Can Pe­tra beat the curse of The Lo­vats?

She is about to join Clan Fraser, the an­cient Scots fam­ily dev­as­tated by un­speak­able tragedy and crip­pling debt. So...

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Emma Cow­ing

AS mot­tos go, Clan Fraser’s is re­mark­ably straight­for­ward: ‘Je suis prest’ – ‘I am ready.’ It is a credo that has served the fam­ily well over cen­turies of blood­thirsty and tragic his­tory. This week, the lat­est chap­ter in the fam­ily saga un­folded when it was an­nounced that the cur­rent chief and 16th Lord Lo­vat, 38-year-old Si­mon Fraser, is to marry model Pe­tra Palumbo, daugh­ter of prop­erty ty­coon Lord Palumbo.

It is an in­trigu­ing match. Lord Lo­vat, a com­modi­ties an­a­lyst based in Lon­don, grew up at Beau­fort Cas­tle near Beauly in In­ver­nessshire, home to the Frasers for al­most 500 years. But a se­ries of fam­ily tragedies meant that at only 18 years old he was forced to sell it to busi­ness­woman Ann Gloag. Dev­as­tated at the loss, he has al­ways vowed to buy it back.

Miss Palumbo, mean­while, is part of a com­plex fam­ily that is cur­rently feud­ing over a £70mil­lion trust. Could it be that, 20 years on and with a beau­ti­ful new bride on his arm, Lord Lo­vat is fi­nally ready to break the fam­ily curse and take back his an­ces­tral seat?

Miss Palumbo, 26, cer­tainly has the looks to cap­ture the heart of one of Scot­land’s most el­i­gi­ble bach­e­lors. In April, she ap­peared on the cover of so­ci­ety bible Tatler, above the head­line: Isn’t Pe­tra Palumbo lovely? With her wide blue eyes, wil­lowy fig­ure and long flow­ing hair, it was a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion.

She is said to love fancy dress; re­cent cre­ations have in­cluded a hu­man loofah and a piece of salmon sushi. De­spite some lu­cra­tive mod­el­ling con­tracts in re­cent months, she has a deep love for ta­pes­try and works full time in her mother’s needle­work shop. So de­voted to the craft is she, that she is cur­rently in the process of com­plet­ing her cer­tifi­cate in tech­ni­cal hand-em­broi­dery at the Royal School of Needle­work. Her fa­ther, Peter Palumbo, a one­time close friend of Princess Diana, is said to be im­pressed.

Not that she hasn’t thrown her­self into the role of the fu­ture Lady Lo­vat with gusto. On a re­cent trip to Toronto to ac­com­pany Lord Lo­vat to a Clan Fraser gath­er­ing, she dressed head to toe in tweed for the oc­ca­sion, jok­ingly re­fer­ring to her­self as ‘the wannabe Queen Mother’. He ap­peared in full High­land dress, be­fit­ting one of Scot­land’s most ac­tive clan chiefs.

Stand­ing at 6ft 4in in his cer­e­mo­nial kilt socks, with curly black hair and swash­buck­ling good looks, Lord Lo­vat has a ten­dency to ap­pear as though he has just wan­dered off the pages of a Bar­bara Cart­land novel.

Ed­u­cated at Har­row and Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity, he has the sort of charm that is equally at ease whether protest­ing against a py­lon scheme in Beauly in wellies and a pullover or hob­nob­bing with roy­alty in his finest bib and tucker.

He even has a fic­tional coun­ter­part – Jamie Fraser, Lord Lo­vat, the dash­ing no­ble­man and heart­throb in US hit TV show Out­lander.

His pre­vi­ous girl­friends in­clude the Span­ish Lan­come model Ines Sas­tre (they were in­tro­duced, ap­par­ently, by his su­per­model sis­ter Honor). But it would seem he has found true love at last with Miss Palumbo, 12 years his ju­nior.

Lord Lo­vat’s mother Lady Vir­ginia, an el­e­gant, auburn-haired, so­ci­ety beauty, is said to be thrilled and has been telling friends how glad she is they found each other.

Cer­tainly, the fam­ily has borne much heartache over the years. In 1994, Lord Lo­vat’s un­cle, 42-year-old An­drew Fraser, was gored to death by a wounded buf­falo while on sa­fari in Africa.

