Alnwick Castle in Northumberland famously served as the backdrop for many of the Hogwarts scenes in Harry Potter. Next month, the castle grounds will be the setting for a televised MMA fight, because, as it turns out, the Duchess of Northumberland is a 52-year-old martial arts enthusiast. That’s right, while our Northeastern private school fruitcakes were out turning
“I’d have failed here if this was just a garden for garden-lovers,” the Duchess tells me. “My job is to provide a venue for people who want to do all kinds of things. And this is for 16- to 30-year-old men who wouldn’t normally come to a garden.
What do you grow in your garden? Oh, just apples, flowers, a few berries, and WHOOPASS AND JITZ CLINICS, OOH WAH-AH AH-AH!
“You’ve got a community on your doorstep who don’t have enough to do on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. They’re crying out for things like this. I want to blow people away, to take them out of their everyday life, to come in here and think, ‘S—, that’s unbelievable.’ ”
Wait, a cussin’ Duchess? Why, it’s like everything I learned about British royalty from watching The King’s Speech is wrong. P-p-p-PUT HIM IN A BODYBAG, JOHNNY!
Born Jane Richard, the daughter of an Edinburgh stockbroker, she met Ralph Percy, second son of the 11th Duke, when she was 16 and Ralph was 17. They married five years later and moved to Northumberland, living in a house in the castle’s grounds. When her brother-in-law died in 1995, her husband inherited the title and they moved into Alnwick Castle, perhaps best known to a modern generation as the backdrop for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.
Initially unhappy in her new role as Duchess, she was persuaded by her husband to renovate 12 acres of walled garden. More than a decade – and £35 million – later, one wonders whether the Duke regrets that decision (he hasn’t, according to his wife, been around the place for “four or five years”). For the garden today is less English stately home, more Disney bling, including myriad water and lighting effects, the largest treehouse in the world, a glass pavilion for wedding hire, and a Poison Garden, which, with the permission of the Home Office, contains cannabis, opium poppies and catha edulis, know to clubbers as miaow miaow.
Wait, she’s growing weed in castle garden? HOW IS THIS NOT A SITCOM?!?
The Duchess, who has been boxing for years as well as learning to fight with sticks, has seen cage fighting only on television, but she has some strong views about its merits. “Have you seen Alex Reid – Jordan’s guy?” she asks. “Well, it’s that. Boxing. A bit of kick-boxing. All sorts of martial arts but within a cage.
“You’re not just given a knuckle-duster and told to kill your opponent. There’s an art to it. It’s incredibly disciplined. And that discipline is the same thing you get in the Army.
The cage-fighting evening, on October 21, featuring the Northern Free Fighters and Team Shotai Kai, will raise money for Help for Heroes. The Duchess is disappointed that she is going to miss it; she’ll be on holiday in Thailand with her daughters (who have worked variously as motorcycle mechanics, racing drivers, gunmakers and tennis coaches). [Telegraph]
This chick sounds awesome. She sounds like Duchess Hansel. “Yeah, I dig the cage fights, but me and my daughters, we’ll be too busy bathing off the southern coast of Thailand with spider monkeys, tripping on acid for two weeks. Changed our whole perspective on sh*t.”
[thanks to Fightlinker for the discovery]