Why do the children of the rich so often turn into drug addicts
07:14 GMT, 12 July 2012
Time moves slowly in Barbados. There is intense heat and intense money, and nothing to do but swim, compare jewellery and kaftans, and drink rum, or worse.
If Hans K. Rausing and wife Eva had a spiritual home, it was here, where they had spent a rumoured 20 million converting the Greensleeves hotel into a private estate near the luxury Sandy Lane Hotel.
Controversially, they had even blocked off some of the beach and put up security cameras, because wealth breeds paranoia even in paradise.
Ravaged: Recent pictures of the late Eva Rausing and her husband Hans
Eva’s family, Pepsi executive Tom Kemeny
and his wife Nancy, had a house in Barbados, and her sister Be met her
former husband, Jack Kidd, on this Caribbean island for the super-rich.
The sisters’ children were regulars on the white beaches.
Such family life should be bliss. But as we found out again this week, with Eva’s death and the arrest of Hans, privilege cannot protect the heirs to great fortunes from their addictions and often seems to conspire to exacerbate it. Those who do not need to earn a living must be confident and wise enough to forge a safe path through their gilded life.
The unfortunate Rausings — who met in their early 20s in rehab in the U.S. — have joined numerous fellow heirs and aristocrats who were born into a fortune, but cannot find a way to live as adults in society.
These are individuals who are unable to match the achievements of their ancestors — Hans K. Rausing’s father and grandfather, for example, made billions from building up Tetra Pak, the Swedish packaging company that saw off the milk bottle.
And with no need to work, the pampered offspring struggle to find any kind of meaning in life or self-respect. A desire for privacy battles with boredom and a fear of being taken advantage of.
The list of those troubled heirs is a familiar one. Prominent among them is Jamie Blandford, heir to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and the Dukedom of Marlborough.
Problems: The list of troubled heirs is a familiar one. Prominent among them is Jamie Blandford, pictured, heir to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and the Dukedom of Marlborough
He descended into drug addiction, clocked up a string of fines for assaulting police, speeding, driving while disqualified, breaking into a chemist’s in search of drugs, possession of drugs and non-payment of maintenance to his estranged wife, Becky, the Marchioness of Blandford.
He served three prison sentences, but none has acted as a deterrent.
Was it the pressure of the family’s reputation His ancestor John Churchill was ennobled by Queen Anne for defeating the French at the Battle of Blenheim, and his father was proud of the Churchill name and military record.
Perhaps the trouble is that neither boardroom success, such as that achieved by the Rausings, nor military pride, like the Churchills, necessarily goes hand-in-hand with empathy or an affectionate nature when it comes to bringing up children.
Troubled: John Hervey, Marquess of Bristol, became the master of thousands of acres of East Anglia when he was 21
Vast fortunes can also lead to divorce, which compounds the sense of parental neglect. Jamie Blandford’s parents separated when he was four and his father, described as a ‘bad-tempered old grouch’, ended up disinheriting him in 1994.
But then inheritance itself can provoke downfall. John Hervey, Marquess of Bristol, became the master of thousands of acres of East Anglia when he was 21.
In his case, any sense of family honour had long since evaporated as his father Victor had been in jail for an attempted jewellery heist.
/07/12/article-2172351-0D3196BD00000578-170_468x544.jpg” width=”468″ height=”544″ alt=”Worse for wear: Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, pictured in her former partying days, once said she spent 400 a day on cocaine but has cleaned up her act” class=”blkBorder” />
Worse for wear: Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, pictured in her former partying days, once said she spent 400 a day on cocaine but has cleaned up her act
But it didn’t stop there. More recently, Prince Charles’s godson, the Honourable Nicholas Knatchbull, heir to 100 million and the Broadlands estate in Hampshire and his father’s title of Lord Brabourne, found crack cocaine was his drug of choice.
In Knatchbull, emotional pain — his sister Leonora died when she was five, and his grandfather Louis Mountbatten and uncle Nicholas died in an IRA bombing in Ireland — together with the formality of his upbringing proved a devastating combination.
Happily he seems to have been reunited with his father recently, but whether he sees himself as the future lord of the manor at Broadlands is far from clear.
The lucky — or sensible — ones find their own path. The Rausing sisters, Lisbet and Sigrid, became academics and philanthropists. In contrast, a friend said of Hans K. that he has no discernible interests — an attempt at studying anthropology came to nothing.
According to his father’s former assistant, his father paid little attention to him. He did attempt to involve him in the business, but Hans K. sat silently at board meetings and showed no interest at all.
Dead: Gottfried von Bismarck died in his Chelsea flat, after injecting cocaine ,on the hour, by the hour
His sister Sigrid, who set up the publishing company Portobello Books and bought Granta magazine, once tried to explain the difficulties of inherited wealth.
‘The pros of inheriting great wealth, I believe, are largely illusory and can become pathological,’ she said. ‘An illusory sense of being special and different, the assumption that one is interesting to other people only, or mainly, because of the money, and subsequent feelings of isolation.’
She neatly summed up the problem. If you do not have to work, the money and time are there to buy drugs, and there is no need to get up in the morning. The stamina of most of those who feature in the society magazines is a myth: they just don’t have to wake up until midday.
The need to be in an office by 9am tends to have a sobering effect on a long night. For heirs, there isn’t even any housework to do — the house will be full of staff to tidy up and provide food, no matter what.
Little wonder that Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in West London are stuffed with children of the rich, who have usually flunked educationally and come from emotionally strangulated families.
So gilded are the clientele that some believe untroubled girls join certain branches of AA just to meet extremely eligible men.
Barny Guthrie of Clinical Partners, who advises those with addictions, often sees those aged between 17 and 35 who have failed to make the transition to adulthood partly because they have too much money.
‘The ability to pay the rent and show you can cut it builds confidence and give you a reason to get out of bed,’ he says. ‘One of the joys of working is that you can take pride in your own achievements.’
Unavailable parents sometimes try to offset their neglect with money. Pocket money among some boys at Eton, for example, can stretch into thousands of pounds a term.
One contemporary of Prince William there tells me of a fellow pupil who had so much money that, during term time, he rented a flat in Windsor in which to hang out.
Such spare cash is dangerous. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the It Girl whose parents are friend of Prince Charles, once said she spent 400 a day on cocaine (though, unlike so many others, she has cleaned up her act); Nicholas Knatchbull spent about the same. Jamie Blandford was said to have been born ‘with a silver spoon under his nose’.
There is the guided life of ordinary people with caring parents: the exams, university perhaps, the job, the satisfaction of putting food on the table and the confidence that comes with it, the security of family love.
And then, as in the case of Hans K. and Eva Rausing, there is the gilded life of the troubled heir, where drugs provide an imaginary security blanket and the money is a trap that seems like a means of escape.