Pissed-off Toff

Lord Strathmore: a cautionary tale in the age of hysteria

in PC Watch

Pissed-off Toff considers the fate of the Earl of Strathmore, and concludes: men beware.

At two o’clock the other morning, while contemplating the ruins of my wasted life, I surveyed a pile of unread newspapers dating back over a month. I really should go through them, I thought, and see what is going on in this world gone mad. So I did; and duly came across a report concerning the fate of Simon Bowes-Lyon, 19th Earl of Strathmore, convicted last year of sexual assault, and after a long delay now sentenced.

If only out of lazy personal curiosity, I had been meaning to follow his story to its conclusion. Because well before Glamis Castle – the Scottish seat of the Bowes-Lyon family – was open to the public, my mother had stayed there in the late 1950s. No stranger to the haunted houses of the aristocracy, she found this place particularly chilling. Towards the end of 1974, I arrived at Eton to find myself in the same house as Michael Bowes-Lyon, later the 18th Earl of Strathmore, but then styled Lord Glamis. I was a new boy, and he was in his last year at the school. I therefore saw him from a distance. But we were all aware that even by Eton standards he was rather grand. From time to time he walked up the High Street and over the bridge into Windsor, to visit the Queen, his first cousin once removed. People sucked up to him.

A generation later, things were different. Glamis Castle was now available for PR events; indeed, depended on them. And at one of these events, lasting several days, the son and heir of my fellow-OE took a fancy to a female journalist. Late at night, and fuelled up with the best whisky that his homeland could provide, he entered her room in his private part of the castle, professed undying love, and proceeded to grope her and chase her around the place in the most persistent manner.

Mindful of my own youthful indiscretions, I awaited the outcome of the court proceedings which followed. And here it was: an act of idiocy which not long ago would have been considered a drunken misdemeanour now constituted the crime of ‘sexual assault’; and Simon Bowes-Lyon, the 19th Earl of Strathmore, was to spend ten months in prison. 

Here, surely, was a story for our times, and a warning for all men. And in the punishment meeted out to Strathmore, as well as in the opprobrium heaped upon him and the slavering prurience of the media reports on the incident, do we not see the hysteria and loss of sense of proportion which characterise our age?

* * * * *

What happened on that fateful evening at Glamis Castle? Such is the tendency of the media to seek out sensation that it is not easy to unpick the details and get to the raw truth. But let us try.

Let us first consider the formal charge against Simon Bowes-Lyon. Briefly mentioned in the MailOnLine, which has devoted considerable resources to this story, the legal charge contains the claims that he “repeatedly pushed his victim onto a bed, tried to pull up her nightdress, pushed her against a wall, and tried to kiss her and touch her.” That to me sounds like the actions of a drunken undergraduate, a generation or so ago.

Let us now consider the the media reports. Without exception, they seek to sensationalise. Without exception, they start off by slavering over the wealth of Simon Bowes-Lyon, over his collection of vintage motor cars, over the fact that he is closely related to the Queen, over his huge spooky castle, and over his friendship with ‘socialites’ such as the Delevigne sisters and tacky ‘celebrities’ from the Made in Chelsea pantomime. That is the delicious background, and the papers can’t get enough of it. 

We then learn that after a ‘raucous dinner’ (The Times), the Earl of Strathmore ‘forced his way’ (MailOnLine and The Times and The Daily Telegraph) into the room of his ‘victim’ (MailOnLineDaily Telegraph and The Times). Here, the poor girl – unnamed ‘for legal reasons’ – was ‘sexually assaulted’ (MailOnLine and subsequent Police report); or, if you prefer, was subjected to a ‘terrifying sex attack’ (The Daily Telegraph). In all cases, the reports suggest that a prolonged drink-fuelled sexual assault took place over fully twenty minutes. Something close to rape.

What, though, really happened, in cold sober language? Unpick the media reports, as I have done at length, and a not-quite-so-sensational story emerges. What follows is an account as objective as I can make it.

* * * * *

Granted the huge costs of running Glamis Castle, Simon Bowes-Lyon, 19th Earl of Strathmore – or ‘Sam’ to his friends – is happy to host a PR event for Lord Edward Innes-Ker, younger son of the 10th Duke of Roxburghe, who wishes to promote his luxury travel company Reiver Travel. During this event, which extends over several days, various journalists are treated royally. There is a helicopter flight. There is a gin-tasting session. There is a ‘black tie’ dinner. In short, the hacks are lavishly entertained, all in the hope that positive press coverage for Innes-Ker’s travel company will ensue.

