Photo Of The Day

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 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.

Four members of the group flee to the nearby Botanical Garden and hide behind a hedge. They lie on the ground for several minutes, says one of the men who was there. They are determined not to be caught, four young men dressed in tails, lying on their stomachs in the grass. Once again, they have managed to escape unscathed.

The episode says a lot about the thin layer of the chosen few who would be running the England one day. The members of the Bullingdon Club in Oxford, a gathering place for the country’s young elites, people who know that they are destined to make it to the very top. One of the four men  in the grass is Boris Johnson, who will later become the mayor of London. Another is David Cameron, currently residing at No. 10 Downing Street. The two others are sons of prominent members of the financial world and now part of London’s moneyed aristocracy themselves.

Cameron would later deny that he was involved in the escapade on that summer night in 1987, even though two of his friends at the time insist he was there. Johnson, on the other hand, boasted that he spent several hours in prison that night.

The truth about the Bullingdon Club is probably somewhere in the middle, between exaggeration and denial. Rarely have so many former members of the club held key positions in British society as they do today. The club became a gathering place for the male establishment, and its members now inhabit the top floors of banks, government ministries, law firms and newspaper publishing companies. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was also a member.

The Bullingdon and other dinner clubs are seeds of power in the United Kingdom, and not just because membership provides influence. Members also gain access to a group of like-minded individuals who will later assume leading roles — allies for life, just as it has always been.

If there is a stable core of British society that has remained unchanged for centuries, it is the upper class. Unlike the elites on the European continent, the leadership clique in Britain was largely spared from revolutions and uprisings. For generations, the children of the country’s powerful families have attended boarding schools like Eton, Winchester and Harrow, followed by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It is a form of patronage that Britons simply refer to as tradition.

Not everyone has fond memories of those colorful student days. David Cameron was not only a member of the Bullingdon Club, but also of the Piers Gaveston Society, a club for younger students well known for its excesses. If a new biography about the premier is to be believed, Cameron, during one Gaveston party, placed his private parts into the mouth of a dead pig as part of an initiation ritual. The affair was lampooned in the press as “Pig-gate,” and had the entire country laughing at the prime minister. Cameron initially kept mum about the incident before explicitly denying it and his spokeswoman refuses to dignify the book with an official statement.

1988

The elite dining society associated with, although not affiliated to, the University of Oxford. Founded in 1780 as a hunting and cricket club, it soon became better known for its raucous, hard-drinking dinners and ostentatious displays of wealth.

The vast majority of members previously attended Eton, although a few other major public schools are represented. No women are accepted into the society. Membership has always been extremely exclusive, with the handful of new members accepted each year traditionally subjected to “trashing” – the invasion and destruction of their college bedroom by other Bullingdon members.

The official club uniform consists of navy blue tailcoats with a velvet collar and ivory silk lapels, monogrammed buttons, waistcoat, and a tie in the club colour of sky blue. The full ensemble can only be purchased from a single Oxford tailor, and is estimated to cost around £3,500.

The Bullingdon Club was founded over 200 years ago. Petre Mais claims it was founded in 1780 and was limited to 30 men, and Viscount Long, who was a member in 1875, described it as “an old Oxford institution, with many good traditions.” Originally it was a hunting and cricket club, and Thomas Assheton Smith II is recorded as having batted for the Bullingdon against the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1796. In 1805 cricket at Oxford University “was confined to the old Bullingdon Club, which was expensive and exclusive”. This foundational sporting purpose is attested to in the Club’s symbol.

The Wisden Cricketer reports that the Bullingdon is “ostensibly one of the two original Oxford University cricket teams but it actually used cricket merely as a respectable front for the mischievous, destructive, or self-indulgent tendencies of its members”. By the late 19th century, the present emphasis on dining within the Club began to emerge. Long attested that in 1875 “Bullingdon Club [cricket] matches were also of frequent occurrence, and many a good game was played there with visiting clubs.

