Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Earl versus the Countess

What does a New York-based DJ with a heavily tattooed forearm have in common with an ultra-marathon British runner with more steel in his once broken spine than the Millennium Bridge? And what is the connection between Dorset and the French Riviera?  How about the thread that bonds an Swedish ex, a German vet and a Dowager Countess?

The villain in this Shebug story is a French national born of Tunisian parents. Her name, Jamila, means ‘pretty’ in Arabic. In her case, it is best used outside  the domain of aesthetics and more in colloquial terms, like ‘pretty outrageous’ or ‘pretty shady’. Her abbreviated curriculum vitae reads something like this:  prostitute, Riviera call girl, Dowager Countess; the more complete version includes murderer and jailbird.

The new countess is the German vet, married to a dashing reedy athlete with an admirable zen-like disposition despite the trials and tribulations he has had to endure in his thirty-three years. His name is Nick Ashley-Cooper, also known as the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury.

The DJ living it up in Manhattan is also Nick-only six years earlier, before a maelstrom of novelesque proportions descended upon his young shoulders…The Swedish ex is his mother; Nick's father was Anthony,  10th Earl of Shaftesbury. 

When Nick’s great-grandfather died in 1961, his father, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, became the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, Baron Ashely of Wimborne St Giles and Baron Cooper of Pawlett, lord and master of St Giles, the Dorset family pile dating back to the 17th century. 

Anthony was in his twenties at the time, living in an era where stately homes were not used as venues. (God forbid a family estate be sullied by commerce in order to keep the estate up and running...) Bled slowly by death duties and decades of constant costly renovations, the Earl chopped off parts of St Giles in an effort to downsize.

The money-pit and overburden drove him to drinking and divorce. He bolted off to the Riviera and effectively distanced himself from the responsibilities  of his crumbling ancestral estate.  And family.

The glitter of the Riviera and the over-indulgence of its nightlife offered Jamila M’Barek the ideal conditions in which to carry out the tricks of her trade. Smelling as much money on his breath as alcohol Jamila worked on the older, weakened lonely man and pressured him into marriage under the pretense of falling pregnant.

The family braced themselves when their father and his new bride returned home. But what the trollop saw was not what she had envisioned: St Giles stood in a state of decay, its once elegant interiors infected by dry rot.

Shortly after the union, the marriage had begun to unravel; divorce hung in the air like the sword of Damoclese. Before her sugar daddy stopped the flow of funds, Jamila calculated the value of every single salvageable item in an effort to pocket as much as she could. She would have made off with the masterpieces on the walls had it not been for the trusts in place for his children.

Before the odd couple returned to Cannes, however, she learned that the Earl had a sizeable widow’s pension. And it had her name all over it...

The Shebug lost little time and recruited her brother, Mohamed, to do the unthinkable.  Assured a cut of the booty, he did her bidding: Mohamed dismembered his brother-in-law, and with Jamila’s help, flung the Earl’s body down a ravine at the mercy of wolves.

Nick and his family were notified of the Earl’s disappearance in Cannes in November 2004. But it was not till the spring that the truth surfaced. Jamila ranted to the police during a nervous breakdown and informed them of the whereabouts of her husband's body.

Six weeks later, when Nick and his family thought things couldn’t get any worse, his eldest brother, Anthony, died unexpectedly leaving him the in charge of the crumbling remains of St Giles. At this point, the spiky haired ultra-marathoner boarded a flight home as a DJ Nick AC only to land as a very somber 12th Earl of Shaftesbury.

His first port of call was London Business School where he earned an MBA. To his credit, he has put everything towards renovating the Grade 1 listed manor house. Nick now hosts marathons and food festivals on the extensive grounds of St Giles and the venue is rapidly being booked for weddings and even yoga retreats. (

Jamila has been on parade of late asking his family for forgiveness and recently sold her story to the Sunday Times. Nick hopes to somehow strip his wicked stepmother of the Dowager Countess of Shaftsbury title.

Meanwhile, Jamila’s brother, Mohamed, is doing life in prison. But the duplicitous Dowager is coming up for parole.

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