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News news from The Evening Standard London, Thursday 25.11.10

The viscount who cleaned the loos

By Emine Saner, Evening Standard Last updated at 00:00am on 16.06.04

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Rebel: Ceawlin Thynn is rather different from his father, the Marquess of Bath

Ceawlin Thynn doesn't look like the average rebel. I meet him in his flat in Notting Hill (where else?), a tastefully decorated bachelor pad, and he is wearing the uniform of every other ex-public schoolboy with a smidgen of fashion sense - floppy hair, jeans, tailored jacket and polished shoes.

He went to Bedales school (against his father's wishes, but more of that later), works in finance and rarely uses his title, Viscount Weymouth. It all seems rather predictable but his rebellion is in his conforming. Consciously or not, he is about as different from his father, Alexander Thynn, the 7th Marquess of Bath, as possible.

At Ceawlin's 30th birthday party 11 days ago at Longleat House, the family home, everyone went in fancy dress, but Lord Bath wore his normal clothes - a brightly coloured, mismatched velvet outfit, his hair long and wild - and, for once, didn't look out of place.

The theme was "burlesque" and, from the photographs Ceawlin (pronounced See-aw-lin, an old Wessex name) shows me, it looked suitably decadent. Glamorous young women, breasts spilling out of their corsets, danced in the great hall. Lord Bath, now 72, his cheeks pink, must have been very excited - he is famous for his "wifelets" or mistresses: 73 at the last count.

Ceawlin's childhood was extraordinary. Longleat, in Wiltshire, was not only the first stately home to open its doors to the public, but also had the first drive-through safari park outside Africa, with lions, tigers, zebras, giraffes, wolves, rhinos and monkeys.

Ceawlin and his older sister, Lenka, grew up petting tiger cubs. "At the time it didn't seem anything out of the ordinary," he says. "I went to the local primary school and then the local comprehensive and I'd have my friends home. For them it was totally normal as well because we'd all grown up together."

There were always tourists walking around, sometimes several thousand a day. Didn't he mind having people in his house? "It was just what I was used to so I never thought about whether it was a good or a bad thing," he says. "There is a private wing but when my grandfather died, my father decided he wanted to open it so people can see his murals. It wasn't too intrusive.

"When I had friends round, we would hide on the balcony above the great hall and wait for tour groups and then whisper 'Wooooh, I'm the ghost of Longleat', as if they wouldn't realise it was a bunch of childen.

"There were always tourists. All I had to do was step outside and there would be hundreds of people walking around. My mum was always terrified that I'd get kidnapped. Whatever I was doing, I used to have to come back to the house every hour and ring the bell by one of the doors so she'd know I hadn't gone missing."

His mother, Anna Gael, a Hungarian-born actress and writer who has been married to his father for 35 years, wasn't around much when Ceawlin and his sister were growing up. She lived in Paris (she still does) and would come to Longleat twice a month.

"She must have been with us more when we were babies but I'm not sure at what point she went. We were still young, maybe one or two."

His father spent half his time in London and the children were brought up by a nanny. Was it hard not to have his parents around? "At times, but we accepted it." Did he feel abandoned by his mother? He looks very uncomfortable talking about this. "Well, it wasn't really her choice: that was how things had been arranged between Mum and Dad."

This "arrangement" came about because of Lord Bath's "wifelets", or girlfriends, as Ceawlin calls them. There are usually four on the go at any one time. He always remembers them being around. "I used to basically blank them," he says. He still does. Has he ever formed a cordial relationship with one of them? "No," he says, his voice steely.

Several of the wifelets were at Ceawlin's birthday party. He didn't invite them, of course. "Dad had his list of people he wanted to invite, but there were more than 500 guests, so it was fine."

When I ask what he might change about Longleat when he inherits it, he mentions some of his father's murals, which cover virtually the whole of the west wing (the ones in the infamous Kama Sutra room are positively pornographic).

It's obvious he disapproves of the portraits of the wifelets, lurid visions in oil and sawdust, which line a staircase. "He started painting them 10 or 15 years ago," he says. "I can't even remember what my emotion was, if there even was any. The issue of the paintings appearing, for me, isn't such a big deal."

So what is, I ask - the actual women being there? "Not any more. But it must be tremendously difficult for my mother to walk down that staircase," he says.

He admits to feeling he had to protect his mother as a child. "It must be very difficult for her but I expect her immunity over the decades has got to a very high level." Does he talk about the wifelets with her? "It's not an easy situation. We have talked about it but it's not something I generally go into because there's no point."

