February 21, 2014
GSTAAD—“On ne touché pas une femme, meme avec une fleur,” says an old French dictum, one not always adhered to in the land of cheese or anywhere else, for that matter. However hackneyed it may sound—don’t you hate it when a hack declares an interest in order to gain Brownie points for honesty?—I nevertheless will declare one. I’ve been a friend of the Somerset family for about fifty years, starting with the father, David Beaufort, whom I met sailing around the Med back in 1963. He was then David Somerset and is now the Duke of Beaufort, and his four children are all close friends. His second son, Edward Somerset, was recently sentenced to two years in jail for mentally and physically abusing his wife of thirty years.
Now, after I went bonkers over Saatchi grabbing his wife by the throat, it might sound a bit hypocritical defending Eddie Somerset, so hear me out first and then make your decision. Eddie and Caroline Somerset were a very nice couple with two daughters who shared a life of pleasure, booze, and drugs, I’m afraid. Throughout the marriage, I never got the impression that he was the Pope and she the postulant; rather, they seemed a troubled pair that drank and drugged a lot. I was actually closer to Caroline than Eddie, who was too tortured and strung out for my taste. Neither of them, however, exactly tiptoed through life as though through a minefield. Both knew what they were doing, and in Caroline’s case she had thirty years to get out but she didn’t.
It takes a heretical kind of cavorting in choosing drugs as a lifestyle, one that’s worthy of a longer study than this brief column, but Eddie Somerset is not the first of a privileged background and of beautiful mien—no longer—to go wrong. His wife, obviously in love with him, was also into the stuff of dreams, and I will get to my point in a minute. Eddie Somerset succumbed to an old, old force: the power of weakness. We’ve all known unfortunates who have allowed drugs to get the better of them. They all sound hollow, as if in an echo chamber, because inside their brain all they can focus on is the next fix. Internally complicated Brits plus drugs make for an awful mess. But the last thing he deserved was jail, and a very cruel custodial sentence to boot.
Which brings me to the point of my story. This was a lulu of a travesty of justice because the judge, Mark Horton, took none of the background into account. A strutting peacock of a judge, he lectured Somerset on his life of privilege and ease and then sent him down for two years. This is the same buffoon of a judge who let a drug dealer caught with two kilos of hallucinogenic drugs off because the dealer wanted to change sex and did not feel comfortable in an all-male prison. Ironically, the same week, another judge sent a man who plotted to kill Prince Harry down for three years. In other words, punishment for trying to kill the third in line to the throne and giving two black eyes to your wife are a year apart where justice is concerned. More importantly, Edward Somerset, when interviewed by the fuzz after Caroline had filed a complaint, did so without a lawyer, despite the fact the cops offered him one. He admitted everything, and even the probation officer assured him there would be no custodial sentence as a result of his honesty.