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Lord Christopher Thynne
Late The Life Guards
 with acknowledgment to The Daily Telegraph


Lord Christopher Thynne, who died aged 82 on 27th January 2017, was comptroller of the Longleat estate for 17 years. A lean figure with blinding blue eyes, he possessed wild grace and a streak of unpredictability. His father was the 6th Marquess of Bath, who joined the stately home tourist industry in the 1960s by introducing the ‘Lions of Longleat’ as a popular tourist attraction.  His mother, from whom he inherited his rebellious streak, was Daphne Vivian. His sister Caroline married David Somerset, the late 11th Duke of Beaufort.

Christopher John Thynne was born in 1934 and spent his early years at Sturford Mead, his parents’ home near Longleat. After Ludgrove, he went to Eton where he was an enthusiastic boxer, though various misdemeanours earned him 94 strokes of the cane.  He served in The Life Guards as a National Service officer, and then worked as a store detective for Sears Roebuck in Chicago and Kentucky. While in Chicago, he fell in love with country music and the blues, which also inspired his fondness for cowboy style clothes which he alternated with frilled silk shirts and sharply cut suits from Blades or Mr Fish. He was ‘a wild, elegant creature’, as the antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs described him.

On his return, he became a photographer and, having copied Walt Disney drawings at school with great proficiency, he was also an illustrator, his work appearing in two books by Candida Lycett-Green: Hadrian the Hedgehog and Hadrian in the Orient.

In 1968 he married Antonia Palmer, daughter of the late Major Sir Anthony Palmer Bt and Lady (Henriette) Abel Smith, a long-serving lady-in-waiting to The Queen. They were married in the Chapel Royal, and the reception was held at St James’s Palace. Following the reception, Thynne was arrested at Heathrow with 38 amphetamine tablets in his luggage, attempting to leave for the honeymoon in Majorca. Delayed by 11 hours, he later pleaded guilty and was fined £50, his counsel, Robert Harman, explaining that he had owned the tablets for about seven years. ‘Very imprudently he put the pills on one side, thinking, with his approaching wedding, they might be useful if he was suffering from pre-wedding nerves’. He claimed to have no idea how they had found their way into his camera bag.

Thynne lived on the Longleat estate and in 1976 was appointed as comptroller by his father to run the tourist industry there. This he did well; he was good with the corporate diners, showing them rare books from the library, and mixing hospitality with a hint of mischief. In 1984, he inspired international designers such as Bill Gibb and Zandra Rhodes to design outfits for dolls for an exhibition of dolls’ houses at the house to raise money for the Save the Children Fund. He was Patron of the Toymakers’ Guild, though he confessed he preferred teddy bears to dolls, keeping one in his office, confessing he had never been happier than when in the family nursery. He was often weighed down by keys on a chain, while sporting a necklace of teeth. He is remembered as an inventor of limericks, a great dancer, and a good magician adored by children. A week after his father’s death in 1993, the new Marquess, Christopher’s elder brother, sacked him, and evicted him from his home. He bought a house at Donhead St Andrew, where in later years he and his wife entertained an eclectic group of friends, before settling in Wilton.  He is survived by his wife Antonia, his daughter, Sophie, and a son, Alexander, from a previous relationship.

© Crown Copyright