During this weekend of PR largesse, the 19th Earl of Strathmore who, despite his grand title, is a rather sad and lonely figure, takes a fancy to one of the young female hacks. Perhaps, during that ‘black tie’ dinner party, she leads him on. Who knows? In due course, he takes her out of the dining room and shows her his collection of vintage motor cars.

Straight away, we come to the first anomaly in the reporting. Salacious as always, the press (The Times, 16 January 2021) describe this dinner party as a ‘raucous dinner’; whereas a guest who was present reports that it was a ‘normal social gathering’.

The dinner party ends. Simon Bowes-Lyon retires to his private quarters, there to open a bottle of whisky, and there to think that he really, really likes that sexy little journalist who paid such flattering attention to him. Because let us be clear, ‘Sam’ Bowes-Lyon, aged thirty-something, is not very attractive. Indeed, with his blubbery lips and large Mediterranean honk, he looks strangely like one of the Candy brothers.

The more he thinks about it, whisky in hand, the more he decides that he totally loves this journalist girl. So he goes to her room and knocks at the door (MailOnLine), waking her up. “It’s Sam, it’s important, please let me in,” he says. She is asleep, but woken up by his knocking, she opens the door.

Next anomaly in the reporting, therefore: Strathmore did not ‘barge in’, as all the reports say. He knocked and was let in.

What follows is reported at length and easy to imagine. He runs round after her; he pushes her up against a wall; he fondles her breasts; he tries to pull up her night-dress; he gropes at her genitals (whether she is wearing knickers or not is not stated); he pushes her onto the bed.

Next anomaly in the reporting: every report suggests that this was a non-stop 20-minute sexual attack. But it cannot have been. Why? Because we read that at some stage the charming earl ‘lit a cigarette’ (MailOnLine) and started talking to his ‘victim’, informing her that she was a “rude, mean, bad and horrible person” (MailOnLine), and that she could not tell him what to do – or not do – in his own home.

What is quite clear, therefore, is that – contrary to all suggestions in the press – this was not a sustained 20-minute sexual attack. Strathmore entered the girl’s room; he ran around after her; he touched her up. But they talked. And in the end she talked him out of it, and he left. Still pissed as a newt, and still, perhaps, entertaining fantasies of droit de seigneur, he returned a little later, but failed to gain entry. And by the time a fellow-journalist arrived on the scene, the idiot earl had passed out in his own apartment.

Is this not the stuff of farce?

* * * * *

One would have thought so. But no. Because look at the reactions.

When a fellow-hack came to the rescue of the un-named female and found Strathmore asleep on his bed, the so-called ‘victim’ was apparently ‘distressed’ (MailOnLine). Then “the victim was so traumatised by the attack that she still suffered nightmares, more than a year later” (The Daily Telegraph).

As for Strathmore’s so-called ‘friend’ Lord Edward Innes-Ker, he seems to have been determined to have the earl banged up. “Lord Edward has vowed that his friend will not be free to [mess around with women] again,” reports The Times.

And as for the Police, oh they just love it. “We welcome the conviction of Simon Bowes-Lyon,” said Detective Inspector Mark Lorent, from the Tayside Criminal Investigation Department. Under increasing pressure to bang up ‘sex offenders’, the coppers have finally nabbed a real toff. Champagne and bonuses all round!!

Nor, I suggest, is it without significance that the fuzz fail to use Bowes-Lyon’s legitimate title when referring to him. They refer to him as simple Simon Bowes-Lyon; not as the Earl of Strathmore, as one might expect. They are, I repeat, thrilled to have nabbed a nob.

* * * * *

How, one wonders, might this story have played out a generation ago … when, say, I was at Oxford.

Let us be in no doubt. ‘Sam’ Bowes-Lyon is an ass. I know that from two upper-class friends; one of whom informs me that he is widely regarded as ‘a total prat’; and another of whom tells me that no sensible chap will let his fifteen-year-old daughter anywhere near him, and that he was ‘riding for a fall’. Nevertheless, how might this have played out in earlier years?