The Bullingdon Club dinners were the occasion of a great display of exuberant spirits, accompanied by a considerable consumption of the good things of life, which often made the drive back to Oxford an experience of exceptional nature.” A report of 1876 relates that “cricket there was secondary to the dinners, and the men were chiefly of an expensive class”. The New York Times told its readers in 1913 that “The Bullingdon represents the acme of exclusiveness at Oxford; it is the club of the sons of nobility, the sons of great wealth; its membership represents the ‘young bloods’ of the university”

members1

Today, the Bullingdon is still primarily a dining club, although a vestige of the Club’s sporting links survives in its support of an annual point to point race. The Club President, known as the “General,” presents the winner’s cup and the Club members meet at the race for a champagne breakfast. The Club also meets for an annual Club dinner. Guests may be invited to either of these events. There may also be smaller dinners during the year to mark the initiation of new members. The club often books private dining rooms under an assumed name, as most restaurateurs are wary of the Club’s reputation for causing considerable drunken damage during the course of dinner.

The club has always been noted for its wealthy members, grand banquets and boisterous rituals, such as vandalising (‘trashing’) of restaurants and college rooms, complemented by a tradition of on-the-spot payment for damage. Its ostentatious display of wealth attracts controversy, since many ex-members have moved up to high political posts, most notably the current British Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. A number of episodes over many decades have provided anecdotal evidence of the Club’s behaviour. Infamously on 12 May 1894, after dinner, Bullingdon members smashed almost all the glass of the lights and 468 windows in Peckwater Quad of Christ Church, along with the blinds and doors of the building, and again on 20 February 1927. As a result, the Club was banned from meeting within 15 miles of Oxford.

While still Prince of Wales, Edward VIII had a certain amount of difficulty in getting his parents’ permission to join the Bullingdon on account of the Club’s reputation. He eventually obtained it only on the understanding that he never joins in what was then known as a “Bullingdon blind,” a euphemistic phrase for an evening of drink and song. On hearing of his eventual attendance at one such evening, Queen Mary sent him a telegram requesting that he remove his name from the Club.

Andrew Gimson, biographer of Boris Johnson, reported about the club in the 1980s: “I don’t think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash. […] A night in the cells would be regarded as being par for a Buller man and so would debagging anyone who really attracted the irritation of the Buller men.”

In December 2005 Bullingdon Club members smashed 17 bottles of wine, “every piece of crockery” and a window at the 15th century White Hart pub in Fyfield, Oxfordshire. The dinner was organised by The Honourable Alexander Fellowes, son of Baron Fellowes and nephew to Diana, Princess of Wales; four members of the party were arrested. A further dinner was reported in 2010 after damage to a country house.

In the last few years, the Bullingdon has been mentioned in the debates of the House of Commons in order to draw attention to excessive behaviour across the British class spectrum, and to embarrass prominent Conservative Party politicians who are former members of the Bullingdon. Johnson has since tried to distance himself from the club, calling it “a truly shameful vignette of almost superhuman undergraduate arrogance, toffishness and twittishness.”

The Club’s colours are sky blue and ivory. Members dress for their annual Club dinner in specially made traditional tailcoats in dark navy blue, with a matching velvet collar, offset with ivory silk lapel revers, brass monogrammed buttons, a mustard waistcoat, and a sky blue bow tie. There is also a Club tie, which is sky blue striped with ivory. These are all provided by the Oxford branch of court tailors Ede and Ravenscroft. Traditionally when they played cricket, members “were identified by a ribbon of blue and white on their straw hats, and by stripes of the same colours down their flannel trousers”

The Bullingdon is not currently registered with the University of Oxford, but members are drawn from among the members of the University. On several occasions in the past, when the club was registered, the University proctors have suspended it on account of the rowdiness of members’ activities, including suspensions in 1927 and 1956. John Betjeman wrote in 1938 that “quite often the Club is suspended for some years after each meeting”. While under suspension, the club has been known to meet in relative secrecy.

The club was active in Oxford in 2008/9, although not currently registered with the University. In his retirement speech as proctor, Professor of Geology Donald Fraser noted an incident which, not being on University premises, was outside their jurisdiction: “some students had taken habitually to the drunken braying of ‘We are the Bullingdon’ at 3 a.m. from a house not far from the Phoenix Cinema. But the transcript of what they called the wife of the neighbour who went to ask them to be quiet was written in language that is not usually printed”

A club photograph which includes Cameron and Johnson among members posing in their dress uniform has often proved the bane of their political careers, frequently reprinted in newspapers and mentioned in Parliament as evidence that they are out of touch with ordinary people. Other past members include former defence minister Alan Clark, broadcaster David Dimbleby and Princess Diana’s brother Charles Spencer.

