‘Lucan’ — Portrait of a lowlife aristocrat

If you know little or nothing about England’s most notorious aristocrat, you could do worse than watch this two part dramatisation.

Sandra Rivett

Lord Lucan is a communist’s dream, he encapsulates everything that is bad, despicable and just plain mean about the upper class of what remains of the country that once ruled the world. Here was a man who was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, not only that he was tall, handsome, charismatic, so much so that he was said once to have been considered for the role of James Bond. He had a beautiful wife, an easy life and an inheritance. And like another man, one of humble birth who achieved true if fleeting greatness, he threw it all away. But even Mike Tyson never stooped to caving in a woman’s head with a lead pipe.

The descent of the jokingly monickered Lucky Lucan is well-documented. After winning £26,000 playing chemin de fer one night, he quit his cushy old school tie job at his bank and decided to become a professional gambler, even though as an alumnus of Eton he could hardly have been unaware of that little thing called the house percentage. Although he became a world class backgammon player, he couldn’t resist the casino tables, which coupled with his addiction and unconcealed arrogance, led to him squandering his inheritance.

Inevitably his marriage suffered, none more so than his wife, and when it broke down he tried to drive her mad, nearly but not quite succeeding. It remains to be seen why he wanted custody of his two daughters and son George, but he decided the best way to achieve this dubious goal was to murder their mother and dispose of her body.

Fortunately for the Countess but tragically for Sandra Rivett, he couldn’t even get that right, and battered the children’s nanny to death with a piece of lead pipe. The first episode of this dramatisation ends with him standing over her body in the dark and hearing a familiar female voice calling “Sandra”.

A photograph issued by the authorities shortly after the murder of Sandra Rivett. The notorious Lord Lucan.

What happened to Lucan after the murder? We know he received some assistance from Susan Maxwell-Scott, and very likely others. The trail ends at Newhaven where the murder weapon was found in the boot of the car he had used. The second episode comes up with a highly speculative ending, but there are really only two possibilities: one is that he fled abroad, almost certainly to Africa where either he still lives or is long dead. The other is that for probably the only time in his life he did the decent thing, hired, bought or more likely stole some sort of vessel, propelled it out to sea for a mile or two and after weighing down his pockets with a few pounds of gravel, threw himself overboard. As it is most unlikely a professional bungler like Lucan could have survived much less kept a low profile without assistance of the kind even his upper class waster chums couldn’t provide, we can hope only he did indeed take his own life. His enigmatic disappearance is his only legacy, because even his notoriety is nothing to boast about.

If you don’t hate Lord Lucan already, you will after you have seen this, and that will be due in no small measure to a stellar performance from his living clone Rory Kinnear, who is nothing like his dear old Dad though in the nicest possible way. Roy Kinnear was a short fat bloke; he was also an accomplished comedy actor. A familiar figure on TV screens in the UK, he starred in a large number of films, and died in 1988, far too soon at just 54. He will have looked down from his cloud in pride at his son’s evil small screen persona here.

[The above review was first published December 19, 2013.]

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