Ten days later, in a scene that could have come straight from the pages of an Eve­lyn Waugh novel, his fa­ther Si­mon, 54, suf­fered a heart at­tack while rid­ing in a drag hunt on the Beau­fort Es­tate.

His last words are re­ported to have been: ‘Where are the hounds?’ Lord Lo­vat, then a 17-year-old school­boy at Har­row, had lost both his fa­ther and his un­cle in l ess than a fort­night.

His 83-year-old grand­fa­ther Lord ‘Shimi’ Lo­vat, who led a Com­mando unit dur­ing the D Day land­ings and was once de­scribed by Win­ston Churchill as ‘the mildest man­nered man that ever scut­tled a ship or cut a throat’, was dev­as­tated by the death of his two sons.

Within a year, he, too, was dead and the ti­tle passed to the by then 18year-old, along with Beau­fort Cas­tle. He also in­her­ited the fam­ily’s con­sid­er­able debts of £7.4mil­lion. For any young man, it would have been an ex­traor­di­nar­ily heavy bur­den.

‘I had no time to get used to it,’ he said once. ‘Partly be­cause of the Press at­ten­tion. But we’ve got a very big fam­ily, a lot of whom live around here, and I had a lot of sup­port from the lo­cals. They looked out for me.’

At the time, Mrs Gloag was still deeply in­volved with Stage­coach, the bus com­pany founded by her and her brother Brian Souter in 1980 and which had made them worth, by 1995, £174mil­lion.

She bought the cas­tle, a tranche of the land and 27 houses, neatly snip­ping the Fraser fam­ily ties in one move.

Lord Lo­vat went off to uni­ver­sity in Ed­in­burgh to study eco­nom­ics and at 21 took up his seat in the House of Lords. He didn’t last long. Three weeks later he was thrown out, dur­ing the Lords’ shake-up of hered­i­tary peer­ages.

‘I un­der­stood what they were do­ing and I was a per­fect ex­am­ple of why they needed to do it,’ he said. ‘But at the same time, when I turned 21 I thought, “I’ve got to take my seat. I might as well have a go”.’ Lord Lo­vat, who de­clined to com­ment on his en­gage­ment, is noth­ing if not a have-a-go type, much like his blood­thirsty an­ces­tors.

Sir Si­mon Fraser was hung, drawn and quar­tered in 1306, a year af­ter Sir Wil­liam Wal­lace suf­fered the same fate. Their heads were im­paled next to each other, and Sir Si­mon’s brother John’s, on Lon­don Bridge.

Si­mon the Fox, 11th Lord Lo­vat, was ex­e­cuted at the Tower of Lon­don in 1747 for his role in the Ja­co­bite re­bel­lion, the last and old­est (he was 80) man to be pub­licly be­headed in Bri­tain.

In 1999, Lady Vir­ginia re­mar­ried. It was a happy union, to par­lia­men­tary

Fi­nally ready to take back his an­ces­tral seat?

It would seem that he has found true love at last

sketch writer Frank John­son. Alas, he, too, died young, pass­ing away in 2006 at the age of 63.

The young Lord Lo­vat, mean­while, be­came a stock­bro­ker, work­ing for a time in Geneva be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to Lon­don. He was also adapt­ing to the role of clan chief, spend­ing time in North Amer­ica at clan gath­er­ings and High­land games.

‘There’s a bit of stress be­cause I have to make speeches pretty much ev­ery­where I go,’ he said. ‘Quite of­ten I don’t have an aw­ful lot to say to a whole bunch of strangers at a din­ner in South Carolina. But I’m get­ting used to it. Slowly.’

He has made no se­cret of the fact that he would like to buy Beau­fort back ‘at some point in the fu­ture’ and that his mo­ti­va­tion for his ca­reer was to make the sort of money that would one day al­low him to do that. In­trigu­ingly, then, his im­pend­ing mar­riage will place him squarely within a fam­ily built on the pur­chase of prop­erty.

Lord Palumbo, now 80 years old, is a prop­erty ty­coon of the old­fash­ioned sort. His fa­ther, Ru­dolph, made a vast for­tune de­vel­op­ing bomb sites in Lon­don fol­low­ing the Se­cond World War and left a fam­ily trust worth £135mil­lion.

In re­cent years, the Palum­bos have been feud­ing over the money in the trust, with two of Lord Palumbo’s chil­dren by his first mar­riage – son James, owner of the Min­istry of Sound night­club, and Annabella – ac­cus­ing him of plun­der­ing it.

