The prize of illegitimacy
I’d really like to claim that I rode behind the Duke of Buccleuch, who was riding one of his many vintage trikes along the imposing drive up to his ancestral home of Boughton House in Northamptonshire…………but, in reality, I was merely in the wake of my cycling friend, Max Scott, who played the role admirably.
Now, it just so happens that Max shares the very same surname as the first Duke of Buccleuch, one James Scott, the eldest illegitimate son of King Charles II. Once over, illegitimacy was a cause of social ostracism…..except, of course, if you happened to be the illegitimate son of the King. And this was one of those many mysterious peerages that had its geographical location in Scotland but benefited from extensive gifted lands and properties in England through royal patronage.
This rare bank holiday opening of the House served to enlighten me about the origins of the Montagus that acquired Kimbolton Castle (now the School where I taught for 28 years). Henry, the 3rd son of Edward Montagu of Boughton House, acquired Kimbolton Castle in 1615, from which the Earldom and Dukedom of Manchester was eventually created. The aristocracy of this little island of ours was a small, enclosed, self-aggrandizing community that manifestly made its wealth on the backs of serfs and peasants.
Much of the property and landscaped gardens were styled on the infinitely more famous Versailles in France and, for that reason, Boughton House became one of the locations used for the recent filming of Les Miserables. Such was the attraction of this property that we joined hundreds of others pouring in through the gates on one of only three weekends in the year when it opens. But it was a cold day, and the interior of the house was unheated, in the interests of conservation. You needed determination and stamina to resist the temptation of diving into the cafe, and staying there for the duration.