Saturday, 13 November 2010

Get Orf My Land

We're all in it together? Just as the government is condemning the 'benefits culture', with some families jobless for generations, out comes a new study on land ownership. 'Country Life' have just completed the most extensive land survey since 1872. In the nineteenth century half of the land was owned by the aristocracy, a century later and 36,000 of them still own one-third. There is a smaller core group of 1,200 that have extensive land holdings and the top ten owned over 1 million acres.

The Top Ten

  1. Richard Scott – Duke of Buccleuch: 240,000 acres

  1. John Murray – Duke of Atholl: 145,000 acres

  1. Charles Windsor – Duke of Cornwall: 133,602 acres

  1. Gerald Grosvenor – Duke of Westminster: 133,100 acres

  1. Ralph Percy – Duke of Northumberland: 130,000 acres

  1. Captain Alwyne Farquharson: 128,000 acres

  1. Ian Ogilvie Grant – Earl of Seafield: 101,000 acres

  1. Elizabeth Millicent Sutherland – Countess of Sutherland: 82,239 acres

  1. Baroness Willoughby De'Eresby: 78,200 acres

10. Michael Pearson - 4th Viscount of Cowdray: 69,500 acres

Researching the educational background of our Top Ten it is possible to identify particular trends, the usual suspects appear – Eton, Harrow and Gordonstoun, although the Duke of Northumberland did slum it a bit by attending Loretto, but then that's the Percys for you.

I don't want to be accused of bias or extrapolating results from such a small survey but I think that somehow when it comes to the children of the 36,000 aristocrats, we can safely say that without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions, that this could be a fairly straight forward piece of research that wouldn't be a route into a well-funded PhD, there isn't going to be a complicated graph involving meta-analysis or the services of teams of statisticians and we could also make a guess that this result will even apply to those blue bloods who are down to their last Rolls Royce. There will be a simple bar graph that will reflect the following-

Top Public Schools – 100%: Gas Works Comprehensive 0%

Sadly I do have to report that even an expensive education cannot always guarantee success. Charles Grosvenor (a.k.a. The Duke of Westminster) left Harrow with just one 'O' Level. However, with his determination and resolve combined with the ownership of the West End of London he did eventually make a success of his life. Well done!

You have to concede that some of the aristocracy make contributions to the arts, donate to charities and are pillars of their local communities. Then there are the drones, the 'socially useless' who depend on the 'inheritance culture' and indulge in those traditional pursuits like droit du seigneur, gambling, hunting, shooting and fishing or the more modern like snorting lines of coke through a £50 note. Yes, some of them haven't worked for ten generations or more.

You might ask the question – how did the aristocracy gain all that land? They acquired it through force of arms, in some cases dating back to the Norman invasion and then between the fifteenth century and the early nineteenth century they just stole it by enclosing the common land. As justices of the peace they penalised anyone who encroached on it by transporting them to Australia.

Finally, amongst our Top Ten it's interesting to see the Scottish landowners, the Buccleuchs, the Atholls, the Seafields and the Sutherlands. At the beginning of the nineteenth century they consolidated their wealth by expelling their tenants and populating the land with sheep – the notorious Highland Clearances. Puts a new twist on that old saying – 'Get Orf My Land!'

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