It has long been a joke among the royalty and aristocracy of Britain that it is the duty of the titled wife to provide an “heir and a spare” – a joke that becomes no laughing matter if the woman fails to do so.
Now however, one of Britain’s most unconventional titled families has become the first to tackle the problem in a very modern way.
Viscount and Viscountess Weymouth have just produced a younger brother for their son John by using a surrogate. The Hon Henry Thynn, born in a private clinic on December 30, is the biological child of both parents, but was carried by another woman after serious medical problems during Emma’s first pregnancy led to warnings that having another child could kill her.
“It will be an important life lesson for Henry to learn when he is older and we tell him what we went through to have him,” Emma told a newspaper over the weekend. Indeed, there will be quite a few tales for Henry and his older brother John to hear.
The Weymouths are no stranger to controversy: the Viscountess, née Emma McQuiston, is Britain’s first black aristocrat, prompting unpleasant comment from some when the couple married in 2013.
We cried with happiness and I felt the love immediately, as I had with John
Ceawlin, the Viscount, is the son of the Marquess of Bath and took over the running of the estate in 2010.The Marquess, known punningly in his heyday as the “Loins of Longleat” after the inhabitants of his safari park, is a highly eccentric figure himself, acquiring 70-odd “wifelets” – many living on the estate – despite being married to Ceawlin’s mother Anna Gael since 1969. He also covered the walls of Longleat, the ancestral home, with exotic murals, many of which his son, now 42, took down, much to his father’s horror.
The current Marquess and Marchioness were so upset by their son’s behaviour that they boycotted his wedding to Emma, now 30, in 2013. The murals were one bone of contention but another seemed to be Emma’s heritage.
Her mother is Suzanna McQuiston and her father Ladi Jadesimi, a Nigerian oil tycoon who is one of the richest men in his country and who happened to be married to someone else when his daughter was born.
When Ceawlin and Emma, who had known one another since childhood – her older halfbrother Iain is married to Lady Silvy Thynn, his half-aunt – announced their engagement, there were sharp intakes of breath, not least from his parents. The Marchioness – who started out as an erotic actress – is said to have asked her son, “Are you sure about what you are doing to 400 years of bloodline?” It is thought they have not spoken since.
After the wedding, which Emma’s father attended sporting full Nigerian regalia, Emma fell pregnant and on October 24 2014, she gave birth to the heir, John Alexander Ladi Thynn. But it could have proved fatal. Emma experienced searing headaches, initially thought to be a disorder of the pituitary gland, so severe she described them as “like a knife stabbing at my brain.” This turned out to be a rare condition called hypophysitis which can result in swelling and bleeding – Emma was bleeding in the brain – and risks causing a stroke during a traditional birth.