It’s not all and tiaras breakfast in bed: The daily life of a ...

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It’s not all and tiaras breakfast in bed: The daily life of a duchess

The ‘spender’ fields questions about her best and worst financial decisions, her first job and being ripped off

John Wright


Emma Manners, 55, was born in Wales.
She became Marchioness of Granby in 1992 when she married David Manners, the 11th Duke of Rutland, and in 1999 became the Duchess of Rutland.
She lives with her family at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, where she runs the castle’s commercial activities.
How did your childhood influence your attitude to money?
I grew up in the Welsh Borders, and we had a family farm which my father inherited, a mixed 300-acre farm with Hereford cattle. It wasn’t bankrupt, but money was tight, so we had to be careful.
My father was quite entrepreneurial. He imparted in us that nothing replaces hard work, and in the end he made a very successful business.
We ran a bed and breakfast. Mum thought I was a good judge of character so when I was seven she’d send me to the front door to survey people. If I thought they looked dodgy I’d tell mum and she’d say: “I’m so sorry, we’re full.”
I cleaned the bedrooms and made the beds. In the mornings I’d take people’s breakfast order. I’d say: “For starters we have grapefruit, orange juice and toast, and for mains, boiled egg, scrambled egg ...” then I had to use a quieter voice when I said: “Or full-cooked breakfast.”What was your first job?My first job was running the lambing line and other farm jobs. My first paid job was working for the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society from the age of 15, selling cheeses on the stand at the Royal Welsh Show.After dropping out of training to be an opera singer I trained to be a land agent and worked for Coles Knapp & Kennedy in Ross-on-Wye. I was paid £2,500 a year.
What are you currently working on at the castle?
About 15 years ago I gave David three Hereford rare breed cattle. Now we’ve got about 60, and it’s been lovely to bring that bit of my story here.
We recently opened a retail village below the castle and outsourced all the units. One is a butcher’s and he’s going to start selling our beef there. We’ve got sheep, cattle and pigs.
We’re producing pheasants for our shoots so we started branding and selling those, and partridge, pigeon and muntjac. It’s really exciting.
Are you a saver or a spender?
A spender. My daughter Alice asks: “Mummy, what's happened to your Welsh roots?” The thing is, you’ve got to spend to get things going, and we have spent a lot of money, but we couldn’t look at these redundant buildings any more.
Do you have an individual savings account?
No, but my children do.
Have you invested in property?
Yes, a lot in London, where we now have a portfolio of rented properties and are continually looking at assets to see which are performing and which can be swapped.
We’ve got some agricultural land that has dropped in value considerably, and we’re looking at releasing it.
It was only two years ago we started breaking even. From the outside it looks as if it’s all about tiaras and breakfast in bed, but it’s not at all. I sign every invoice, and I’m in charge of every budget.
I’m not an accountant, but I have a good gut instinct on figures.
Do you invest in the stock market?
No. I did try but didn’t understand it.
What have been your best and worst financial decisions?
Worst was running a little 10-bedroom hotel on the estate. I loved making it up but got incredibly bored running it. We ran that for 10 years, and it lost £250,000. Now we build the accommodation around what we already do here.
The hotel building had traditionally been an upmarket hunting lodge the family used for the hunt, so I thought: “We’ll use that for shoots.” It’s well positioned in the middle of England; lots of businesses come, and there are staff training days and play days, and then they stay.
We’ve got two price points. There’s the shooting lodge and then the bedrooms in the castle where we give everyone a real castle experience: butlers and pipers to wake them in the morning and string quartets in the evening, and they eat in the state dining room.
I believe in making heritage have a heartbeat. The piper is also our rat man, who controls all the vermin on the estate.
The best financial decision has been the grouse moor in Derbyshire that we added to the Belvoir estate. It’s lovely because it’s somewhere the family can go for a breather – it’s sometimes like living in a merry-go-round in a stately home. You’ve either got a film crew or the public. I’m not complaining.
You have to do all those things to make it work because it costs £500,000 a year just for the castle to stand still.
What are the best and worst things you’ve owned?
Best was a mink coat because I wear it on every shoot I meet here. It’s an old one I found in the tower that hadn’t been attacked by moths.
Worst is a mobile phone because it controls your life. You never stop checking it.
Have you ever been ripped off?
Oh yes, definitely. One of the perceptions of being a duchess is that you’re going to be a bit woolly around the edges in business.
We’ve had some weddings that haven’t been fully paid for. We ask for a 50% deposit now and the rest two weeks before the wedding; before it was a 10% deposit.
Being ripped off isn’t a bad thing because you learn.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you concerning money?
When my daughter Eliza was three she said: “We’re going to be rich because we now live in a castle.”
She wanted a new bike, and when I said she’d have to wait until Christmas or her birthday, Eliza took her rusty old bike to the front door of the castle and stood there with a bucket. When the Americans saw this urchin child they said: “You’re so cute! Can we take a picture?” She said: “It'll cost you a pound.”
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)

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