When it emerged that Lady Eliza Manners got a reduced fine for speeding last week after claiming ‘cash flow issues’, the snorts of derision were as unmistakable as the turrets atop her family’s ancestral seat.
How on earth could the 24-year-old socialite — youngest daughter of the 11th Duke and Duchess of Rutland, brought up in the splendour of the 356-room Belvoir Castle — have money problems?
Eliza, however, isn’t the only one in her family who laments the difficulties of being a landed Aristocrat.
General view of the State Dining room Christmas decorations at Belvoir Castle
For all their privilege, keeping the Manners’ 1,000-year-old Leicestershire home from falling apart is a costly business.
Her mother Emma, 57, described maintaining the castle as a weekly ‘battle’; running costs alone reach £500,000 a year. This was all before Covid struck, which cut vital revenue.
They are now putting their trust in the greatest money-spinner: Christmas.
Charlotte Lloyd Webber is the Duchess’s theatrical installation company manager. She will present A Regency Christmas.
It will see Belvoir bedecked with a host of fantastical decorations reflecting the property’s history and opened to the public.
Ex-wife of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s son, Nick, and mother to his grandchild, Molly, 13, interior designer Charlotte is on her fifth year transforming Castle Howard in Yorkshire into an award-winning festive wonderland.
She now lives in Belvoir’s cottage and has been decorating since January. Her design team includes a giant kissing bough that requires scaffolding and an incredible peacock Christmas tree.
The castle hopes to attract up to 1,000 visitors a day over Christmas, which, at £21 per adult ticket, should earn over £500,000
Charlotte says: ‘Stately homes are wonderful, but they are beasts,’ adding that her work has made her ‘aware of the difficulties’ owners face. ‘They’re struggling. It’s nuts.’ She says Emma is ‘beside herself’ with joy at the end result. ‘She was a bit tear-jerked.’
The castle hopes to attract up to 1,000 visitors a day over Christmas, which, at £21 per adult ticket, should earn over £500,000.
How can the stately house be transformed into an unforgettable holiday celebration? The Mail was given an exclusive peek to learn more. You can read the rest here. .
You can use this to show how many words will fit in a given space. This text includes [25 words] a couple of different paragraphs so, visually, it doesn’t look too repetitive on any
It is important to see dresses in festive green
Made of greenery preserved with glycerin, ‘shoved’ into a chicken wire frame and attached to dummies, the dresses represent the Duchess and her three daughters
A lavish red and gold 131ft long room, the Regent’s Gallery hosts parties and was, Charlotte suspects, where many Regency shindigs were held — hence her decision to house four custom-made, party-ready ‘Christmas tree dresses’ in Regency silhouettes there.
Made of greenery preserved with glycerin, ‘shoved’ into a chicken wire frame and attached to dummies, the dresses represent the Duchess and her three daughters.
‘She loved them,’ laughs Charlotte. ‘She’s like, “can we wear them?”’
Each piece has its own unique feel thanks to rosemary trimming, feathered sleeves and ivy leaf bodice.
Armour and amour
The 9ft long mantles that are above both fireplaces have displays in gold and blue, which represent the colors of the Belvoir Coat of Arms. They’re also decorated with festive red.
Dangling 12ft from the 20ft high vaulted ceiling in the castle’s Guard Room, a grand entrance hallway, is a super-sized kissing bough — a series of steel hoops welded together by designer David O’Donnell to make a 5ft-wide sphere.
To hang the huge bough (a symbol of Christmas since medieval times), scaffolding was required. The bough has been wrapped in mistletoe, myrtle berries, and holly.
‘We’ve kept this very naturalistic because that’s exactly how it would have been,’ says Charlotte who stresses, however, that elsewhere decorations have been injected with colour.
‘If we stuck to Regency times you’d have a dull Christmas.’
Displays in blue and golden, representing the colours of Belvoir Coat of Arms.
Throughout the nine decorated State Rooms, the castle’s Christmas floristry includes eucalyptus, hydrangea and magnolia made from fabrics in a riot of colours.
The faux 13ft tree in the corner was decorated by two individuals over a period of one day. It features blue butterflies decorations, red crystal leaves, and 15cm ornaments.
A peacock is upstairs, an insignia that the family has adopted, and made out of teal fabrics and crystals.
A table filled with royal history
Celina Fallon, florist designer decorates the State Dining Room’s mantlepiece
With space for 30 at the 25ft dining table, an average Christmas lunch this ain’t! The middle is adorned with bronze and China-model monkeys, dragons, bird cages and more.
Charlotte, left chooses the State Dining Room decorations to refer to Prince Regent [later George IV]He was a friend and close confidant of the fifth Duchess.
‘We have imagined the Prince Regent has come for dinner at Belvoir,’ says Charlotte.
A touch of elegance in the belvoir boudoir
Charlotte has drawn from the rooms’ colour palette to create an all-glass display in the living room, featuring lanterns, fans, and emerald peacock motifs that hang from an oversized gold painted faux branch
Named after the Prince Regent — who stayed here when he visited Belvoir — this trio of second-floor rooms, with their original chinoiserie wallpapers, yellow silks and lavish mahogany poster bed, are still used as guest rooms.
Charlotte has drawn from the rooms’ colour palette to create an all-glass display in the living room, featuring lanterns, fans, and emerald peacock motifs that hang from an oversized gold painted faux branch. In the bedroom, a Christmas tree is decorated with bees — Napoleon’s emblem — as a nod to the rivalry between France and England that continued after the French Revolution.
Charlotte says part of the challenge was creating a display that wouldn’t cause stress. ‘The idea is it’s transformative — you walk through the house and it’s uplifting.’
The crowning glory — a preening painted peacock
In the centre of the room — which appears in Netflix drama The Crown — is a 15ft faux pine tree, with a 2ft sculpted glittery teal peacock made of painted sculpting plaster on top, and real peacock feathers sewn into the tree in a spiral from top to bottom
This is the Elizabeth Saloon, where Duke and Duchess are celebrating Christmas Day. It features gold ormolu panels from Versailles and a painted ceiling. There are also marble fireplaces.
In the centre of the room — which appears in Netflix drama The Crown — is a 15ft faux pine tree, with a 2ft sculpted glittery teal peacock made of painted sculpting plaster on top, and real peacock feathers sewn into the tree in a spiral from top to bottom.
Go back to Georgian roots
Charlotte’s team is working with the castle’s gardening department to source a 4m yew with root ball attached so it can be replanted afterwards
Now hired out for weddings, the 120ft ballroom will house a yew — the Christmas tree used in Georgian Britain before the Victorians introduced the now fashionable spruce.
Charlotte’s team is working with the castle’s gardening department to source a 4m yew with root ball attached so it can be replanted afterwards.
The era’s typical sweets will include sugared almonds as well as sweetmeats packed in hessian bags. Wooden rocking horses engraved with the names of the Duke and Duchess’s five children — Violet, 28, Alice, 26, Eliza, 24, Charles, 22, and Hugo, 18 — will also be featured.
The Regency Christmas from November 15th at BelvoirChristmas.com