An aristocrat from one of Britain’s grandest families has been told he faces jail after admitting beating his wife over a 22-year period.
Lord Edward Somerset, 55, admitted four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against his wife, Lady Caroline, between 1990 and 2012.
The attacks – including biting, scratching and hair-pulling – took place at the couple’s home on the 17th century Badminton estate in Gloucestershire, home of the famous horse trials. He has also admitted bruising his wife and dislocating her finger while they were in France.
Bristol Crown Court yesterday heard divorce proceedings are set to be finalised in the near future. Judge Mark Horton is considering whether a restraining order to protect Lady Somerset from her estranged husband should be enforced.
The court was told that Somerset’s father, the Duke of Beaufort, told his elder son, the Marquess of Worcester, to meet Lady Somerset’s cousin, Lord Raleigh. It is alleged the marquess and Lord Raleigh discussed financial arrangements for Lady Somerset in exchange for dropping the case.
Judge Horton told Somerset the offences were so serious a prison term could be imposed.
And the judge said the guilty pleas reflected a “different picture” to how Somerset had described the case during police interview. Judge Horton said: “It doesn’t appear to me … that he had quite appreciated the seriousness of the domestic violence in his marriage.”
Somerset spoke only to identify himself and enter guilty pleas to the four charges.
He admitted inflicting a “deliberate and hard” kick to his wife at Essex House on the Badminton estate between January 2011 and November 2011. The peer pleaded guilty to two further assaults on Lady Somerset, on 5 October and 6 October, 2012.
Somerset also admitted assaulting his wife between January 1990 and December 2011, causing injuries including a bruise, scratches and pulled hair. His guilty plea for that charge represented “incidents of violence between the two, often in drink or drugs or both”, the court heard.
Prosecuting, Eleanor Laws, QC, said Lady Somerset feared her husband and was seeking a restraining order.
Somerset was bailed and will be sentenced in February.