The Bullingdon in 1860. Charles Cecil Cotes, the album compiler, is standing at far left. Standing at back in the corner with arms folded is Archibald Philip Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery, who went on to become prime minister in 1894. Probably the richest prime minister.Photo: John Bowen via Getty Images.
The Bullingdon Club
They drink heavily, shatter champagne flutes and smash furniture — before moving on to positions of leadership. The elite Bullingdon Club is an exclusive haven for Britain’s rich and powerful. But members don’t like to talk about it.
The Bullingdon club is the most famous ‘drinking’ club at either Oxford or Cambridge. Like most Oxbridge drinking clubs it’s highly selective and elitist about its membership. Traditionally, the offspring of the aristocracy at Oxford have made up the Bullingdon’s membership. These days membership has branched out slightly but it’s still very particular about the sort of people they let in. Interestingly, the current Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and mayor of London in the UK were all members.
By reputation, the Bullingdon is known for pretty bad behaviour. One tradition that is generally accepted to be true is that the Bullingdon, after a meal, would smash up and destroy the private room they’d been in in the restaurant and then the next day send the owner a cheque for the damage.
I would add that contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the Bullingdon club that is responsible for these sorts of antics. There are a number of drinking clubs at both Oxford and Cambridge which have similar ideals and policies. The ‘Buller’ as it’s popularly known just has the benefit of more famous alumni.
To understand England’s elite, it helps to go back in time, to the summer of 1987. A pack of bow-tied young men dressed in midnight blue tails with brass buttons and cream-colored silk lapels are stumbling through the streets of Oxford after one of their dinners, tipsy on champagne and in a boisterous mood. None of them is older than 24. One of them hits upon the idea of visiting a fellow student — and a short time later, a flowerpot flies through a restaurant window and a police car arrives. It is a night that the entire country will still be talking about decades later.
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