Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I’m no bigamist, says duke — but I am helping the FBI bring down the Russian mob

From The Times

Rhys Blakely - Los Angeles
Published at 12:01AM, July 23 2011

The 13th Duke of Manchester with his wife, Laura, at their weddingThe Duke and Duchess of Manchester, Laura and Alex Montagu
The 13th Duke of Manchester with his wife, Laura, at their wedding
 Laura and Alex Montagu
Laura is the Duke's third wife

Alexander Charles David Drogo Montagu, the 13th Duke of Manchester, has reacted angrily after the High Court branded him a bigamist this week. And if he had “married” a second woman while already married, it was entirely by accident, he has told The Times in his first comments about a ruling over the rights of his children to a share of his wealth.

He would be limited in what else he could say, he explained, because he is helping the FBI to “take down the Russian mafia”.

Welcome to the world of “Lord Alex”, perhaps Britain’s most maligned aristocrat.

This week the High Court ruled that the children of his bigamous marriage could receive an income from his family trust. The duke, 48, had “failed to mention” to his second “wife” that their marriage was “bigamous and void”, Mr Justice Floyd said, adding that Britain should not “stand aloof in barbarous insularity” by preventing children from invalid marriages receiving inherited wealth.

The duke, who was born in Australia and now lives in Las Vegas with his third wife, Laura, said that the judgment was “rubbish ... I’m not a bigamist, it was all a mistake”.

He said he thought he had annulled his first marriage, to Marion Stoner, an Australian model he married 1984. When he married Wendy Buford, an American, in 1993, he believed he was single, he added.

Only afterwards, he insisted, was he told that the annulment was incomplete. He said he was told this by his estranged mother, who he alleges has plotted against him for years to make his brother duke.

He further alleged that his family trust — a set of assets that included property from Kenya to California that his grandfather led him to believe were worth hundreds of millions of pounds — has been mismanaged.

Now he receives $2,500 (£1,530) a month from the trust, and leads a life that is “really very basic”. His story could not be verified. It does, however, add to a family history of the most colourful variety.

In Australia, he was convicted of fraud as well as trying to sell a hire car — charges he continues to deny — and was deported from Canada for illegally entering the country. In 2005, the duke, who once offered to sell his title, was called to testify in Michael Jackson’s child abuse case about visits he and his son made to the King of Pop’s Neverland Ranch.

In 1985 his father, Angus, the 12th Duke, was put on trial at the Old Bailey, accused of fraud. Also charged was a close female friend, who ran an escort agency in London. He would be acquitted in Britain but was later convicted of fraud in the US.

George, the 8th Duke, declared himself bankrupt at 36 and died at 39, after a scandalous affair with a music hall singer.

Legend has it that the 9th Duke, Kim, was once discovered in bed with four women. After illegally pawning the family jewels he was held in Wormwood Scrubs.

The present duke’s great uncle, Lord Edward, was jailed in at least three countries. Having worked at various times as a bit-part Hollywood actor and a hotdog seller, he died in the Mexican jungle in 1954.

The 13th Duke said he is not able to work because of a serious injury. “I have four titanium discs in my back and half a stomach,” he said. He will only say that he was “assisting the government” when he was injured.

No wonder, then, that the present duchess is feeling the strain. “I’ve only been married for four years,” she told The Times. “It feels like 25.”

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