John Hervey, 7th Marquess of Bristol

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For other people with similar names, see John Hervey (disambiguation) or Frederick Hervey (disambiguation).
The Marquess of Bristol
John Hervey 7th Marquess Bristol.jpg
Born (1954-09-15)15 September 1954
Died 10 January 1999(1999-01-10) (aged 44)
Title Marquess of Bristol
Spouse(s) Francesca Fisher (m. 1984 - 1987)[1]

Frederick William John Augustus Hervey, 7th Marquess of Bristol (15 September 1954 – 10 January 1999), also known as John Jermyn and John Bristol,[2] was a British aristocrat and businessman, notable for both his wealth and its use to fund his drug addiction.

John was the eldest child of Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol. He was distant from his father, who treated him harshly and with whom he did not get on well. Despite inheriting a large fortune of up to £35 million, John spent most of it during his lifetime. He struggled with addiction to cocaine and other drugs, serving several jail sentences for possession, and was known for his flamboyant homosexuality. His brief marrage in the mid-1980s did not last because of this, and he became increasingly depressed as he lost money and faced backruptcy. He died in early 1999 from complications resulting from his drug addiction, and was succeeded by his half-brother, Frederick Hervey, 8th Marquess of Bristol.

Early years and family[edit]

John was born on 15 September 1954, five years into the marriage between Pauline Bolton, daughter of a Kent businessman, and Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol;[1] he was their only child and his parents divorced when he was five years old.

His mother remarried, giving him Teddy Lambton, a Newmarket racehorse trainer, for a stepfather,[1] and then a half-brother, George, who became a Conservative councillor.[3] His father remarried, giving him a half-brother, Lord Nicholas Hervey, by his second marriage, to Lady Anne Juliet Dorothea Maud Wentworth Fitzwilliam (currently Lady Juliet Tadgell), the only child of Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 8th Earl Fitzwilliam, who John was close to.[1]

His father's final marriage was to his then private secretary, Yvonne Marie Sutton, in 1974,[2] giving him three more half-siblings: the incumbent Frederick Hervey, 8th Marquess of Bristol, and media personalities Lady Victoria Hervey and Lady Isabella Hervey. John did not get on well with Yvonne and reportedly hurled a glass at the wall when he received a telegram from his father announcing the marriage.[2]

Due to a falling out with his father and a failed but lengthy lawsuit to obtain a portion of his estate, John did not have significant contact with these latter three siblings, although in the last year of his life he became very close to Frederick.[citation needed]

John's father, who had been jailed for jewel theft in his youth, was harsh to his oldest son, according to friends of the latter. He did not show John any clear love or affection, and was emotionally distant to the extent that John was required to wear long white gloves during dinner.[4] "He treated his son and heir with indifference and contempt," said Anthony Haden-Guest. The Marquess of Blandford summed up the relationship: "Victor created the monster that John became."[2] John was a ward of court for some part of his childhood, spending much of it at the family home at Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.[1][3]

Later years[edit]

Lord Bristol was educated at Harrow School. He modelled himself on Oscar Wilde[2] and began to be known for drug and alcohol use; the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography designates him a "wastrel".[5]

He inherited a million pounds when he was 16 years old, and another four million five years later.[2] He amassed a personal fortune worth up to £35 million (though by the time of his death at 44, it had "all slipped through his fingers — every last penny", according to The Times).[6] In his early 20s, he lived in a small flat and sold second hand Bentley cars; friends recall he was at his happiest during this time.[1] He moved to Monte Carlo shortly after his father had relocated there in 1975 as a tax exile, but did not enjoy the lifestyle there and moved to Paris, before settling in New York City by the end of the decade.[2]

Lord Bristol was frequently depicted in the British tabloids for his drug use, wild parties and homosexuality. He served two prison terms for cocaine possession.[6] In May 1983, he was arrested on suspicion of trafficking $4 million of heroin and moved from New York back to Ickworth House. While there, on at least one occasion, Bristol piloted his helicopter without radar while snorting cocaine off the map he was using for navigation.[2] On another, while accompanying his secretary Angela Barry, he crashlanded the helicopter in a field, and walked to the nearest farmhouse, demanding to use the phone while leaving mud everywhere.[7]

In spite of a lifetime of homosexual relations, in 1984 John married Francesca Fisher, then 20, just shy of his 30th birthday; it is not known whether they consummated their relationship.[2] His father refused to attend the wedding, going as far as to place an advertisement in The Times that he had a prior engagement.[8] The marriage lasted for four years, but quickly fell apart after Lord Bristol started freebasing cocaine and using rent boys.[2] During the marriage, John accidentally drove a car half way over a cliff while Francesca was a passenger.[1] They had no children. He later formed a close friendship with James Whitby.[2]