Newspapers have long revelled in reports of the club’s debauchery, centring on drunken dinners that end in brawls and destruction. Speaking of the club during the 1980s, Boris Johnson’s biographer Andrew Gimson commented: “I don’t think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash.” Even to this day, unofficial gatherings of the club in pubs or restaurants are usually booked under an alias due to this historical reputation for wanton destruction.

A rumour about an initiation ritual in which new members burnt a £50 note in front of a homeless person also made national headlines in 2013, although the claim was never verified.

However, it is important to put the often unsubstantiated tales of Bullingdon debauchery in perspective. No-one knows exactly how many members the club currently boasts, but in 2006 it was estimated to be as low as four, meaning the vast majority of Oxford students will complete their degrees without ever meeting a member.

With Cameron, Johnson and Osborne frequently savaged in the House of Commons for their past membership, the club’s brand has become so toxic that aspiring young politicians today wouldn’t be caught dead in Bullingdon blue. “The really ambitious stay away from it,” an Oxford undergraduate told the Evening Standard.

One Old Etonian who turned down an invite describes the club simply as “cringe”. In an age far removed from the ‘greed is good’ excesses of the 80s, the circle of privileged youngsters who want to flaunt their wealth publicly is shrinking. With dozens of elite drinking societies to aspire to, few Oxford undergraduates are keen to embrace the stain of the Bullingdon legacy.

The Bullingdon has also moved with the times, however, severely toning down its public behaviour. Members rarely wear their £3,500 uniform nowadays, while room trashings and other extreme initiation rituals are a thing of the past. The last incident involving members to make the headlines was a brawl in a historic Oxfordshire pub in 2004 in which crockery and wine bottles were smashed. In perhaps the ultimate sign of the changing times, there was no escaping by offering the landlord a cheque. Instead, four of the group were promptly arrested and slapped with penalty notices after a night in the cells.

Like so many of their predecessors, they are almost all Old Etonians – and without exception, the product of incredible privilege.

Like so many of their predecessors, they are almost all Old Etonians – and without exception, the product of incredible privilege.

The 2013 group for a classic pose.

  1. Fernando Balzaretti

Sevenoaks School, St Benet’s Hall

Born in Guatemala, he boarded at Sevenoaks School, making him one of the few Bullingdon men who did not attend Eton. Named by students, Mr Balzaretti played polo in his native country until he was 12. He took the sport up again at Oxford, and has represented the university against Durham. The history and politics student was said to be a popular figure among the small Roman Catholic hall St Benet’s, which is run by Benedictine monks.

Friends said Balzaretti, who is also a keen rower, ‘was not as arrogant’ as some of the other members of the club. He declined to comment about the Bullingdon Club when contacted.

  1. The Honourable Michael Marks 

Eton, Balliol College

Michael Marks will one day be the fourth Baron Marks of Broughton – the title first awarded to his great-grandfather Michael Marks, the Victorian retailer who co-founded Marks & Spencer.

At Balliol, Michael, 21, held a bizarre position in the Junior Common Room called Comrade Tortoise.

His job was to look after Matilda, the 17-year-old college tortoise and to train her for the annual inter-college tortoise race. When Matilda died, he was ordered to eat a whole lettuce as a punishment.

Last February he was business manager for the production of a Tom Stoppard play, The Invention Of Love, at the Oxford Playhouse Theatre. Stoppard himself attended the opening night.

Marks, who studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, is now studying at the Graduate School of Arts and Science at Harvard.

His father is the Third Baron Marks of Broughton, Simon Marks, 51. He also studied at Eton and Balliol. His South African-born mother Marion, is a ceramics restorer.

  1. Edward Edmund George Maximilian Windsor,  Lord Downpatrick

Eton, Keble College

The 22-year-old is grandson of the Duke of Kent, nephew of Lady Helen Windsor, and godson of Diana, Princess of Wales. Lord Downpatrick is also president of the club, which gives him the right to wear his own choice of trousers with the trademark jacket. The tartan is that of his Father George Windsor, the Earl of St Andrews.

Eddy, as he is known to his friends, is second in line to the Duchy of Kent.

As one of Princess Diana’s godchildren, he grew up surrounded by royalty, and was no stranger to the view from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, where he had been seen standing next to the Queen.

The modern languages student was once 22nd in line to the throne but renounced his claim by converting to Catholicism, which he did in a private ceremony in Eton College chapel. His mother Sylvana Tomaselli, 53, is an Italian divorcee who is an academic politics lecturer. At university, he and his two sisters Lady Marina-Charlotte Windsor and Lady Amelia Windsor, posed for a photo-shoot for Tatler.

