CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today CLICK HERE

Ralph Douglas-Scott-Montagu on life as the 4th Baron Montagu of Beaulieu

PUBLISHED: 12:13 21 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:13 21 November 2017

Lord Montagu outside Palace House

Lord Montagu outside Palace House

Archant

When the Hon Ralph Montagu inherited the country’s most famous family estate and motor museum two years ago, he already felt right at home. Viv Micklefield meets the man destined to be the driving force behind Beaulieu’s future

Walking into the first floor drawing room, wearing a cream linen jacket, Ralph Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 4th Baron Montagu of Beaulieu to give him his full title, extends a welcome handshake. Whilst I wasn’t expecting this peer of the realm to be swaddled in ermine it’s a relaxed entrance into his family’s private quarters, to match the muted oil paintings and antique furnishings arranged against the pale blue palette, of our surroundings.

Yet appearances can be deceptive. Who’d have imagined, for instance, that the piano standing in this very room was once played by both Liberace and Michael Jackson during visits to Palace House? And, accepting an invitation to sit on what Lord Montagu, as he prefers to be called, suggests is the more comfortable of the two squashy-looking sofas, there’s the sense that he too might be a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Born to inherit the 7,000-acre Beaulieu Estate from his late father Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, who passed away aged 88 following a short illness in August 2015, he’s been running day-to-day affairs here for some time, alongside holding down the job of Radio Times’ head of heritage. Whereas the late Lord Montagu was renowned for living life in the fast lane, fuelled by a love of motor cars and celebrity house guests, his eldest son is, by his own admission, “a bit of an archivist”. Yet he is already showing a spirited individualism in the changes he’s bringing to the ancestral home.

“With the processing of my father’s estate still continuing, there’s lots I want to do but it will take time to do it,” says the 56-year-old, adding: “It’s not that I’m doing anything dramatically different now but it does feel different, because before I was maintaining the status quo and doing as he’d want things done.

“In addition to the motor museum, which is wonderful in its own way, we have the heritage of Beaulieu itself. And I’m keen to shout a bit more about what the house and the garden and the abbey has to offer.

“My approach to the house is to build on what my father started. We know it’s not the biggest or the grandest of stately homes but we can bring it to life through its people, which is what visitors enjoy. And that’s where I’m putting my creative energy.”

Although Lord Montagu’s childhood spent at Palace House is best described as unconventional compared with that of his classmates at Walhampton School – until he was almost 11 the estate’s entire office staff worked from the house, much like an extended family – it nonetheless holds many fond memories.

“What you have to remember is that wherever you grow up and whatever you grow up with, that is your normality; it’s only when you see other people’s homes and other people’s lives that you start to realise that they may not be the same as yours.

“Having the motor museum here I had the use of a lot of Edwardian children’s pedal cars and when I was a bit older my sister Mary and I also had a go-kart. So, it was great fun.”

“Of course my father would host lots of events whenever he was here. He would usually come back on a Thursday night until Monday afternoon and then he’d go off back to London. My mother was here more so but it was my nanny who was the mainstay during my early years.”

Little surprise then that the nursery is singled out as his all-time favourite room. And treated to a peek inside, usually reserved for bespoke tours, he points out a much-loved rocking horse, and the fireplace.

“I remember sitting beside here and nanny reading me a goodnight story, and then saying my prayers before going to bed. After my younger brother Jonathon grew up it was returned to a bedroom, but it still has a special atmosphere.”

Watching members of the public queuing-up to visit Beaulieu, which they’ve done since 1952, was also commonplace; his predecessor having had the vision to generate much-needed money to secure the family seat held since Tudor time, for future generations. The presence today of scaffolding is, he says, nothing more than regular maintenance to external stone, lead, and paintwork.

Despite Lord Montagu’s deep-rooted affection for Palace House he’s not lived here for over 20 years, preferring instead to remain with his wife Ailsa (they married in 2005), in the more private village house and former home of his grandmother.

“I’m away much less, and am in the house much more, than my father ever was. My office is here, it’s where I entertain and sometime have guests staying here. It’s still, in many ways, lived in.”

And keen to showcase its former residents, he’s explored Beaulieu’s archives and applied his graphic design experience, in the private apartment’s newly open wing. Here, the parallel lives of The Lady and the Rebel, two remarkable 20th century Beaulieu women: Pearl Pleydell-Bouverie, who married Lord Montagu’s grandfather John in 1920, and the actress and intelligence officer Elizabeth Montagu, are told through family possessions and newly published diaries.

