‘Family meant nothing to power-mad countess’
IT could be a story line from Downton Abbey –a lonely, grumpy countess stuck in a long and bitter feud with her estranged stepson over the £45 million estate left by her husband.
Gloria Wesley, the Dowager Countess Bathurst, never saw eye to eye with the 9th Earl Allen Bathurst after marrying his father, the 8th Earl Henry ‘Barmy’ Bathurst in 1978.
And the volatile relationship only soured when the 8th Earl died.
The bubbling dispute reached a climax when the Dowager Countess tried to assert what she believed was her right to enter the 9th Earl Bathurst’s home, Cirencester Park, money and power, and that was all she cared for. Family and work in the community meant nothing to her.
“When her husband died she tried to snatch every single family possession. It is all very sad. In her role she could have done so much good, but instead she caused much destruction and sadness.”
One can sometimes be judged by the tributes made following their death.
The Mayor of Cirencester, Nigel Robbins, said he did not know much of her work, but placed on the record his sympathy for the family.
And when approached by the Western Daily Press, Lady Bathurst said: “The family don’t think it appropriate to make comment.”
Her funeral takes place St Kenelm’s Church in Sapperton on Friday at noon.
But do not expect a packed-out church. The 9th Earl and Lady Bathurst will be there, but more “out of respect”, said the source.
Problems really started when the 8th Earl died.
As set out in the dead earl’s will, the Dowager Countess moved out of the park home and into the Manor Farm and its 3,000-acre estate. She was given ‘ the sporting rights for game and deer’, along with the ‘use and enjoyment’ of the contents of Cirencester Park.
However, when the Countess Dowager made an extensive inventory of all the goods in the house – which include a £6 million life-sized painting of the Duke of Wellington – the arguments started to really spill over.
The earl said he did not want his stepmother coming in to inspect items in the house. The case went to the High Court, where Judge Barker said she had no right to inspect the home’s treasures.
Talking after the case, the 9th Earl said: “She can’t just barge in and turn the place upside down again.”
The High Court battle was not the only spat in the family.
In 2013, the dowager countess closed a free car park for doctors and nurses close to Cirencester Hospital. She ignored the pleas from her husband, who was president of the Cirencester Hospital League of Friends.
Two years earlier another problem had arisen. The dowager said she did not want to renew the lease of Cirencester Park Polo Club, which sits on her estate. Eventually, she relented. There were also tales of the dowager cruelly evicting tenants from her estate.
Dowager Countess Bathurst was born in New Jersey, America. She arrived in the UK with her Birkenhead-born father Harold Edward Clarry in 1945.
She first married solicitor David Rutherston in 1965, inheriting four stepchildren. In 1978, she married the 8th Earl Henry.
She died on December 27.
“One hopes things will now be more peaceful for the family,” the source said.
She understood money and power, and that was all she cared for. Family and
work in the community meant
nothing to her
Lord and Lady Bathurst declined to comment on the death of the countess
Gloria Wesley, the Dowager Countess Bathurst, died at her Manor Farm home, left