The Marquess blamed some of his difficulties on what he called bad blood, that is, a "family disposition to depression."[2] In 1989, he recalled his father and mother both suffered from manic depression and felt the same, though he appreciated that years of cocaine abuse had not helped matters.[1]

The National Trust were unimpressed with Lord Bristol's behaviour, including dangerous driving around the estate and lack of control over wolfhounds, and attempted to evict him from his home in 1994.[6] Lord Bristol, in turn, was upset about having to share Ickworth House with public visitors to the gardens; one account from author Marcus Scriven describes him firing a shoutgun repeatedly into the air, shouting "fucking peasants, fucking National Trust!" at people.[7] The House of Lords, by then under threat of reform, generally disliked the Marquess as he damaged the house's reputation owing to his general behaviour.[4]

Final years and death[edit]

By the early 1990s, friends were genuinely concerned about the Marquess's addiction to drugs, particularly since multiple prison sentences had done nothing to alleviate it. In June 1993, he avoided a jail sentence by being ordered to attend a rehabilitation clinic, but travelled to the South of France instead and was sentenced to 10 months in an open prison, where he was released after five months. He was arrested again in September 1994 for possession.[1]

Facing bankruptcy in 1996, Lord Bristol sold most of the contents of Ickworth House at auction for £2.3 million.[6] He sold the remaining lease on the house back to the National Trust in 1998.

On 9 January 1999, Lord Bristol complained of a stomach ache and dizziness, and spent most of the day in bed. The following morning, his butler went into his room and found he was not breathing. Along with Whitby, they attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and called an ambulance. This arrived about 11:30am, when paramedics concluded Lord Bristol had died.[9]

While there were rumours that Lord Bristol had died from AIDS,[5][10][11] having apparently contracted HIV in 1986,[2] the coroner recorded that he died of "multiple organ failure due to chronic drug abuse".[5][12] A post-mortem examination showed cocaine as well as several legal drugs.[9]

He was succeeded by his half-brother. Frederick William Augustus Hervey, 8th Marquess of Bristol. Another half-brother, Lord Nicholas Hervey, had died the previous year. His maternal half-brother, George Lambton, said he had no hard feelings about the disappearance of the money although, as he was a maternal half-brother, it would not have affected him anyway.[3] The £5,000 left in his estate was quickly taken up by expenses. He left his estate to Whitby and £25,000 each to his chauffeur and manservant. His half-brother and half-sisters received next to nothing.[2]


The Spectator described the 7th Marquess as follows:

Born with an inheritance which included millions of money, thousands of acres, and oodles of style at Ickworth, the family seat, this flamboyant homosexual, charming but empty of soul, allowed himself to sink into a brain-mincing addiction to heroin and cocaine. Before the end he could not pass two hours without a snort, was frequently in prison, and was reduced to penury.[13]

Following John's death, his agent hoped that the story would serve as a warning over the dangers of drug addiction.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Berens, Jessica (12 January 1999). "Obituary: The Marquess of Bristol". The Independent. Retrieved 13 April 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Haden-Guest, Anthony (22 January 2006). "The end of the peer". The Observer. Retrieved 13 April 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Kirby, Terry (23 September 2005). "'It' girls miss out after death of drug-addicted aristocrat". The Independent. Retrieved 13 April 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "The Marquess of Bristol". The Economist. 14 January 1999. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Mandler, Peter (2004). "Hervey, Frederick William John Augustus, seventh marquess of Bristol (1954–1999)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Bale, Joanna (23 September 2005). "Junkie marquess died penniless after spending millions on drugs". The Times. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "John Hervey, 7th Marquess of Bristol". Marcus Scriven. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  8. ^ "Splendour and Squalour by Marcus Scriven". Daily Telegraph. 23 December 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c "Sympathy plea for drug addict lord". BBC News. 30 March 1999. Retrieved 9 June 2016. 
  10. ^ Meacham, Steve (11 July 2010). "The toffs who lost the plot". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  11. ^ Bailey, Paul (4 December 2009). "Splendour and Squalor, By Marcus Scriven". The Independent. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Scriven, Marcus (2009). Splendour & Squalor: The Disgrace and Disintegration of Three Aristocratic Dynasties. Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1843541240. 
  13. ^ Masters, Brian (12 May 2001). "The House of Hervey: Bats in the family belfry". The Spectator. Retrieved 10 June 2008. 
Further reading
  • Scriven, Marcus (2009). Splendour & Squalor: The Disgrace and Disintegration of Three Aristocratic Dynasties. Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-848-87485-5. 
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Victor Hervey
Marquess of Bristol
Succeeded by
Frederick Hervey