The Earl of St Germans, founding father of the Port Eliot Competition – obituary


The tenth Earl of St Germans, who has died aged 75, loved all of the attributes that the favored press expects of the aristocracy – a distinguished lineage, burdensome inheritance, household tragedy and private eccentricity that flirted with Byronic dissolution.

A central determine within the dalliance with the counter-culture by members of the peerage that started within the Nineteen Sixties, Lord St Germans personified a sure model of rakish hippiedom thereafter. But he didn’t permit his fondness for relaxed social norms to compromise a near-feudal grip on his household property in south-east Cornwall, whose preservation he helped to guarantee.

His “Elephant Fayre”, a pageant that happened for plenty of years on the Port Eliot property, attracted some 10,000 revellers, travellers and devotees of the New Age, initially freed from cost. The pageant took its identify from the beast that’s the Eliot household’s crest, and till the Fayre’s demise within the late Eighties certainly one of its prime sights was a large wood elephant. Its howdah could possibly be reached by a ladder hid inside the elephant’s hole core.

In 2003 Elephant Fayre was up to date and succeeded by the Port Eliot Lit Fest, an eclectic cultural fiesta with a flavour of Boden-wearing Bohemianism that turned an ideal success, mainly on account of the power and public relations abilities of his third spouse Cathy Wilson. It combines music and guide pageant actions with catering by modern restaurateurs, cocktail-making courses and wellbeing-focused pursuits akin to stargazing, Tibetan chanting and foraging rambles. A luxurious yurt might be rented for £1,300.

Peregrine Nicholas Eliot was born on January 2 1941, the one son of the ninth Earl of St Germans, an enticing eccentric recognized for his devotion to the turf and the character of his early livelihood because the “Bookie Peer”. He listed his recreations in Who’s Who as “huntin’ the slipper, shootin’ a line, fishin’ for compliments”; his son, Perry, streamlined his enjoyable to “mucking about”.

The Eliots established themselves in Cornwall within the mid-Sixteenth century with the acquisition of the previous Augustinian Priory of St Germans and constructed their seat at Port Eliot, bordering the Tamar estuary. The home has a park landscaped by Repton, a spherical room and stables by Soane and a kitchen some 350ft from the eating room; the kitchen additionally possesses a steam-driven cherry-stoner.

Edward Eliot, MP for Cornwall, was created Baron Eliot in 1784, with the earldom being conferred on his son in 1815. His six successors within the twentieth century loved turbulent fortunes. The inheritor of the fifth Earl dedicated suicide in the home in 1909 throughout a village cricket match; his physique was discovered when he missed his flip to bowl. The sixth Earl died following a degree to level fall, the seventh was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum, whereas the eighth, Peregrine Eliot’s grandfather, was a courtier described as “having all of the stiffness of a poker, with none of its occasional heat”.

Younger Perry had a troubled childhood. His mother and father divorced when he was six, and his mom died when he was 10. His father thereafter spent a lot of his time in Tangiers, and Perry and his sister had been largely introduced up by their grandparents and a strict Victorian nanny.

He was educated at Eton, the place, he later recalled, “I failed fairly spectacularly, even with the help of the birch, to benefit from among the greatest lecturers within the land”; he got here backside of the college’s educational desk.

His father revamped the 6,000-acre Port Eliot property to Perry in 1958, and on succeeding as ninth Earl in 1960 modified his telegraphic handle in Tangiers to “Earls Courtroom”. Peregrine, now Lord Eliot, was hit significantly exhausting when his grandmother, to whom he was shut, killed herself shortly afterwards.

The younger Lord Eliot gave himself absolutely to the spirit of the Nineteen Sixties. He travelled, driving to India in a Volkswagen Beetle and to Tangiers on a classic bike (named Veronique) which he customised with sand filters and an ivory gear stick; he afterwards turned vice-president of the Harley-Davidson Riders’ Membership of Nice Britain.

He was accompanied on an expedition to the Atlas mountains in the hunt for the domestically extinct Cornish chough by the explorer Robin Hanbury-Tenison. On one other event, on a whim, he walked from Port Eliot to London.

Within the late Nineteen Sixties, Lord Eliot and two mates secured the franchise to market all of the Beatles’ merchandise, however ultimately he didn’t make any cash out of it. Nonetheless, his curiosity in rock music – and the choice life-style that accompanied it – persevered; he was a daily attender on the Glastonbury pop music pageant and an ideal buddy of Michael Eavis.

