Patrick Lichfield has occasionally been described as ‘the rock and roll aristocrat’ whose acquaintances included The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and David Bowie. He was a first cousin once removed of the Queen as they both share one set of great-grandparents – the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.
The Strathmore family home was Glamis Castle in Scotland where Patrick, along with his sister Elizabeth, spent occasional holidays during their childhood. He recalled that his great-grandfather, the Earl of Strathmore, had a large beard that regularly caught fire whenever he lit a cigarette.
He will naturally always be associated with his ancestral home of Shugborough and one of his earliest memories of the Hall was that during the Second World War. During air raids the household would disappear into the cellars for safety, headed by his grandfather brandishing the port. The only potential target was the railway line that ran through a corner of the park. Originally the Hall had had its own station although this had been closed at the beginning of the war. Missing this convenience, Patrick’s grandfather would pull the communication cord, regally handing the guard a £5 note to cover the cost of the fine, before taking a short stroll across the estate.
After attended Harrow public school and Sandhurst he joined the Grenadiers. He began his career as a commercial photographer, and his work slowly began to appear in newspapers and advertisements before progressing to glossy magazines and eventually prestigious calendars. Towards the end of the sixties, he thought that London was no longer ‘swinging’ and spent more and more time in the suite of rooms retained by the family at Shugborough.
He built up a portfolio of celebrity portraits and began capturing the royal family including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, thirty years after their exile to France. He photographed the Queen and her family on holiday at Balmoral casually fishing, riding and walking. His series of informal portraits of a relaxed and smiling family on holiday helped to humanise the royals. He was also the official photographer for the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. Both Princess Anne and Princess Margaret were also photographed in the grounds at Shugborough.
Patrick married Lady Leonara Mary Grosvenor, daughter of the fifth Duke of Westminster, in 1975. They subsequently divorced eleven years later. The amount of travel that Lichfield undertook during assignments, spending on average 200 nights a year in hotels had presumably contributed to the break-up. The constant stream of tabloid stories ‘documenting’ his alleged affairs with models throughout the seventies and eighties did not help.
As a businessman his investments included the stage shows ‘Hair’ and ‘Oh Calcutta!’ He also attempted to help organise a British version of the famous Woodstock festival, although this was aborted when the financial backers withdrew.
During the UK leg of the Rolling Stones World Tour of 1976 Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts were invited, as friends of Patrick, to stay with him at Shugborough (the others stayed at nearby Tillington). In fact, this was not the first time that the band had visited Shugborough. During the 1960s they had been invited to Shugborough, at a time when Patrick’s personal dining room was without a table. Unperturbed, Patrick and the Stones apparently ate their dinner sitting on the floor.
At least this didn’t destroy any friendship between the Earl and the Stones. One of the iconic photographs of Mick and Bianca’s wedding, with the newlyweds sitting in the back of a limousine, was taken by Patrick, as was one of Mick and Keith in San Tropez. The overnight stay at Shugborough also produced a classic image. Early the following morning, Patrick, Mick and Charlie, took a stroll around the estate which included the farm. Mick picked up a cockerel, and Patrick, never one to miss an opportunity, captured the moment on film. This image is currently on display in the photography exhibition at Shugborough Hall, the subtly-worded captioned being ‘Little Red Rooster.’
An amusing anecdote of the duo’s stay at Shugborough concerns the collection of Paul de Lamerie silverware. Patrick would often give personal guests a private viewing of the Hall after the visitors had departed. As Mick and Charlie were being shown the collection, Charlie pointed out that the date on the caption accompanying the silverware was incorrect. Patrick relayed this information, and upon checking, it appeared that Charlie was right.
In 1996 he bought a home on the Island of Mustique, and had for neighbours Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Bryan Adams, and Princess Margaret. The sprawling house had six bedrooms, a gym, and a cinema. This he rented out for thirty weeks of the year at £8,000 a week and included tenants such as Hugh Grant and Pierce Brosnan.
Patrick enjoyed Mustique for its unobtrusive character. He once remarked “The celebrity thing here is absolutely meaningless. A few years before Princess Margaret died she held a dinner party at the Beach Bar and she asked me, Raquel Welch, Mick Jagger and Jerry, and David Bowie and Iman. Nobody turned their head.”
Unfortunately Patrick suffered a major stroke on November 10th 2005 while staying with friends in the Oxfordshire. He died the following day at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, aged sixty six. He was brought back to Shugborough and his funeral was held at Colwich parish church where he was buried in the Anson vault.
Patrick’s son Thomas, the current Earl of Lichfield, married Lady Henrietta Conyngham in December 2009. She is the daughter of the 8th Marquess Conyngham, of Slane Castle in Ireland, which has been a venue for a large number of rock concerts in recent years including Robbie Williams. The 8th Marquess is often referred to as Ireland’s own ‘rock and roll aristocrat.’ No doubt Patrick would have approved!