The lefty hereditary peer has few equals as a figure of fun, in life or literature. The late Tony Benn comes inevitably to mind here, as does the Earl of Warminster — ‘Erry’ — in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time.
As his name would suggest, Francis John Clarence Westenra Plantagenet ‘Jack’ Hastings, the 16th Earl of Huntingdon, emerged into the world bedecked with promisingly absurd trappings. And for a time it looked as if his life would follow a predictably conventional path. But then everything changed.
After some routine torturing by his nanny — she branded him with an iron — he went to Eton. There, he failed to trouble the scorers academically, but scraped into Oxford, where he was a member of both the Bullingdon and another, even more boisterous, drinking club called Loder’s, whose toast was ‘Long live the King and Foxhunting!’
Proudly clutching his third-class degree, Hastings went off to a dinner at the Savoy, where he met an Italian girl called Cristina Casati.