Fri. Apr 19th, 2024
alert-–-tragic-fall-of-aristocrat-who’s-68th-in-line-to-the-throne:-he’s-lived-a-sad-life-of-sleeping-rough-and-spice-addiction-but-he-was-raised-in-‘downton-abbey’-and-is-godson-of-the-crown’s-tommy-lascelles.-richard-kay-reveals-what-went-wrong…Alert – Tragic fall of aristocrat who’s 68th in line to the throne: He’s lived a sad life of sleeping rough and spice addiction. But he was raised in ‘Downton Abbey’ and is godson of The Crown’s Tommy Lascelles. RICHARD KAY reveals what went wrong…

Rowan Lascelles, if appearances and lineage were the only measure of a man, looked to have it all. A distant cousin of the King, he has a distinguished aristocratic name and an ancestral home that is one of the architectural treasures of Britain, with a world-class collection of artworks.

Almost exactly 23 years ago, Lascelles was one of 25 figures assembled in a unique photo montage created by the magazine Country Life to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s death.

All those photographed were descendants of Victoria’s extended family, and on Lascelles’s face there is the smile of a young man ready for the opportunities that life may have ahead of him: happy, confident and seemingly carefree.

It is just the kind of picture, one imagines, that everyone else in the frame would hold dear, visible evidence of their place in a great royal dynasty. Did Rowan, then 23, keep a copy?

Today, the only available picture of him is of a man, now approaching middle age, snarling into the camera as he faces the consequences in court for yet another reprehensible public order offence.

James Lascelles, his wife Frederica and children Rowan and Sophie in 1978

James Lascelles, his wife Frederica and children Rowan and Sophie in 1978

Princess Mary — Rowan Lascelles’ grandmother — with her father George V and  his mother Queen Alexandra, and her new son George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood

Princess Mary — Rowan Lascelles’ grandmother — with her father George V and  his mother Queen Alexandra, and her new son George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood

In the years since that magazine montage appeared in 2001, Lascelles, 46, has failed to come close to realising any of that youthful promise. What he has done is to amass a string of convictions ranging from racially aggravated assault and racially aggravated threatening behaviour to causing criminal damage.

Last week, a warrant for his arrest was issued after he was convicted in his absence of hurling racist abuse in a McDonald’s restaurant and threatening to stab a charity worker.

So relentless has been his anti-social behaviour that a police officer was moved at one hearing to describe Lascelles as a ‘burden on the Metropolitan police.’

Courts across the capital have heard evidence of his ‘entrenched criminality’ and a man a judge described as a ‘persistent offender’ who ‘leaves misery in his wake’.

Westminster City Council even tried to have him banned from stepping foot in the borough. It failed. Police are now wearily looking for him.

At his empty first-floor flat in a hostel for the homeless in London’s North Kensington, a timber panel nailed to the front door, which had splintered from its hinges, was a reminder of another recent transgression.

According to neighbours, ‘vagrants’ had been invited into the property and police had come to restore order.

What is so remarkable is how a man born with every advantage life that can bestow — a second cousin once removed of King Charles and 68th in the line of succession to the throne — should have sunk so wretchedly.

Indeed, many of those who have met him find it hard to believe that the volatile Lascelles, who has at times been addicted to Spice, the powerful synthetic cannabinoid, was a member of the aristocracy at all.

The only recent picture of Lascelles is of a man, aged 38, snarling into the camera as he faces the consequences in court for yet another reprehensible public order offence

The only recent picture of Lascelles is of a man, aged 38, snarling into the camera as he faces the consequences in court for yet another reprehensible public order offence

They also, intriguingly, argue that his woes were not entirely of his own making — and there may well be a grain of truth in that.

For it takes upbringing as well as breeding to make a man, and Rowan Lascelles, a descendant of King George V, endured a highly unconventional, almost feral childhood.

While his three-times married father, the Honourable James Lascelles, had been raised amid the splendour of stately Harewood House in Yorkshire, which featured in the Downton Abbey film and the ITV series Victoria, Rowan grew up on a rambling commune in Suffolk, where he and his sister Sophie were encouraged to join naked dances with the pot-smoking adults around the garden.

