Folklore Lord Bicester

From the Electronic Telegraph on Sep 5 1996.

``Eccentric'' peer seeks Lords role
By Paul Stokes

A Peer who has spent 31 years in psychiatric hospitals hopes to be allowed to sit in the House of Lords again.

The 3rd Baron Bicester yesterday had his case referred to a tribunal. He claims that he has not been a danger to himself or others for 15 years. As the heir-presumptive to his title, he made news headlines in 1957 after spending a night in Wormwood Scrubs for being unable to pay £80 in fines.

He had been convicted by a Bow Street magistrate of six charges of obtaining money by false pretences after presenting worthless cheques to restaurants.

Lord Bicester, 64, an Old Etonian whose full name is Angus Edward Vivian Smith, has been detained in various hospitals since a psychiatric order was made in 1965. He is currently living in the Retreat Hospital, York.

During the 1980s he was released briefly, when he is believed to have exercised his right to vote in Lords debates. He was returned to a psychiatric hospital after trying to flag down a car carrying the Princess of Wales in an attempt to chat with her.

Peter Edwards, an expert in mental health law for 23 years who is representing him, said: ``If Lord Bicester was plain old Mr Smith I don't think he would have been locked up for nearly so long. His eccentricity has the ability sometimes to embarrass people in high places - he knows a lot of them and his family is related to some of them.

``It is an absolutely tragic story of a wonderful man who is very eccentric and who, for reasons of misfortune, has spent about all of his adult life locked up.''

Mr Edwards said Lord Bicester has never been a danger to himself or others. He is allowed to leave the hospital with doctors' consent but has to return at pre-determined times or face arrest.

Lord Bicester, a bachelor, inherited his title from his uncle, Randal Smith, three years after the psychiatric order was made. Randal's father, Vivian Smith, was a partner in the banking firm Morgan Grenfel and was raised to the peerage in 1938. The family seat was Tusmore Park, near Bicester, Oxon.

Yesterday, as commissioners approved by the Health Secretary adjourned the hearing for two months, Lord Bicester spoke of his desire to have his Lords voting right reinstated while leaving a bookmaker's shop in York. He had just lost £7 on the 3.10 at York and was returning to the Retreat.

``I'm in touch with the House every day,'' he said. ``I ring them to find out what's going on.''

From the Guardian on Sep 5 1996.

`Artistic' baron launches bid to rejoin peer group

Martin Wainwright on an eccentric's effort to regain his seat in the House of Lords

An elderly peer, known fondly for handing out abstract drawings on the streets of York, yesterday launched a fight to resume his place in Britain's government after 31 years in compulsory psychiatric care.

The third Baron Bicester, whose grandfather ``Rufie'' took the title after chairing the aristocratic stockbrokers Morgan Grenfell, began a tribunal appeal to permit his return to the House of Lords.

The move follows claims by a friend that the peer, born Vivian Smith, is effectively a ``political prisoner'', unable to test his family motto Tenax in Fide (Steadfast in the Faith) on the crossbenches.

Lord Bicester's solicitor, mental health specialist Peter Edwards, also said that the baron's knowledge of people in high places and ability to embarrass them meant that he was treated differently ``than if he was plain old Mr Smith''.

Detained under the Mental Health Act since 1965, the Old Etonian's regime at the private, Quaker-run Retreat hospital in York is relaxed, with genial attendance at the annual pantomime and frequent unaccompanied local trips outside the three acre grounds approved by the medical staff.

Bookmakers and casual acquaintances in York describe him as ``an amiable gent and a lovely man'' who potters about with a pad of A4 paper, offering brightly coloured swirls signed ``The Lord Bicester'' for charity.

Yesterday, he paused briefly at he favorite bookie's in Hull Road to comment on the opening of his appeal tribunal at The Retreat.

``I'm in touch with the House every day,'' he said, after wryly disclosing that a £7 bet had just flopped on the 3.10 at York's Knavesmire racecourse. ``I ring them to find out what's going on.''

His greatest wish, he said, was to take the place of his grandfather and Uncle Randal, the second baron who was High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, in the Lords.

Born Angus Edward Vivian Smith, son of a Coldstream Guards colonel and a mother from New York, Lord Bicester was sectioned under the Mental Health Act at the age of 33 and has been treated at a succession of different hospitals.

His family has brushed with controversy in the past, particularly over the demolition of their country seat Tulsmore Park, near Bicester, and its replacement with a much-criticised neo-Georgian mansion.

Nine years ago, the 3,000 acre estate was bought by the Syrian-born Mr Fixit, Wafic Said, the businessman and close friend of Mark Thatcher.

Earlier this year, Mr Said dropped plans to build a third Tulsmore Park, a £20 million baroque replica of Palladio's Villa Rotunda which would have been the largest new country house in Britain since the Second World War.

The Retreat had no comment yesterday on Lord Bicester's case but it is understood that his treatment, in consultation with his trustees, allows the local excursions under discression given to doctors in Mental Health Act.

