The lord who was evicted from his castle by his own family

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The Independent Online

By the standards of previous Earls of Macclesfield, who have survived accusations of bribery, stealing from dead soldiers, and killing a pageboy in a drunken rage, the current incumbent's worries appear but a mere trifle.

In the latest tumultuous chapter of the family's history, the 9th Earl was left with a legal bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds yesterday and the prospect of being kicked out of a castle that has been in the family for almost 300 years.

After a series of bitter family disputes, the Earl finally lost his High Court struggle to be allowed to remain at Shirburn Castle in Oxfordshire for the rest of his life. Lord Macclesfield, his wife Sandra, and his game dealership, Fentville Ltd, which is run from the estate, may be ordered to leave the dilapidated castle in two years by the company that owns it. The company had sought their immediate eviction.

The peer succeeded to the title after the death of his father, the 8th Earl, in 1992, several years after the disputes started that have split the family. Last year, the Beechwood Estates Company, set up in 1922 by the 7th Earl as a tax avoidance measure, served him with a notice to quit the castle, which had been in the family's hands since 1716.

The company's shares are largely owned by members of the current Earl's family including his uncle Jocelyn and his brother David.

But the Earl - Richard Timothy George Mansfield Parker - claimed he was entitled to a 50-year lease on the castle, which would expire on his death.

However Mr Justice Lewison, at the High Court, said yesterday he had come to his decision with "regret", and that the dispute could have been resolved by the family.

Lord Macclesfield said he was "disappointed" by the outcome. "It is tragic that this situation has been brought about by members of my family. I have made many proposals to try to settle with them over the years, but nothing could be agreed and therefore proceedings were inevitable."

Lord Macclesfield lives an unconventional lifestyle by the standards of his predecessors and other members of the landed gentry. He drives a battered Rover car and some parts of the castle have no electricity.

The 14th-century moated castle was described in court as "a sleeping beauty of a castle", but little had been done to it for a century. The repair bill was estimated at £2.6m.

"He has his own style, he is not quite as you would expect from an aristocrat," said an acquaintance yesterday. "He is very forthright and people don't always find that comfortable but he is a very kind and hospitable man."

According to Burke's Peerage, the 1st Earl of Macclesfield commanded an infantry brigade for the Royalists in the first battle of the Civil War. He also had a record of diverting money from dead soldiers to his own coffers.

The 2nd Earl was held in the Tower of London and implicated in a plot to kill Charles II and his brother - but was later pardoned. He was also reprieved after being found guilty of killing a pageboy in St James's Park. He had no children and the title was later transferred to the current Earl's forefathers, with the creation of a new 1st Earl of Macclesfield in 1721.

The judge refused both the Earl, and the company that wanted to move him out immediately, leave to appeal.

Julie Bond, the peer's solicitor, said they were considering their next step, but Lord Macclesfield had not accepted the inevitability of having to move. Each side must pay their own costs; Lord Macclesfield's bill was estimated to be up to £1.2m - a figure disputed by his legal team as being too high - and the estate company's at £350,000.