The Rake

A SHOT AT THE BIG TIME

Winston Churchill had to be provided with a donkey to cart him from drive to drive while shooting at Eaton Hall.

When you think of the aristocracy, what sports spring to mind? Hunting? Possibly, except that’s changed in recent years, since the 2004 ban, and now those on horseback chase a trail laid by quad bikes, which is fairer on the foxes but red-faced sorts splutter that it’s less romantic. Polo? Princes William and Harry play, but then so do dodgy oligarchs and gas tycoons. Croquet would have been a good answer, had the Beckhams not instructed the landscape gardener to map out a croquet lawn at their house in Oxfordshire last year. And I wouldn’t exactly call charades a sport. So by my reckoning that leaves only one option as the toffs’ main hobby: shooting.

True, newbies and arrivistes have muscled in on the shooting scene in recent years (more on Richard Caring later.) But if you’re a duke, you will almost certainly still own a large and ancient shoot, or even a few of them, sprinkled across the country — pheasants in Devon, partridges in Sussex, a grouse moor in Yorkshire. The oldest driven shoot in the county is at Holkham in north Norfolk, which is owned by an earl, admittedly, not a duke (the Earls of Leicester). But it remains one of Britain’s top shoots, which sums up all that keen shots

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