He is known as ``Lord Angus'' in a number of local pubs where he courteously offers his artwork with a polite: ``I do this for charity; if you would like it, please give me as much as you can afford.''

Mr Edwards said: ``He's a delightful, eccentric, elderly gentleman. If he was plain old Mr Smith. I don't think he would have been locked up for so long. But his eccentricity has the ability to embarrass people in high places, and he knows a lot of them -- his family are related to some of them.''

Community care consultant Nigel David, from Guildford, Surrey, has befriended Lord Bicester, whose well-spoken assertions that he is connected to the Queen -- not always uncommon in psychiatric hospitals -- carry more weight than usual.

He said: ``He's a charming character, full of fun and with an exceptionally retentive memory, although he's usually drugged.

``The fact that he is locked up with people who are genuinely ill is terrible.''

Photo caption: Lord Bicester: `political Prisoner'

From the north east TV news on Sep 5, also the weekly roundup on the following Sunday.

Presenter: A bizarre hearing was held into the case of a member of the house of Lords who, it's alleged is being kept at a psychiatric hospital because he's an embarrassment to the aristocracy. Collin Brazier has this report.

Collin Brazier: Trusmore Park in Oxfordshire, for generations the ancestral home to one of the nations' most distinguished families. But for the last thirty years the current Lord Bicester hasn't been able to enjoy the life he was born to, confined instead to secure mental institutions. The Retreat Hospital in York is the latest. And it was here today that a Mental Health Review Tribunal met to decide whether he ought to be discharged.

Peter Edwards (Solicitor to Lord Bicester): I'm very surprised to still find people like Lord Bicester in the mental health system. He has been detained for most of his adult life. And I believe that people should try a great deal harder to rehabilitate him into the community. He's got a wonderful sense of humour. How he's been able to preserve his personality over so many years of incarceration is absolutely amazing.

CB: Today's hearing was adjourned for two months while more detailed psychiatric reports are compiled. Lord Bicester's legal team and friends are angry that he remains institutionalized. They claim he ought to be cared for in the community as he's been no danger to himself or others since his problems as a teenager.

Countess Ilona Esterhoze (Friend of Lord Bicester): We have to go back to his probably teenage years around thirteen when he was at Eton he heard the sad news that his parents were going to split up. And this was, I think, quite a shock for him.

CB: His years at Eton still warrant a mention in Who's Who but the abrupt end to his entry gives, friends say, some clue to his subsequent treatment at the hands of the establishment.

CIE: I think at times he was seen as an embarrassment to the house, not because of what he said but because people didn't like to hear what he said.

Noel David (Community care consultant): Because he is on of the eminent members or potentially members of society I think his colleagues might find his behaviour which is, his sense of humour, slightly embarrassing.

CB: Friends of Lord Bicester stress their legal moves have nothing to do with the standard of confinement at the Retreat which they describe as exemplary.

From the Electronic Telegraph on Feb 5 1997.

Peer freed for return to Lords
By Kathy Marks

A PEER who has spent more than three decades in psychiatric hospitals has won abattle to be released into the community and plans to resume his place in the House of Lords.

The 3rd Baron Bicester, an Old Etonnnian who has campaigned for years to be discharged from compulsory care, said he was delighted with the decision of a mental health tribunal that reviewed his case. Lord Bicester, 64, has lived in pyschiatric institutions since 1965 after being diagnosed as a schizophrenic.

During a brief spell of freedom in the 1980s, he voted in Lords debates. He was detained again after trying to flag down a car carrying the then Princess of Wales.

Lord Bicester - born Angus Edward Vivian Smith - has been in the Quaker-run Retreat Hospital in York for the past seven years. With the permission of his doctors, he frequently went out unescorted and became familiar in public houses and betting shops.

Initially he will need supervision and medication, and the tribunal has asked healthauthorities in York to find him a place in a hostel. Peter Edwards, his solicitor,said: ``It is a tragedy that a man of such charm, wit and talent has been incarcerated for so long.''

Lord Bicester could attend the Lords only as a visitor while he was detained under the Mental Health Act. He is now entitled to play a full part in proceedings. He said he would campaign for reform of the mental health laws.

From the Electronic Times on Feb 5 1997.

Peer leaves mental institution for Lords
By Paul Wilkinson

A peer who has spent the past 32 years in mental institutions was preparing yesterday to take his seat in the House of Lords as a Conservative.

Angus Edward Vivian Smith, 64, the 3rd Lord Bicester, has just been told that he can take his first steps towards leaving a home and resuming life in the outside world. The decision by an independent mental health tribunal in York is a triumph for friends of the Old Etonian. They claimed that Lord Bicester was no longer a danger either to himself or the public at large. He was released briefly in the mid-1980s but was returned in 1988 soon after apparently stopping the car carrying the Princess of Wales on a street in Kensington "for a chat".

On hearing the decision he said: "I am now looking forward to sitting in the House of Lords and seeing a few old friends. I will probably sit with the Conservatives." The tribunal recommended that he can leave the Retreat pyschiatric hospital in York.

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