In an earlier age Strathmore would have entered the girl’s room in a drunken state; he might have chased her round a bit and tried to touch her up; and she would have slapped him in the face or kneed him in the balls, and he would have returned, chastened, to his room. She would then have told the story to all her girlfriends, to general hilarity, and the Caledonian earl would have suffered what is now known as ‘reputational damage’. Plus, Lord Edward Innes-Ker might have marched into his bedroom the next morning and given him a good hiding.

But how about today? Did it have to come to this, even now?

No. If the silly girl had not decided that she was ‘traumatised’ for life, and if ‘Sam’ Bowes-Lyon had acted sooner, he could have grovelled without reserve and given her £10,000 to go on a nice holiday … a holiday during which she might consider whether she wanted to become the next Countess of Strathmore. Not such a bad offer, after all.

As it is, the 19th Earl of Strathmore is in the clink for the best part of a year; and no-one is the better-off for it.

* * * * *

What lessons do we learn from this sad story?

First, a generational divide. Whilst everyone I have spoken to agrees that the poor Earl of Strathmore is a fool, opinions vary markedly as to how he should be punished for his actions. And whilst everyone of my age (60, I hate to say) thinks that a slap in the face would be the best way to solve a problem like this, other – mainly younger – people of my acquaintance think that a spell in prison is just what he deserves.

Then the girl whom he ‘assaulted’ … that girl who cannot, for legal reasons, be named. What do we make of her? I’d say she’s a snowflake. A girl who goes to the police and ruins the life of a poor deficient man who has chased her round the room. How feeble can you get?

And she claims that because the idiot earl tried to touch her private parts, she has been permanently traumatised. I’m sorry: no. I remember the various times when women – and sometimes men – in whom I had no interest grabbed my own balls. Did I ring the police? No. I removed their hand, forcibly if necessary, and that was that.

* * * * *

What we are seeing here is a culture change which means that men must be very careful. Do anything with a woman that she later decides she is not entirely happy with, and you might well end up in court. Don’t take my word for it. Here is Christopher Daw, a distinguished QC, writing in The Spectator (6 April 2019). “The law is clear,” he says. “Even if both parties are equally and very drunk, and got that way together without coercion, and then have sex, the man is a rapist and the woman is his victim.”

In other words, despite the loud screams of the feminist lobby, the cards are heavily stacked against men. The women have won. The men have lost.

* * * * *

I first realised this almost twenty years ago, when a spate of films came out in which men were routinely portrayed as monsters, and women as poor victims. The one that most sticks in my mind is Sliding Doors. Much though I loathe Gweneth Paltrow, who starred as the deceived woman, this is a good movie. And I loathe John Lynch too, for the weakness of his face. But this film did much to promote the idea that men are bad and women are good. Put more simply: this production demonised men. And it was the beginning of a process which continues to this day.

What, then, for the future of seduction? What do we say of a man who wishes to bed a woman?

The seduction of a woman by a man has always involved an element of the chase, has it not? The woman runs, the man runs after her. Vorrei e non vorrei, as Da Ponte put it in his libretto for Mozart’s Don Giovanni. But when do persistence and pursuit end and harassment begin? That is the question. And nowadays, it would seem, any form whatsoever of unwelcome physical contact constitutes ‘sexual assault’.

I remember, for example, a moment with the woman I have most loved in my life. The second I saw her, I knew that I had to have her. And when, shortly afterwards, we ended up in bed together, somewhere in Italy, she told me that she had been most annoyed that I had not kissed her on the balcony, the day after we met. I had wanted to kiss her too, very much. But caution prevailed. 

* * * * *

So yes, the Earl of Strathmore badly misjudged it. But what is the future of seduction?

Might I kiss you on the lips? Please sign here.

Might I take off your bra and kiss your breasts? Please sign here.

Might I lick your stomach? Please sign here.

Might I pleasure you deeply with my tongue? Please sign here.

* * * * *

What world are we creating for ourselves with all this? Not a very nice one, I’d say.

And so I conclude this piece, as always, with the same thoughts.

If you are young, and if you can possibly do so, leave this country and go to South America. Escape the puritanical madness and hysteria of this county, which is doomed in every way: morally, financially, spiritually. 

Go. Leave. Go and fuck a nice fat Brazilian girl who won’t report you to the police because you ate her sweet cunt without her written permission.

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