Does she love his father? "Yes, of course she does, in an unusual kind of way. They have an enormous amount of affection for each other but now they're more like friends or siblings.

"She still spends two weeks a month at Longleat but they [the wifelets] are never there when she is, that's always been the rule."

Ceawlin finds it hard to talk about his father's relationships with women, and says that his sister finds it even more difficult. "With Lenka, it bores a little bit deeper."

When did he realise his parents' marriage wasn't conventional? "I think that's something I always knew was different. When I looked at what happened in my school friends' homes, it was clear that there was a fundamental difference. I did talk about it with my father when I was very young but I think we stopped bothering to have the conversation long before I reached the age where it would have been remotely cerebral. By that point I had realised that he wouldn't change, so why touch on the subject? Either I'd get angry or he would."

Is he still angry? Ceawlin thinks for a long time. "I suppose there are some examples that I was angry about," he says but refuses to explain them.

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Lord Bath's harem is that there aren't hundreds of love children dotted around. There is one - a girl, now about five years old - but Bath rarely sees her.

Ceawlin has never met her. Does he want to? "No," he says bluntly. Is he embarrassed by his father's philandering? "Nobody seems to judge me by it so it's not an issue. Even as a child, it was never a problem. There was gossip but it was never malicious." But all those women - how does he do it? Ceawlin laughs for the first time and says: "I have no idea."

Despite his eccentricity, Lord Bath made an effort to provide Ceawlin with as normal a life as possible and he certainly wasn't spoilt. As a teenager he cleaned the loos in Oscar's, the nightclub on the estate, for £2.80 an hour.

"It was the place where everyone within a 40-mile radius went. The scene in the loos the next day was horrific. I think I was deliberately given that job. The word from dad was: 'Don't show him any favours, toughen him up.'"

When Ceawlin was 16 and at the local comprehensive, he decided he wanted to go to public school. His Eton-educated father didn't believe in private education but Ceawlin had other ideas and used his trust fund to pay the fees. I had an older friend who had a brother at Bedales. It sounded like fun, and anyway I was curious to see how the other system worked. My father wasn't very happy about it. He thought it was a rejection of his ideals."

Ceawlin didn't last at Bedales long - he was expelled on his 17th birthday for smoking cannabis. His father was furious. Ceawlin sat his A-levels at another college and got a place to read economics and philosophy at University College London. Before long, he had dropped out to run a nightclub, Debbie Does Dallas, in Covent Garden.

Then, in September 1995, his life changed. He went to India with his friend Crinan Wilde to run a ski tour company in the Himalayas. Four months later, his girlfriend, Scarlett Kirby, a PR, flew out to join him.

In April 1996, the three of them were visiting friends at a hotel in Delhi when an explosion, thought to be a terrorist bomb, caused the building to collapse, killing Kirby and Wilde and burying Ceawlin in the rubble.

Ceawlin and Scarlett had been together for nearly a year and they had even discussed getting married. He finds it very hard to talk about that time and how it has affected him.

"I came back and thought, what am I going to do now? First of all, I had to rebuild myself emotionally and get to the point where I could deal with life again."

He suffered severe neck injuries that took months to heal, and it was a year before he felt ready to move on.

"I didn't know what to do. I knew I was interested in economics, I knew a little bit about financial markets and I knew I wanted to make money." Wanting to move away and start afresh, he went to New York but within a few months had returned to London, where he got a job as a trainee at an investment bank.

He now works for another company, Sabre, in which he is a partner, and spends much of his time in Moscow. He seems incredibly dynamic - Sabre is planning to build a chain of hotels around Russia, and Ceawlin is also opening a fashionable bar in Moscow next month and launching a range of clothes by his Brazilian designer friend, Monica Cardoso.

"I love Moscow, it's wonderful," he says. "There are new shops, restaurants and bars opening up all the time. There is such a buzz there at the moment."

All the travelling means he doesn't have time for a girlfriend, but he admits he would like one. Has his father's attitude towards women had an effect on him?

"Who knows?" he says. "I think it's bound to have had, but I don't think it's made my relationships dysfunctional. I have monogamous relationships like most people." He pauses, then says with a smile, "Not a cluster of wifelets like my father."

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You sure have led an unbelievable life. I would like to talk to you about me being a distant relative of yours. Please write back. I am an only child born to Ashley Michael Thynne and Rosalin Jean Thynne and my Grand father was Joseph Thynne. Sincerly Cindy Thynne

- Cindy Thynne, QUAAMA Australia, 16/06/2009 13:53
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