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Aristocrat who lost stately home and his family fortune now ‘can’t afford to insure car’

An aristocrat who lost his stately home and family fortune in a long legal battle says he now can’t afford to insure his car.

David Brudenell-Bruce, 68, is the Earl of Cardigan and descended from Henry VIII’s wife Jane Seymour.

He lost his £12 million fortune and 100-bed stately pile – the 4,500-acre Savernake Estate in Wiltshire – after a row with trustees.

The earl, the estranged father of The 2012 Voice star Bo Bruce, was at one point forced to live in a run-down farmhouse on the estate.

The spat meant he even ended up having to wash in his local swimming pool and claim benefits.

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David Michael James Brudenell-Bruce, Earl of Cardigan
Brudenell-Bruce lost his £12 million fortune and 100-bed stately pile

Now the Old Etonian has withdrawn his appeal against a recent driving ban after a judge warned his disqualification could go up or down.

He was due to appeal a three-month driving ban imposed after he was convicted of doing 15mph above the speed limit in an uninsured Lexus in Marlborough on November 17, 2019.

Speaking outside Swindon crown court on Thursday he said he had not been able to afford to insure the car.

The earl added he felt “disbelief that the court can offer me its verdict before the case even starts”.

Asked what he would have said to the judge in mitigation, he said: “I would have explained the nightmare scenario of bringing up a seven-year-old autistic child and a mother who doesn’t drive and they are both entirely dependent upon me.

Earl of Cardigan
The earl has previously told of how he had to claim benefits

“It’s a nightmare. There’s no public transport in the forest.

“When I came back from the first hearing I got as far as Marlborough, as I’m going to do now on the X7 bus from the bus station, [and] rang up to get a taxi up to Savernake.

“The one taxi firm said nothing at all today, one said it would be three hours.

“You can’t tell a seven year old girl with difficulties that there’s going to be a three hour wait.”

The earl was caught by police just a month after he was given six penalty points for driving an uninsured car back in 2018.

Ben Irwin, for Brudenell-Bruce, told Swindon Crown Court on Thursday that his client was withdrawing the appeal.

It followed a warning from Judge Jason Taylor QC that the court would be looking at the sentence afresh and the disqualification could go up or down.

The Earl of Cardigan, David Brudenell-Bruce, arrives at Salisbury Magistrate's Court to stand trial accused of assault and criminal damage
The earl, pictured in 2013

Judge Taylor said: “It might well be we take a dim view that somebody who having been convicted of having no insurance a year later is driving again with no insurance.

“If he had such important family circumstances, he was on notice that he should be complying with the law because he was in a precarious position.”

In March, Swindon magistrates imposed eight points on the earl’s licence – then banned him as a “totter” as he had accumulated more than 12 penalty points.

But they reduced the disqualification from the typical six months to three months after the earl’s lawyers said his family – in particular his young daughter – would face exceptional hardship if he was banned from the roads.

Following an application from prosecutor Jonathan Ransen, the bench ordered that Brudenell-Bruce, who still lives on the family estate, pay £330 in costs.

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The earl’s lawyer had also previously said his client was of limited means and his legal fees were being paid for by another, who was not named in court.

The Savernake Estate, which includes a stately home and Britain’s only privately-owned forest, had been in the earl’s family for almost 1,000 years.

The legal saga began when Brudenell-Bruce – who was estate manager – left England in 2005 after he fell ill with depression.

But when he returned with his new American wife, the trustees refused to give up control of the ancestral estate, sparking a bitter feud between the parties.

His son Thomas had also supported the estate’s trustees’ plan to sell the mansion for £11.5million.

A series of Old Master paintings of his ancestors were also sold, which trustees said was needed to clear the earl’s £2 million overdraft.

The earl previously told the Times he’d “just about” forgiven his son for the move.

The pair agreed to run the large estate together from now on and the earl confirmed he would never sell the rest of it.

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