Zac Goldsmith’s great-grandfather (and other ancestors)

When I was a student at Queen’s University, Belfast there were three on-campus places where students lunched – the Students’ Union, a ‘temporary’ dining hall (the building’s still there!), and the Great Hall.

The Great Hall is an impressive wood-panelled room and at that time it had a discreet cafeteria servery at one end while a selection of oil paintings of University worthies decorated the walls.

Such worthies obviously included Chancellors of the University and I remember that one of them was the 7th Marquess of Londonderry, Chancellor 1923-49; that still makes the most long-serving Chancellor the university has had. His granddaughter, born Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the daughter of the 8th Marquess, is Zac’s mum. The 7th Lord Londonderry was a Tory MP before the First World War. Afterwards he became a Stormont MP and minister. In 1926 he moved his career back to Westminster and was a minister in all Tory and National governments until 1935. The family London house, Londonderry House in Park Lane, was famous in the 1930s as a place where the influential met socially.

His family was extremely rich. The 3rd Marquess (who succeeded in 1822) had ‘married well’ to an heiress from north-east England, under whose land were seams of coal. (This accounts for the village of Londonderry in North Yorkshire.) So the family were major coal owners until Nationalisation, as well as major landowners with fine houses in the North-East and Ulster.

The 3rd Marquess’s half-brother, who was briefly 2nd Marquess, is better known to history as Viscount Castlereagh – the title he had during 20 years at the top of Tory governments at the start of the 19th century. He represented Britain at Congress of Vienna and was considered by liberals as a very reactionary figure. Both Shelley and Byron wrote poetry that made it clear that they hated him.

Zac Goldsmith is a golden boy because his father was a very rich man, but not many know that through his mother he has a silver spoon because she was from a rich family which owned much land and many coal-mines.

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