Off the same corridor, exhibited works from the Art Russe collection provide more reason to venture upstairs. As he points out: “In the past, many stately home owners, including my ancestors, collected art from around the world and so it is entirely appropriate I should be continuing that tradition by hosting this collection at Beaulieu.”

And, whilst remaining tight-lipped on plans to recreate up to five bedrooms in period decor, already on show is the former Lord Montagu’s library.

“As well as a room full of books, it was my father’s cosy sitting room and where he spent much of his later years. His desk was in here and a big old armchair in the corner. As children we would spend time with him and my mother at teatime, when there would have been a big television in here too.”

A familial sense of humour is bound-up in the false bookshelf door; both father and son having had fun with wordplay on the mock titles. Indeed, the desire to celebrate a lineage that includes Mary Queen of Scots, Sir Francis Drake and the Earl of Southampton continues, from Royal Coronation robes to old pots and pans. The reconstructed Victorian Kitchen, Lord Montagu’s latest addition, typifying how he wants to share Beaulieu’s multi-layered history.

“When the cook is in there you can walk into the house and actually smell the bread baking, which is great. We now sell jam and shortbread in the shop that is made here in the house. It’s genuinely our own estate produce and is only available here.

“This Christmas we’ll be serving-up mulled punch and we’ll have the dining room table laid up for lunch which you’ll be able to watch the cook preparing,” he says, looking ahead to the festive season. “Every room in the house will have a Christmas tree, there will be carol singing and a ‘Christmas Day panto’ with actors playing the roles of family members. The aim is to give people a sense that they are coming into a Victorian house party.”

Beaulieu has certainly seen a few parties in its time. The million dollar question though, is: what does Lord Montagu think his late father might make of his ideas?

“I’m certainly not doing anything he said I shouldn’t do. So I think he would approve.”

www.beaulieu.co.uk

More…

What’s on offer in the village of Beaulieu - One of the most visited villages in the New Forest, Beaulieu is picturesque, bursting with fascinating places to explore and has a real sense of community says Claire Pitcher

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Yesterday, 11:46

Right at Home, with offices in Southampton, Winchester, Portsmouth, Farnham and the surrounding areas; offer home care for adults of all ages and the elderly

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

What does Christmas mean to you? Not everyone celebrates it of course but for those who do it is often simply a time for festive fun and creating new memories. We asked Craig David, Elizabeth Hurley, Colin Firth, Amanda Holden and more of Hampshire’s stars on what Christmas means to them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Graphic artist Chris Gibson is bringing Hampshire’s landmarks in to people’s homes with his nostalgic posters

Read more
Monday, October 29, 2018

Some of Hampshire’s best known personalities have revealed what they most love about the county. Here, we compile some quotes from our interviews over the years

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

Something Wicked this way comes… the hit musical follows the yellow brick road to Southampton this month. Leading ladies Amy Ross and Helen Woolf share tales from behind the emerald curtain

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Turning 40 kick started a career change for Claire Fuller that took even her by suprise. She talks to Rebecca Fletcher about becoming a best-selling author, and what to expect from her latest novel

Read more
Monday, September 10, 2018

You can take the lady out of Hampshire but you can’t take Hampshire out the lady. Yes, it’s a corny expression but it is true in the case of actress, singer, dancer and TV presenter Amanda Holden, who has never forgotten her roots in the county

Read more
Monday, August 20, 2018

With her bold, graphic designs, New Forest artist Evelyn Bartlett captures the magnificent scenery on her doorstep

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

From food and drink to fashion and furnishings, Wickham is home to businesses that are pushing the boundaries. Viv Micklefield meets some of those proud to be different

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

A surf club… on the Isle of Wight? Surely not! 50 years on, Faith Eckersall meets those that say their little island is the surfing community’s best kept secret

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tinnitus affects around 10% of the UK population and often goes untreated. Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care told us everything you need to know about tinnitus

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sir Ben Ainslie’s sights are set on bringing home the 36th America’s Cup in 2021 and hoping to join the battle are the sailors currently in his youth squad. Viv Micklefield catches-up with some of the young guns already taking the world by storm

Read more
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

You can’t keep Mary Berry out of the kitchen and the same goes for Hampshire. Bernard Bale hears about her favourite places to visit

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

We are a nation of shopkeepers, but is the shop dying? We head to Winchester’s High Street

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory



Property Search