When his parents split up, he moved with his mother and her lover to have an itinerant life among a bohemian theatre troupe travelling the world, before they settled in rural France.

Lascelles has spoken, in previous court hearings, of what he called ‘the emotional neglect’ of his American-born mother Fredericka and ‘physical and violent abuse’ by his stepfather Paddy Hayter, a theatrical entrepreneur.

But what is the truth? Lascelles’s sister, four years his senior, has recalled those days in rural Suffolk as an idyll, describing the lifestyle thus: ‘My parents were idealists — young hippies with a dream of sustainable living, family community and plenty of rock and roll.’

They were not the first members of the nobility to embrace the counterculture, but they were among the most prominent.

READ MORE: RICHARD KAY: Stripped of its two most charismatic stars, the monarchy is facing a profound crisis 

James Lascelles was the second son of the 7th Earl of Harewood and his first wife, the concert pianist Marion Stein, who later married the then leader of the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe.

His grandmother was Princess Mary, the Princess Royal and sister of the exiled Duke of Windsor and King George VI. And his father, who was president of the British Board of Film Classification for 11 years, was first cousin to the late Queen Elizabeth.

His godparents included Princess Marina, mother of the Duke of Kent, and Sir Alan ‘Tommy’ Lascelles, Queen Elizabeth’s private secretary, who featured in the Netflix series The Crown.

Prince Philip was a friend of their father and a frequent visitor to Harewood House.

But a huge scandal brought that royal connection to a shuddering halt — at least for a while.

Lord Harewood, a classical music administrator, began an affair with the n violinist Patricia Tuckwell and they had a child. The earl was ostracised, not invited to the funeral of his uncle the Duke of Windsor and left off the guest list for the wedding of Princess Anne to Captain Mark Phillips in November 1973.

This was a considerable snub for the man who remains the only person to have served as counsellor of state without being a prince of the United Kingdom. However, family relations were restored after he divorced Marion and married Miss Tuckwell.

At the time, Rowan’s father, now 70, was a pupil at Westminster School. A talented musician, he joined his first rock band, Jaded, at the age of 15. Fellow members included another Westminster boy, Adam Sieff, a member of the family that controlled Marks and Spencer. The band’s promoter? A certain Tony Blair.

His marriage was a hippy-style affair for which he had to secure the permission of his father’s cousin, the Queen. He wore cream leather jeans and exchanged Tibetan rings with his bride, while his latest band, the Global Village Trucking Company, played during the service in a 14th-century Norfolk church.

The band, their road crew and even the bride’s mother all lived together, sharing one bathroom in a dilapidated farmhouse in Sotherton, Suffolk, as James and the group played at benefit concerts and festivals. He was the first member of the Royal Family to perform at Glastonbury.

‘We lived with the families of the other band members and roadies,’ recalls Sophie, who now lives in Barcelona, where she is a creative thinking coach

‘My mum and grandma made a huge vegetable garden and we had chickens and goats . We were quite autonomous as kids, as the parenting method was not to interfere in disputes and we were given a lot of freedom to do as we wished.’

Thanks to the royal connections (James was then 20th in line to the throne) the commune attracted not just disapproval but headlines too. An article in the News of the World was illustrated with pictures of a topless young woman.

Asked by one interviewer if they lived by the principle of free love, James was blasé.

Rowan Lascelles' family seat of Harewood House in West Yorkshire, which featured in the Downton Abbey film and the ITV series Victoria

Rowan Lascelles’ family seat of Harewood House in West Yorkshire, which featured in the Downton Abbey film and the ITV series Victoria

‘I wouldn’t stop anyone making love to my wife, but I’d probably punch him on the nose,’ he said.

Rowan was born into this unorthodox life in 1977 and joined other commune children at the village school, which has since closed, in nearby Wangford.

But by the early 1980s, his parents’ marriage was breaking up. They divorced in 1985, and that same year James married in a Native American ceremony on top of a New Mexico mountain with blessings from a medicine man.

His bride, with whom he had already fathered a daughter, was a member of the Navajo tribe, with the name Shadow.

