The Grimthorpes

Members interested in horse racing may have seen Clare Balding on TV at Royal Ascot, interviewing Prince Khalid ibn Abdullah’s racing manager, whom she addressed as Lord Grimthorpe. This was indeed the 5th Baron Grimthorpe, descendant of “our” Edmund Beckett who became the 1st Baron in 1886. When Edmund was ennobled, he had to name a place in England to include in his full title, and he chose Grimthorpe, which one presumes was near his first home at Doncaster. It is not clear where this was, but at Doncaster Race Course there is an important annual race known as the Grimthorpe Chase. Not the sort of occasion which our strictly devout Baron would have approved!

To trace the connection between past and present Grimthorpes, we first have to look at Edmund’s nephew Ernest, born in 1856, who became the 2nd Baron in 1905 after a successful career in banking and politics. He was claimed by Alice Keppel to be the father of her daughter Violet Trefusis (before Mrs Keppel became involved with the future Edward VII). In other matters he perhaps followed his uncle’s architectural example, as in 1904 he bought and re- stored what was described as a ruined farm house near Ravello in Italy. Its name, Villa Cimbrone, had survived from the 11th century, and Ernest rebuilt and extended it with great skill and loving care, so much so that when he died in England in 1917, his body was taken for burial at the Villa.

Meanwhile Ernest’s daughter Lucy had married Count Otto Czernin, an Austrian diplomat, and they were living in Berlin when their son Manfred was born in 1913. What happened during the Great War is not known, but some years later they were divorced. Lucy and her son went to live at the Villa Cimbrone, in fact Lucy stayed there, caring particularly for the extensive gardens, until she sold the villa to an Italian family in the 1950s. It became a famous luxury hotel with beautiful gardens. (More details on Villa Cimbrone website.) Lucy died in Portugal in 1980

Lucy’s son, who was officially still Count Manfred Beckett Czernin was educated at Oundle in England. In 1935 he joined the RAF, and in the Battle of Britain he was one of the most successful Hurricane pilots, winning the DFC. Later he joined the Special Operations Executive, and was twice parachuted into German-held Italy, where his fluent Italian helped him to organise and lead the Partisans, in a manner reminiscent of Lawrence in Arabia. For this he was awarded the DSO and MC. After the War, he became a Fiat car salesman, and died in 1962.

Baron Ernest was succeeded by his son Ralph, who among other things was a breeder of race horses in Yorkshire. In turn Ralph was succeeded by his son Christopher, who became the 4th Baron in 1963; he also was involved in horse racing. The present Baron is Christopher’s son, Lord Edward John Grimthorpe (known in racing circles as Teddy Grimthorpe). He was born in 1954, and became Baron in 2003.

Jane Kelsall reports that Lord Teddy came to the Abbey last year, to investigate his predecessor’s restoration work. He was very pleasant, polite and good-looking – the absolute opposite of the first Lord Grimthorpe! He has one young son named Max, who should become the 6th Baron in due course.

[Extract from Newsletter 185, August 2012]


[1] Otto Czernin, the eldest son Edmund (Lucy’s third son) contacted us on 27 December 2021 to advise that Lucy died in Portugal in 1980 (and not 1959, as the original article stated), having sold Villa Cimbrone in the 1950s.