“It’s futile to recall something concerning the pageant,” he mirrored, “particularly if the entire thing’s performed on acid.” He discovered it equally futile to debate the pleasures of hallucinogens with non-initiates, evaluating it to explaining the principles of tennis to a crustacean. Perry Eliot handed his enthusiasm for music on to his second son, Louis, the lead singer with the pop band Rialto.

Lord Eliot was curious about all types of artwork. For a time he ran the Elephant Press from the gatehouse at Port Eliot, and gave board for nearly a decade to his buddy the poet Heathcote Williams. He additionally commissioned an enormous mural (documenting his life) for Sir John Soane’s nice spherical room at Port Eliot. The artist, Robert Lenkiewicz, had hitherto been greatest recognized for making use in an earlier work of the mummified corpse of a down-and-out he had befriended in Plymouth.

One other of Lord Eliot’s additions was the development of a maze greater than normally influenced by the legend of Theseus; it’s mentioned to have the pinnacle of a bull buried at its centre. This was the newest in a collection of strange additions to the panorama of Port Eliot. The eighth Earl had a sundial bearing the legend “No man knoweth the hour” constructed for the walled backyard, however put it on the north facet, the place the solar by no means shines.

Peregrine Eliot succeeded to the earldom on his father’s demise in 1988. Thereafter, when his identify appeared within the press, it was accompanied more and more by farce and tragedy. In 1964 he had married the siren magnificence Jacquetta Lampson, daughter of the first Lord Killearn, who as Sir Miles Lampson had been Ambassador to Egypt through the Second World Conflict. Jacquetta later attracted notoriety by posing for nude research by her buddy, the artist Lucian Freud.

She and Perry Eliot had three sons, however then separated; their protracted divorce was not concluded till 1989. Three years later, the Earl married his girlfriend Elizabeth Williams, however these near him didn’t take to her. The employees at Port Eliot had T-shirts printed with the legend “It was higher with Jacquetta”, whereas the Earl’s sister, Frances, Countess of Shelburne, informed the possible Countess of St Germans that she was not adequate to marry into the household.

That remark got here out in court docket when Elizabeth Williams was arrested for driving the incorrect means down a one-way road; she mentioned that she had performed so after having a drink to recover from the Countess’s comment. She and the Earl separated quickly after their marriage and had been divorced in 1996.

Shortly earlier than, Lord St Germans offered to the Getty Museum for £5 million one of many final Rembrandts left in personal fingers, Daniel and Cyrus earlier than the Idol of Bel.

His companion for some years was the shoe designer Emma Hope. Since being pressured as a baby to attend Pony Membership he had had a powerful dislike of horses, however relaxed his ban on them on the property to permit her to secure her hunter, Flash, at Port Eliot. Latterly he hosted garden meets for the East Cornwall Hunt and established a now profitable one-day equestrian occasion.

Lord St Germans was able to nice type and appeal, and possessed a expertise for each wit and invective. Requested by {a magazine} for an interview, he replied: “I might relatively spend the time of day with suppurating scum-sucking plague-pit ghouls.”

He was additionally strong-willed and provocative, and in 1998 an industrial tribunal discovered that he was incorrect to have had his housekeeper sacked when she took day off after having damage herself cleansing his household silver.

He had an intense temperament given to brooding, a situation not alleviated by the emphysema which he endured for a lot of the Nineteen Nineties; in 1997 Emma Hope persuaded him to have a lung transplant. His newly reworked life, he wrote in The Day by day Telegraph, amounted to “a miracle”.

An completed prestidigitator who might weave a coin throughout his fingers, Lord St Germans had first suffered from respiratory issues when touring America as a magician. Sharing a hospital room with an Indian chief,  he had been saved awake by chanting squaws. He had chosen the location of his grave some years in the past, a meadow that afforded his favorite view of the property.

In 2005 Lord St Germans married Catherine Wilson, previously type editor of the Day by day Telegraph Journal. She survives him with two of the sons from his first marriage. His eldest son, Jago, a former browsing champion of Spain, died in 2006; Jago’s younger son Albert (Albie) succeeds to the earldom.

The tenth Earl of St Germans, born January 2 1941, died July 15 2016


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