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Earl of Cardigan makes charges against Savernake estate trustees

The Earl of Cardigan is challenging the removal of historic paintings from his home on the 4,500-acre Savernake Estate on the outskirts of Marlborough, insisting that the estate’s trustees had no legal right to remove “fixtures and fittings.”

The 58-year-old Earl claims there is no need to sell the paintings, among them works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Peter Lely, to recoup the cost of his divorce settlement with his wife, said to have put the estate £1 million in the red.

“There’s no need for them to sell them,” declares the Earl, whose indirect relative led the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. “The divorce has cost money but it’s merely a cash-flow problem.”

“The estate has dozens of valuable assets that we can borrow against.”

In an interview in The Lady magazine, he says too that when he signed a 20-year-old lease with the trustees for his current home, Savernake Lodge, they granted him the right to enjoy “all the fittings, fixtures and furnishings” therein.

“It’s ludicrous to say the paintings aren’t fittings, fixtures and furnishings,” the Earl protests. “And I should know. I fixed them on the walls myself.”

“If they’re allowed to get away with this, it’s logical that the trustees could strip me of everything – and leave me sitting here in an empty house.”

And pointing out the hooks of the 25 works of art that have been removed, he adds: “I felt like Mike Tyson had just clouted me.  It’s like a burglary.”

“One of the works was a portrait of a young Lady Elizabeth Seymour by Sir Peter Lely.  It was on the stairs, and I walked past it every morning and every night.  It was a joy.”

“Successive generations of my family have handed it down for hundreds of years, and now it has been taken on my watch.  That’s devastating.”

The Earl and his second wife, Joanne Hill, he points out, had to live in Savernake Lodge for 14 weeks without hot water and having to boil a kettle to do so, a situation that has now been remedied.

“There wasn’t even hot water in the guest bedrooms,” he says.  “I blame the trustees who manage my estate.  A simple pump has needed replacing since Maundy Thursday (in April), and they’ve only just done something about it.”

“Now I’ve got a leaking roof.  It’s intolerable.”

Some of the now missing paintings were sold in April and will never be returned.  A second Sotheby’s sale has however been halted after the Earl secured a last minute injunction.

The fate of the remaining 12 paintings will depend on a High Court hearing expected to be held in the coming months.

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