‘On ne touche pas une femme, même avec une fleur,’ says an old French dictum, one not always adhered to in the land of cheese, or anywhere else, for that matter. However hackneyed it may sound — don’t you hate it when a hack declares an interest in order to gain brownie points for honesty? — I nevertheless will declare one. I’ve been a friend of the Somerset family for about 50 years, starting with the father, David Beaufort, whom I met sailing around the Med back in 1963. He was then David Somerset and is now the Duke of Beaufort, and his four children are all close friends of mine. His second son, Edward Somerset, was recently jailed for two years for mentally and physically abusing his wife of 30 years.
Now after having gone bonkers over Saatchi grabbing his wife by the throat, it might sound a bit hypocritical defending Eddie Somerset, so hear me out first and then make your decision. Eddie and Caroline Somerset were a very nice couple with two daughters, who shared a life of pleasure, booze and drugs, I’m afraid. Throughout the marriage, I never got the impression that he was the Pope and she the postulant, rather that they were a troubled pair who drank and drugged a lot. I was actually closer to Caroline than Eddie, who was too tortured and strung out for my taste. Neither of them, however, exactly tiptoed through life as though through a minefield. Both knew what they were doing, and in Caroline’s case she had 30 years to get out and she didn’t.
It takes a heretical kind of cavorting to choose drugs as a lifestyle, one that’s worthy of a longer study than this brief column, but Eddie Somerset is not the first of a privileged background and of beautiful mien — no longer — to go wrong. His wife, obviously in love with him, was also into the stuff of dreams, and I will get to my point in a minute. Eddie Somerset succumbed to an old, old force, the power of weakness. We’ve all known unfortunates who have allowed drugs to get the better of them. They all sound hollow, as if in an echo chamber, because inside their brain all they can focus on is the next fix. Internally complicated Brits, plus drugs, make for an awful mess. But the last thing he deserved was jail, and a very cruel custodial sentence to boot.
Which brings me to the point of my story. This was a lulu of a travesty of justice. The judge, Mark Horton, lectured Somerset on his life of privilege and ease and then sent him down for two years. This is the same judge who spared a drug-dealer caught with two kilos of hallucinogenic drugs a spell in prison because the dealer wanted to change sex and did not feel comfortable in an all-male prison. Ironically, the same week, another judge sent a man who plotted to kill Prince Harry down for three years. In other words, punishments for trying to kill the fourth in line to the throne and giving two black eyes to your wife are a year apart where justice is concerned. More importantly, Edward Somerset, when interviewed by the fuzz after Caroline had filed a complaint, did so without a lawyer, despite the fact the cops offered him one. He admitted everything, like an innocent man would.
So I ask you, dear readers. Violence fuelled by heroin and alcohol, and a judge who threw the book at someone who is as big a threat to society as I am to a transsexual hooker. So much for the fairness of the British justice system. Eddie was given consecutive rather than concurrent sentences for the four times he hit his wife. That he answered truthfully without a lawyer present was apparently not considered important enough to spare him jail, nor was his otherwise totally non-violent character. Eddie needs a medical facility, not a jail. Being born to privilege is no excuse, but neither is it a sin.
Love, as we all know, can be the sweetest rose but, as someone wise said, with the sharpest of thorns. And as Theodore Dalrymple wrote, ‘Comfort and a respectable career path are tame and boring, at least for those who seek excitement and strong sensation.’ (Talking about his young self.) Eddie Somerset searched for excitement and adrenalin boosts in drugs and booze. He is to be pitied and helped, not sent to prison. Here we are, threatened by Muslim extremists in our midst, with the EU dictating who can be deported or not, and a buffoon of a judge throws the book at someone who obviously is no threat to anyone but himself, and who regrets what he did to the extent that he volunteered the info to the fuzz. We might as well go and live in Turkey, where the judges are bad but at least the climate is better.