£20m da Vinci masterpiece like one of the family, says Duke of Buccleuch
ONE of Scotland's foremost noblemen has described his family's anguish at the theft of a da Vinci masterpiece, and the "huge relief" when it was recovered undamaged four years later.
• The Duke of Buccleuch told the High Court that his father had been 'especially' fond of the stolen painting. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott, the tenth Duke of Buccleuch, yesterday told a court his late father had been especially fond of the 20 million artwork that was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in 2003.
The ninth duke was deeply saddened by the lack of progress in recovering Madonna of the Yarnwinder and died just a month before it was found. His son said it had been feared the painting might be destroyed by the thieves and, therefore, "it was a huge relief to find it had been undamaged".
The work, which dates from about 1500 and is on display in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, is believed to be one of about only 20 paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. The duke recalled the day in August 2003 when he was told it had been stolen from the castle, at Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway.
"I returned immediately to the castle. I wanted to establish as far as I could what had happened and also to be with the staff who had been through a very frightening and difficult experience," he told the High Court in Edinburgh.
The duke said the painting had meant a great deal to his father. "It had played a very special part in our family life in that both he and his father had often tended to travel with the painting between their various family homes," he said. "Once it was decided to open these houses to the public in the 1970s, it was moved to Drumlanrig Castle where it found permanent residence."
The work was at the centre of a da Vinci exhibition in Edinburgh in 1992 and was of "immense importance". For tax purposes, it was insured for only 25 per cent of its value and at the time of the theft the latest valuation had been 15m said the duke. The insurer paid out 3.75m after the theft.
At the end of September 2007, the police told the duke there had been contact made in relation to the painting, and an undercover operation was taking place.
"I was asked to give an indication of my movements in the following few days," said the duke.
He was contacted on 4 October, 2007, and informed that the painting had been recovered. A buy-back clause was used to return the payout and interest to the insurer, in exchange for the painting.
The court heard that Madonna of the Yarnwinder was valued in 2008 at 20m. Five men are on trial accused of conspiring to extort 4.25m from the duke and the insurer, Hiscox UK, for the safe return of the painting.
They are: Marshall Ronald, 53, a solicitor, of Skelmersdale, Lancashire; Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, both of Ormskirk, Lancashire; Calum Jones, 45, a solicitor, of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire; and David Boyce, 63, a solicitor, of Airdrie, Lanarkshire. Each denies the charge.
Before yesterday's evidence, the jury was taken by taxis and the judge, Lady Dorrian, and the accused and their lawyers walked the short distance from the court to the National Gallery for a private viewing of the painting. The trial continues.
Long lineage leading to UK's largest landowner
RICHARD Scott is the tenth Duke of Buccleuch, a title that stretches back to the 17th century.
The Lordship of Scott of Buccleuch was created in 1606, and the earldom in 1619 for the second Lord, who had distinguished himself while in command of Scottish forces in the Netherlands.
Created for the Duke of Monmouth in 1663, the title Duke of Buccleuch passed down to his descendants, who have successively borne the surnames Scott, Montagu-Scott, Montagu-Douglas-Scott and Scott again.
In 1810, the third Duke of Buccleuch inherited the Dukedom of Queensberry, making the holder one of only five people to retain two or more dukedoms.
The Scott clan's crest is that of a stag trippant and its motto is Amo (I love).
The family seats are Bowhill House, three miles outside Selkirk, which represents the Scott line; Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, representing the Douglas line; and Boughton House in Northamptonshire, England, representing the Montagu line.
The current Duke of Buccleuch is the largest private landowner in the UK and chairman of the Buccleuch Group.
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