In 1995 they took him to court, ac­cus­ing him of spend­ing money on ex­trav­a­gances such as £2.5mil­lion on vin­tage wine, £1.8mil­lion on clas­sic cars, a French chateaux, £13mil­lion on art works and a £263,000 do­na­tion to the Con­ser­va­tive Party.

The case was even­tu­ally set­tled out of court, al­though it caused fric­tion among the fam­ily – James and his fa­ther are said never to have spo­ken since. In 2010, there was an­other court hear­ing over a smaller trust. Yet de­spite the dishar­mony, Pe­tra, the re­sult of Lord Palumbo’s sec­ond mar­riage to Le­banese-born Hayat, is close to her fa­ther. Her up­com­ing mar­riage will no doubt have in­volved his bless­ing.

But even if Lord Lo­vat were to be able to pro­duce the fi­nan­cial clout to pur­chase Beau­fort Cas­tle (and his mar­riage may take him a step closer to do­ing that), it is ques­tion­able whether Mrs Gloag would ever con­sider sell­ing.

Over the years, she has ex­per­i­mented with var­i­ous projects on the es­tate. In 2005, she un­veiled plans for a £20mil­lion lux­ury golf and hous­ing de­vel­op­ment that would, it was claimed, ri­val Sk­ibo Cas­tle in Suther­land. The plans in­cluded pro­pos­als to build 82 lodges. There was wide­spread lo­cal dis­may at the project.

Lord Lo­vat, who still has a house in the area (the fam­ily also runs a small es­tate of­fice and owns a few prop­er­ties lo­cally), protested in the strong­est terms, writ­ing to the coun­cil: ‘I and other res­i­dents sur­round­ing this de­vel­op­ment are even more con­cerned that this golf course is ac­tu­ally a ploy to build the next sub­urb of In­ver­ness around Kil­tar­l­ity. Are we deal­ing with a Tro­jan ‘hous­ing’ Horse or do they want to build a good golf course?’

Other ob­jec­tors to the project in­cluded the Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency, Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage and His­toric Scot­land, while plan­ning of­fi­cials rec­om­mended that High­land coun­cil­lors re­ject the de­vel­op­ment. Fi­nally, in June 2006, Mrs Gloag with­drew the ap­pli­ca­tion. Lord Lo­vat also protested vo­cif­er­ously and, ul­ti­mately, fruit­lessly against Scot­tish and South­ern En­ergy’s Beauly-to-Denny power line, which cut straight through for­mer Fraser coun­try. He has of­ten used his con­sid­er­able clout as clan chief to rally for lo­cal causes.

Although Mrs Gloag has done much for Beau­fort Cas­tle in the 20 years she has owned it, she is said to spend more time at Kin­fauns, her cas­tle near Perth, where she has built a house in the grounds for her son Jonathan, who was se­verely in­jured in a car crash in Africa in 2009.

At 72, she now de­votes most of her time to her var­i­ous char­i­ties, in­clud­ing her Gloag Foun­da­tion, which works with un­der-priv­i­leged women in Africa, and the Mercy Ships project.

Beau­fort Cas­tle, per­haps, may not be as im­por­tant to her as it once was.

If Lord Lo­vat were to re­take Beau­fort Cas­tle, it would be an in­tensely per­sonal cru­sade.

His sis­ter Honor now lives in Los An­ge­les with her hus­band, Stavros Mer­jos, and their two sons, and works as an art dealer, run­ning a mod­ern gallery. Another sis­ter, Vi­o­let, lives in Lon­don and works for jew­ellery com­pany Bvl­gari.

For him, how­ever, the ties to the land of his an­ces­tors run deep. The pull, he says, is emo­tional, bound up with hun­dreds of years of his­tory.

‘I’ve grown up in the High­lands but I don’t have any­thing I grew up with, which makes it quite hard,’ he has said. ‘ My f am­ily has been up­rooted and I’ve been left with­out a base.’

Now, it would seem, true to fam­ily form, he might just be ready to take that base back.

Often used his con­sid­er­able clout as clan chief

M A R G A T S N /I O B M U L A P _ A R T E P @

Strik­ing cou­ple: Lord Lo­vat with Pe­tra Palumbo, a sought-af­ter model, top

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.