To see my daughter in a coma will be scorched into my memory forever: Earl of Cardigan tells how The Voice's new star was on the brink of self destruction
12:29 GMT, 15 April 2012
Bo Bruce has spoken of her battle with drink and drugs
David Brudenell-Bruce is an unlikely fan of reality TV. /04/14/article-2129830-00553C6A00000258-246_634x661.jpg” width=”634″ height=”661″ alt=”Rebel: From left, a young Bo, her mother Rosamund, the Earl of Cardigan and her brother Thomas, Viscount Savernake, outside Tottenham House on the family's estate” class=”blkBorder” />
Rebel: From left, a young Bo, her mother Rosamund, the Earl of Cardigan and her brother Thomas, Viscount Savernake, outside Tottenham House on the family's estate
‘From a parental point of view, she then comprehensively came off the rails, was drinking in pubs and clubs and getting up to heaven knows what.
‘It all went so wrong that a few months later, her mother and I were called to the intensive-care wing of Swindon hospital at 2am, to see my little girl lying wholly unresponsive and in a coma after an ambulance was called to a party where she’d been experimenting.
‘It was the most dreadful thing I have ever seen and has been scorched into my memory for the rest of my life. We really thought we were going to lose her.’
Bo has not spoken to her father since 2005
It was the beginning of a truly terrible period for the family, culminating, says the Earl, in the collapse of the world as he knew it.
‘It was 4.10pm on August 5, 2005, when I and my then wife Rosamund were in Arizona to meet the therapists treating Catherine in a rehabilitation clinic. She had spent some time in the Priory in the UK but we were told that the best place in the world was this clinic in Arizona.
‘She agreed to go, and ended up staying in the US for several months.
‘Unfortunately the trip was also when Rosamund told me our 25-year marriage was over.’
The Earl is understandably reluctant to give any further details of the family breakdown other than to say that, although the treatment for Catherine seemed successful, he became estranged from both his daughter and her brother, Thomas, Viscount Savernake.
‘They have only heard one side of the story from their mother,’ he says. ‘I would like nothing more than to be reconciled with them.’
Rosamund eventually moved out of Savernake Lodge, where the children were raised, to another property on the edge of the family’s estate in Wiltshire.
Cardigan’s own reaction to the breakdown of his marriage was, as he explains, dramatic, and he checked himself into a local clinic for depression in Tucson, Arizona, where he was put on suicide watch.
‘I became very distressed. A psychiatrist later told me I reacted so badly because it took me right back to my parents’ traumatic divorce.’
His parents had parted when he was six years old and he and his sisters found themselves ‘dumped’, as he puts it, in something between a foster home and an orphanage in Sussex.
The Earl stayed in the clinic for two months, during which time he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and placed on a trauma resolution course, which involved group-therapy sessions.There he met his future wife, Joanne, a pretty blonde businesswoman from Tucson. She, too, was going through a difficult divorce and had become addicted to an anti-anxiety drug prescribed after a serious assault.
It was only last spring, after four years in America, that he was able to return, driving Joanne, 48, down the long avenue to his home on the Savernake Estate, near Marlborough.
It was the conclusion of a romantic journey as the couple were due to marry the following month.
But there was nothing idyllic about the sight that met him when he opened the door to his house.
‘It was like a bomb site and looked as if it had been burgled,’ he recalls.
Valuable paintings of his ancestors, including examples by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Peter Lely, had been removed from the walls.
Lord Cardigan, with his second wife Joanne, watches The Voice every weekend in the hope he might catch a glimpse of his daughter
‘The roof was leaking, the gutters were blocked, there was hot water in only one room. Electric wires had been crudely pulled from their sockets. All my white doves were dead, as were 200 or so house plants that I had nurtured for decades.’
Even today, more than a year after his return, Savernake Lodge looks as though it is recovering from occupation by a small army of squatters. The state of the house has prompted an extraordinary legal battle between the Earl and his own trustees, the two men appointed to protect the estate.
So far, there have been three court hearings and a short trial.
The trustees have accused him of selling family silver he was not entitled to sell and, worse still, of having no right to live in Savernake Lodge at all.
For his part, the Earl sought an injunction to stop the trustees selling more family paintings. In court proceedings, he has alleged that Savernake Lodge has fallen into major disrepair and that the landlords have failed to fulfil their duties.
He is in despair that the trustees have removed the paintings for sale – some are currently with Sotheby’s, others have been sold already –bringing to an end centuries of family ownership.
Bo's father said he aches to be reconciled with her and wishes her the best for the future
At present, the trustees say they are unable to give their side of the story in public, other than to claim that the Earl’s lease on Savernake Lodge is invalid. It is a sorry mess, the more so as this is an ancient and very lovely slice of England that has belonged to his family since 1067.
Like many aristocrats, he is steeped in his family’s history and insists – several times – that although a Lord Cardigan led the famous Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854, he was not an ancestor.
‘He died childless, so how could he be’ he asks.
It was back in 1951 that the family appointed two trustees to protect the estate against a possible renegade heir, a standard practice among great estates.
Cardigan himself became a trustee in the Eighties, but was asked to stand down when he moved to America. He says he continued to manage the estate from abroad, but that, even so, the trustees retrospectively cancelled the modest 14,000 salary involved.
So, with no income or access to his assets, his illness was a disaster.
‘In 2008, after I stepped down, I was left completely insolvent. Fortunately, Joanne supported me.
‘With no salary, I am totally without cash,’ he says. For the moment, he adds, there is just 150 in the bank. ‘We keep costs down by having single-course meals.
‘But although I have no access to my money, I own half, along with my son, of 4,500 acres of north-east Wiltshire land. There are also about 15 properties on my estate.’
They include Tottenham House, the vast 81,000 sq ft Grade I listed building that hasn’t been lived in by the family since 1945.
‘The house was insured for 23 million, which is what it would cost to rebuild,’ he continues.
‘I hope to find a hotel group that will turn it into a spa and golf hotel complex.
‘I don’t want to lay it on too thick that the poor Earl is down to his last stately home,’ he says. ‘Most people would give their eye teeth to live in a house like Savernake Lodge.’
It must at times seem to the family that the sadness is never-ending: according to the Earl, Rosamund is now gravely ill with pancreatic cancer. ‘I am devastated that she is so ill,’ he says.
But at least he is looking forward to the coming verdict. A series of complex legal battles will finally come to a head on Friday when, following a two-day case in the High Court in March, Mr Justice Newey delivers judgment.
This will include a decision on whether he can stay in Savernake Lodge, where he has lived since 1981. ‘I am on tenterhooks as it will completely change my life,’ he says. ‘If I lose I could be homeless. If the court holds that the trustees’ action in seizing and selling my paintings was unlawful, then both trustees will have to fall on their swords.
‘It will be me or the trustees left standing, and it has got to be me,’ he says. ‘Savernake Lodge is on land that has been in my family for almost 1,000 years.
‘But equally important to me is that Catherine, to her great credit, seems to have put the bad times behind her – and instead called on much of that scary period for musical inspiration.
‘I look forward to happier lyrics coming through in her work in years to come, but for now I wish her every possible success. And for her to know I ache to be reconciled with her, however long it takes.’