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It’s onerous being an Earl

The Earl of Cadogan, owner of 90 acres of land around Sloane London, has get himself into the papers by announcing that he would not renew a lease after he went into a restaurant and disliked the food.

The Earl, 72, said after dining there in May 2008: “I didn’t like the food and the prices are far too high. I can tell you that we won’t be renewing their lease when it expires in two years’ time. We are going to have a new development there.” The Old Etonian, whose family’s wealth is estimated at almost £3billion, has now followed through with his pledge and the French brasserie will close on February 26. Local residents have launched a petition.

Actually, as we have pointed out, on many occasions, land is not wealth, but this episode makes me wonder if we have not been wrong all along.


We have to care for our wealth creators, like the good Earl. If we did not have land owners what would happen to the land? It would not be owned. Somebody has to carry out the onerous task. Cats and dogs need owners and so does land. The problem with land is worse because at least cats and dogs die of old age in the end. Land just hangs around, doesn’t go away, and can cause endless trouble.

For example, if land was not owned, who would collect the rent? It would have to be something the government did, as otherwise some kind of protection racket could spring up. Collecting rent costs money, as rent collectors would have to be employed. The government would then end up with a lot of money it wouldn’t know what to do with.

As things are, people like the Earl can spend it on all sorts of things like going foxhunting, grouse shooting, deer stalking, training and racing thoroughbred horses, remodelling his country estates, filling his cellar with fine wines, brandies and whiskies, treating himself to a new coronet from time to time, keeping a wardrobe of ermine cloaks, sending his grandchildren to Eton – all the kinds of things Earls have to spend their money on. It is an onerous business being an Earl. It is not something for any Tom, Dick or Harry.

They don’t have big landowning families in most of Sweden because the king took the land back off them in the 1680s, and the country ended up with a lot of hard-up aristocrats, the poor things, which would never do, and look what happened after that.

Like the other half-dozen families who between them own the lion’s share of central London, the Earl and his ancestors are obviously very good and skilled landowners as their estates were once just rough grazing for cattle and now the land is worth billions and would still be worth billions even if all the buildings were knocked down. Unlike the incompetent landowners in places like the north of England whose land is worth only a fraction of the value.

FOOTNOTE I thought it was obvious that this is irony but some readers have thought it was for real. To confirm: THIS IS IRONY.