  1. William James Prinsep MacLeod

Eton, Exeter College

Will MacLeod, 22, has pursued a career in finance like his Scottish-born father Rory Macleod, a fund manager based in Guernsey. His mother Diana Catherine Jane Reid was the daughter of a legendary escapee from Colditz Castle, businessman and author.

Captain Pat Reid wrote The Colditz Story in 1954, based on his own experiences as head of the escape committee at the Second World War prisoner-of-war camp.

Captain Reid, who died in 1990, met Will’s grandmother, Jane Cabot Reid – a descendant of the illustrious Cabot family of Boston Massachusetts, after escaping to Zurich, and married her in 1943. She became a psychoanalyst after growing up among the circle of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Born in Geneva, Mr MacLeod’s early experience on the ski slopes led him to represent Eton in youth skiing tournaments. He works at Goldman Sachs. He put the phone down when contacted at work yesterday.

  1. Charles George Southwell Clegg

Eton, Exeter College

Holding a pipe, Mr Clegg deliberately appears to be cultivating a ‘young fogey’ image. Now an analyst at Merrill Lynch, as a teenager he enjoyed trips to Monte Carlo and luxurious holidays as a child to such exotic resorts such as Raffles in the Grenadines.

Although many students make do with shabby digs, the 22-year-old was able to buy a flat in the centre of Oxford, opposite the Union, which he later sold for £420,000.

His father, Christopher John Southwell Clegg, is an investment banker, who was a director of the Irish merchant bank Guinness Mahon.

His mother Jane Morris, is an interior designer who runs the 100-year-old interior design shop in Knightsbridge, Percy Bass. His parents live in a £4million, four-storey townhouse a mile from Kensington.

A relative of Mr Clegg, who studied economics and management, told the Mail: ‘They are all very normal boys in the Bullingdon Club really – a nice bunch. They work very hard, so they play very hard. That’s what the Bullingdon is about.

‘It’s a social club. People think that they go around trashing people’s houses at parties and getting into trouble, but I don’t think it is like that anymore.

‘Charles doesn’t talk about it a lot. He didn’t tell the family he was in Bullingdon for a few months and, when he did, I think we had mixed feelings about it.’

  1. Nicholas Green

Eton, University College

Born in South Africa, Nick Green is a friend of Princess Beatrice and the fourth-year engineering student featured in society magazine Tatler’s annual Little Black Book of 200 ‘sexiest singles’ in 2009.

His step-father, Patrick Quirk, is thought to be a mining tycoon in Zimbabwe. His mother, Jane Quirk, lives in a Kensington mansion valued at £10million according to Land Registry documents.

His father is believed to be Keith Green, who now lives in Florida. Green declared himself a Facebook fan of Bullingdon Club predecessors David Cameron and Boris Johnson. But someone later altered his Facebook page to remove apparent support for an anti-President Barack Obama group entitled ‘Obama screwed more people than Tiger Woods’ and an apparently sexist group calling itself: ‘The awkwardness when a woman doesn’t choose the iron in a game of monopoly’.

  1. Nicholas Hugh Gaisman

Eton, St John’s College

Gaisman, who has worked for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in West Africa, and currently works in finance, is the son of Jonathan Gaisman, QC, a commercial litigation lawyer whose highest profile case was the action against the Total oil company by victims of the Buncefield refinery explosion.

His mother is Tessa Jardine Paterson, MBE, a member of the Jardine Mattheson Hong Kong banking family.

He played cello in the Eton College orchestra and in his final year at university he worked as producer for the Invention Of Love.

One of his cousins has been previously linked to Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa.

“Bullingdon Club Too Lively For Prince of Wales” 

Bullingdon Club – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bullingdon Club: inside the elite Oxford society | The Week UK

The Bullingdon Club and the Excessive British Elite – SPIEGEL O

Bullingdon Club: Five Facts About The Super-Rich, Elite Oxford …

David Cameron, a pig’s head and a secret society at Oxford Unive

 


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  • cows4me

    There’s a film about these guys. Just shows them up as real aresholes with to much money and huge chips on their shoulders. And to think many pull the strings in the so called free world .

    • kereru

      They look like a bunch of fops, perhaps candidates for the Monty Python ‘upper class twit of the year’ race?

  • Wasapilot

    Pretenders when compared with the likes of Keith Moon, now he new how to really trash a hotel room or similar.

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