The couple met in California where Shadow, also known as Lori, had worked as a nanny to the Hollywood child star Tatum O’Neal. However, that marriage also didn’t last and in 1999, back in Britain, James was married for a third time to a Nigerian actress.

Meanwhile, Rowan and his sister Sophie were living off-grid with their mother, who had joined the Footsbarn Travelling Theatre Company, which hosted circus-style big top performances featuring acrobats, clowns, music and costumes.

Being constantly on tour, it must have been hard, if not impossible, for the young Rowan to put down roots anywhere.

As a young adult, he had expressed a desire to work in films. His uncle David, the 8th Earl of Harewood, was a film and television producer who worked on nine episodes of Inspector Morse. His grandmother taught him the piano.

Precisely when Rowan’s life began to spiral out of control is unknown but in 2006, some five years after that Country Life montage, police were called to an incident at a backpacker’s guesthouse in Cambodia.

After a row with a fellow guest, he had thrown the man’s laptop into a lake. Staff at the guesthouse had taken to calling Lascelles ‘Mr Lop Lop’ which translated meant ‘Mr Silly’.

For a while, police confiscated his passport, but at some point he returned to the UK and started sleeping rough on the streets of London. And so began his slide into criminality.

His three-times married father, the musician James Lascelles, had been raised amid the splendour of stately Harewood House in Yorkshire... he is seen here on the right performing with the late Steve Harley, centre, at the Union Chapel in London

His three-times married father, the musician James Lascelles, had been raised amid the splendour of stately Harewood House in Yorkshire… he is seen here on the right performing with the late Steve Harley, centre, at the Union Chapel in London

The 7th Earl of Harewood and wife, Countess of Harewood Marion Stein, on their wedding day in 1949. They divorced in 1967

The 7th Earl of Harewood and wife, Countess of Harewood Marion Stein, on their wedding day in 1949. They divorced in 1967

By now, even his elevated birth was no protection. One court hearing was told that each and every attempt to place Rowan in council housing would end in eviction because of his ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

Westminster’s rough sleeping coordinator, George Bossman, said: ‘When he doesn’t like something, he gets extremely angry and abuses people.’

He added: ‘There have been frightening, aggressive outbursts and racist behaviour, and he has been engaging in the illicit use of substances.’

One such incident came four years ago when Lascelles launched a racist attack on doormen at a casino in London’s West End.

Lascelles was being beaten up by three homeless men when the doormen rushed to his aid. But instead of being grateful, he spat blood and saliva at them and demanded of one of the bouncers: ‘Are you f***ing legal?’, while calling his colleague a ‘P***’.

Last week, magistrates a Willesden in north west London heard that he had 15 sets of previous convictions for 21 offences. He had previously admitted racial harassment against a Muslim man in a WH Smith store at Victoria station as well as admitting threatening behaviour to one woman and assaulting another at the same station.

He denied but was convicted of racially-aggravated harassment and threatening behaviour at a McDonald’s in Kilburn, north-west London, last September.

He was said to have approached men in the restaurant he believed to be gay referring to them as ‘b**** boy’ and said ‘I bet you love it up the a***’.

He also shouted the N-word as he approached the counter.

At the same hearing, he was convicted of threatening a charity worker at the St Mungo’s homeless charity in central London, telling her: ‘I’m going to get a knife and stab you in the face.’

Lascelles, said the prosecution, was ‘no stranger to the court system’.

According to neighbours at his most recent address, he has caused ‘untold mayhem’ with police being called on more than a dozen occasions.

‘He seemed a very quiet and polite man, well dressed and well-spoken — but then there is this other side to him, and when the police come he shouts a lot,’ one neighbour said. ‘He didn’t appear to have any family and never spoke of any.’

Back in Suffolk, the commune days at Church Farm, where Lascelles was born, are still remembered by local residents.

Businessman Julian Rolt, who bought the property when Rowan’s father sold up in the early 1980s and still lives there, recalls. ‘They were very gentle hippies, blue-blooded types — but the place was a bit of a mess.’

Tragically, a mess is also the only way to describe what has happened to Lascelles’s son.

After Rowan Lascelles, 68th in line to the throne, is convicted in his absence for hurling racist abuse and threatening to stab a charity worker…