You have to hand it to the Duke of Northumberland. He has a really tough gig in life. And he’s willing to share with you and me details of the vicissitudes of living in a castle.
Ralph Percy, or it is he, inherited his title in 1995. Along with the title came £350M, and an estate running to some 100,000 acres. And Alnwick Castle with 150 rooms. You’ll recognise this stately pile if you’ve seen any of the Harry Potter films.
Apparently it’s ‘terrifying.’ The upkeep on the family seat runs to about £1.8M a year. Now with £350M in the bank, he’d be able to scrape by for the best part of 200 years. Instead he chose to throw the doors open to visitors. As an adult you’ll fork out the best part of 15 quid at the gate; a family of up to four will rush you 40 quid. They get about 600,000 visitors per year through the gates. I’ll leave you to do the sums.
However, Ralph was not a happy bunny, saying that all the visitors pretty much made it impossible for his family to get in and out because of the crowds. That’s about as gracious as celebrities moaning about having to be photographed all the time. Without the fans, you wouldn’t be a celeb. Without the visitors, the Percies would be dipping into their coffers to support themselves, and that would never do, would it?
The Duchess then goes a bit bats in the belfry. She bought a separate Aga to ensure that the children didn’t rely on the cook, who had her own kitchen. That’s a first world solution to a first world problem, isn’t it? An Aga for the children to use.
Her explanation? ‘I wanted a normal life for them. I hated the idea of their growing up not being able to do anything for themselves.’
Not a lot normal about living in a 150 room castle, is there? Anyway, the children probably learned basic culinary and housekeeping skills while fagging at whatever public schools they were undoubtedly shipped off to. Ralph was educated at Wellesley and Eton, so I don’t expect his sprogs went to the local comprehensive, do you?
I have some sympathy, but not a huge amount. Don’t like visitors? Then bite the financial bullet and don’t let them in. Simple.