Thomas types? Guy Adams and Stephen Habberley report
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The Independent Online

It was, to put it mildly, a very public way to deal with a broken heart. On Tuesday night, Be Kemeny, the loyal wife of Jodie Kidd's polo-playing brother Jack, sat down at her husband's computer and e-mailed 200 friends to announce that their five-year marriage was over.

The glamorous American heiress said she had become the latest victim of the "curse of Hello!" - a magazine in which she frequently appeared - after Kidd had owned up to numerous affairs. She intends to return to her native Carolina with their four children.

"Last night, Jack told me our marriage is over," she wrote. "He can not give me a reason, except that he wants to be free of us. He said that he wished he had never married me, and that he has slept with many girls along the way.

"I didn't believe him, but this was all said in front of our children, so I have to believe my marriage is over... My heart has been ripped out. I am in shock and can't stop crying... My life here is over and I know nobody can help me, so it's time to say goodbye."

So far, Jack Kidd has not disputed his estranged wife's version of events, saying only: "I am really sorry things have turned out this way." But the affair has already cost him the £1,200 computer, which Kemeny subsequently tossed into a lake at their family home near Windsor.

Yet today, as he surveys the wreckage of his marriage from the £2m Berkshire farm, Kidd can draw solace from at least one fact. Whatever the damage to his personal reputation, and however loud the cries of condemnation that will now ring in his ears, he is certainly not alone.

Kidd the "Cad" joins an illustrious list of male philanderers to have recently emerged from the woodwork. Fellow members, to name but two, include the "bouncing baronet" Sir Dai Llewellyn, and the Conservative Party's agriculture spokesman, James Gray.

Like their historical forbears, the new cads are well-heeled, raffish, and distinctly unapologetic. They follow in a grand tradition that began with the likes of Casanova and Byron, progressed to Alan Clark and James Hewitt, and petered out at the fag-end of the puritanical 1990s. Now, a decade later, the bounder is making a comeback.

Does Zac Goldsmith, a glamorous young multimillionaire who edits The Ecologist, advises David Cameron on green issues, and is on the "A-list" for a Tory parliamentary seat, qualify for membership?

This week, Mr Goldsmith was photographed in the Sunday Mirror enjoying no fewer than seven afternoon visits to the home of Alice Rothschild, a glamorous 22-year-old member of the banking dynasty, who also happens to be his sister-in-law.

Mr Goldsmith said he been helping Ms Rothschild organise a charity poker tournament, which was on Monday, but his wife Sheherezade is said to have known nothing of the visits. Asked if he was having an affair, he declared: "I have never discussed any aspect of my private life, and never will do."

There are echoes of some of colourful events in the life of his father, Sir Jimmy, a copper-bottomed bounder who once famously declared: "When you marry your mistress, you create a vacancy."

On Monday, Zac Goldsmith appeared to be making an effort to ride out the storm, bringing Sheherezade along to face the photographers at the charity poker tournament in Mayfair. Alice Rothschild was noteworthy by her absence. By Wednesday, he had evidently decided to keep his head down. Although Mr Goldsmith was booked to speak alongside Bill Clinton at the launch of the Fortune Forum in London, he retired to his country home in Devon with Sheherezade and their three young children.

And an unlikely new lothario s emerging, in the shape of Mr Gray, the 52-year-old MP for Wiltshire North, and another close friend of Tory leader Cameron. Until a fortnight ago, Mr Gray was an unremarkable figure, who wore his traditional values on the sleeves of the check shirts and tweed jackets he wears around Westminster.

Then everything changed. Mr Gray left Sarah, his wife of 26 years (and mother of his three children) for a younger model, a local rural campaigner called Philippa Mayo, with whom he had been conducting an affair for 18 months. If that was not juicy enough, Mr Gray first originally seduced Mayo only months before his wife, Sarah, was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her subsequent treatment, he had continued the affair, while making an emotional - and, in retrospect, deeply ironic _ plea for local parishioners to keep Sarah in their prayers.

Last week, Mr Gray came clean. "I very much regret to say that my marriage is over and that Sarah will be leaving me as a result of my relationship with Philippa," he said. "I am not proud of myself, but I hope that now we can plan our futures. I regret the damage caused, but this is not a whim."

Mrs Mayo's cuckolded husband, a criminal barrister called Rupert, was less inclined to mince his words. He made a public statement accusing Mr Gray of betraying the "family values" advocated by his party's leader.

"The irony is that I will not reap the benefits of David Cameron's excellent family-based policy proposals, because one of his MPs has ripped my family apart ... He [Gray] pompously says that 'some political opponents may call on me to resign, but that is to seek to take party political advantage out of somebody else's private life'. In 18 years at the criminal Bar, I have never read such sanctimonious, self-serving drivel. To call it spin is to insult even Peter Mandelson."

Seasoned connoisseurs of political scandal put Mr Gray's tête-à-tête right up there with the golden moments of Tory sleaze. These include David Mellor's appearance at the gate of his family home with loyal wife Judith in 1992, shortly after details of his affair with the actress Antonio de Sancha had been revealed.

Matthew Parris, the author of Great Parliamentary Scandals, says: "I think things are starting to work in favour of the cad. There has been a little bit of a reaction against the whole new male thing. The idea that what you do in your private life is not entirely related to your fitness for office is gaining currency, and more and more people are prepared to accept it."

"While I don't think the cad ever really went away, there was a time when you really had to stick to your guns to be a proper cad. Alan Clark survived a real low period for cads. After him, Robin Cook was probably the closest thing we ever had to a New Labour cad, in that he was unrepentant. But he was for some time a lone figure."

Away from the political arena, the cad remains in fine fettle in his traditional hunting grounds. The polo circuit remains the location of the extravagant extra-marital shenanigans made famous by the work of Jilly Cooper.

Yesterday, Cooper said that although her work is largely fictional - and her most famous literary cad, Rupert Campbell Black is now happily married - it is not a million miles removed from present reality. "When I started researching polo, I met Larry Hagman in Florida, and he told me that all polo players have terrible piles, so their wives are fed up that they don't want sex. The reality, though, is that you get some lovely well-behaved boys with wives, and some absolute nightmares. The Argentinians are particularly naughty.

"But I think it is a cyclical thing. Infidelity is always going on, but it tends to come to the surface all at once, a bit like measles. There's suddenly a rash, as we've had recently. What I think happens is men see other chaps are getting something on the side and say 'I want a bit of that'."

Whatever happens, the cad rarely ends up happy. This week, Sir Dai Llewellyn, a man known to gossip columnists as "the bouncing baronet", revealed that he'd been "given the boot, right into touch" by his glamorous Swedish fiancée, Christel Jurgenson.

Llewellyn's legendary reluctance to properly commit (another character trait of the aristocratic bounder) had caused Jurgenson to lose patience, after suffering three postponements of the wedding day.

"I obviously hadn't worked hard enough at it," he said. "I suppose my slightly mercurial lifestyle worried my fiancée a little, too."

Seasoned observers of caddish behaviour now offer hope of a coming golden age. Gustav Temple, editor of the gentlemen's quarterly, The Chap, sees recent events as an inevitable part of a historical process. "If we see the history of the cad, everything points towards the end of the First World War," he says. "The landed gentry were no longer beholden to the lower orders, and neither were the lower orders beholden to their masters. Both classes were free to become selfish and frivolous.

"Today, we are in a similar position: a decade of prosperity has led to decadence and money and no major war to affect anyone. The Bright Young Things are back, and the role of cad is much more attractive than the role of gentleman. It is more glamorous, and people like Goldsmith and Kidd have so many opportunities to fall from the straight-and-narrow."

Mr Temple is adamant that cads should not be celebrated. "A cad is a very English thing, and like a gentleman, it doesn't travel well. But a cad is a gentleman gone wrong. They have all the trappings and privileges of an upper-class education, but there is something missing at the core. A true gentleman has altruism, but the cad is a selfish creature, rotten to his core."

As Be Kemeny flies out to Carolina this evening, who can doubt she would heartily agree?

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