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Yes, We Clan! by Irina von Gagern | 1st September, 2017 | Personalities

The Duke of Argyll is the head of one of Scotland’s oldest families, the prolific Campbell clan. He, his wife and their three children live in magnificent Inveraray Castle on the shores of Loch Fyne in the Scottish Highlands. An entire episode of “Downton Abbey” was shot there. The duke also serves the Queen as Master of the Royal Household in Scotland.

“Fly fishing has been a passion of mine since I was a small child. It allows you to switch off completely.” Torquhil Campbell

For Torquhil Campell (49) and his son Archibald (13), the perfect summer’s day begins with a spot of salmon fishing behind the house, or rather behind the castle. The Atlantic salmon valiantly fight their way up the small river, whose mouth lies only a short distance away. Father and son are enjoying the early morning calm. “Fly fishing has been a passion of mine since I was a small child. It provides you with that wonderful and rare opportunity to switch off completely. All that really matters is the environment that you are in and what lies below the water,” Torquhil explains. In the castle’s cozy kitchen, his wife Eleanor (44), son Rory (11) and daughter Charlotte (8) have breakfast ready for them. They are a regular, happy family with bright, bubbly children. Eleanor is a scion of the Cadbury chocolate dynasty. She met her future husband when she came to Inveraray with her friend Louise – the duke’s sister – for a weekend of relaxation away from life in London. The couple married in 2002. A year prior to this, Torquhil’s father had passed away, and as the only son, Torquhil became the 13th Duke of Argyll. The marriage made Eleanor a duchess, and quite a modern one at that. She used to work in PR in London and prefers wearing jeans and sneakers. These days, she helps her husband manage the castle and the spacious 25,000-hectare estate bounded by historical walls. We take a tour of vast Inveraray Castle. The family occupies 20 rooms in the private area alone. A separate staircase connects the floors and there are spectacular views of Loch Fyne from the windows. This is where the Campbells spend their vacations and weekends. During the week, they live in London. Charlotte goes to school there, while her brothers attend a nearby boarding school. Duchess Eleanor unlocks the doors that lead to the part of the building that is open to the public. Some of the tourists recognize her and Torquhil, and start photographing them excitedly. We pass through enormous drawing rooms boasting antique furniture, hand-painted murals, precious china and heavy crystal chandeliers. On the walls hang priceless tapestries and impressive ancestral portraits.

“You need passion and enthusiasm and energy to run a place like this, so in a way it was good I inherited this castle at a young age.” Torquhil Campbell

Torquhil is the youngest in a long line of members of the powerful Campbell family, whose history can be traced back to the 13th century; a family that is one of the most influential and affluent clans in Scotland to this day. Across the centuries, they have managed to be on the side of the winners. Of course, a few of Torquil’s ancestors did fall from grace and were swiftly beheaded, but usually the Campbells got on well with their respective kings and were handsomely rewarded with land and fiefdoms. Today, relations between the House of Argyll and the English royal family are excellent. In fact, Torquhil was appointed one of Queen Elizabeth’s page boys as a child: “I was ten years old when my family received a letter with ER stamped on it, formally asking if I wanted to be a page to her Majesty the Queen. It was a huge honor,” says the Duke. The Queen’s page boys carry the train of her dress at the State Opening of Parliament. Most of the chosen are boys from aristocratic families that are particularly close to Her Majesty. Almost 30 years later, his eldest son Archibald, the future duke, also received a letter bearing the Queen’s Royal seal. But beforehand, the duchess confesses, there had been an unofficial phone call from Buckingham Palace enquiring after Archibald’s height. The Queen’s page boys are under no circumstances allowed to be taller than her. Another of Torquhil Campbell’s many impressive titles is Master of the Royal Household in Scotland, a hereditary title whose history goes back to 1495. “In the olden days, it was a real job,” he says. “Today it is more of a ceremonial post, but a great honor nonetheless.” It is a role Torquhil relishes. Three to four times a year, the duke puts on his guard’s uniform: a kilt in the blue and green Campbell tartan and a wine-red jacket with silver, salmon-shaped buttons. He also proudly carries his ceremonial scepter, at the top end of which sits a lion enthroned. Splendidly attired in this way, he takes part in processions in the presence of the Queen or another member of the British Royal Family, or in official functions at the Scottish parliament. “We have our Queen and all the ceremonies are brilliant. Great Britain does pomp and pageantry very well. I am happy that I can be a small part of this and add a bit.” British understatement at its best!

“Ceremonies are brilliant. I’m happy that I can play a small part and do my bit.” Torquhil Campbell

A title the duke takes particular pride in is one that he earned rather than inherited: captain of the Scottish national elephant polo team, which he led to victory in the world championships twice – once in 2004 and once in 2005. This was followed by further trophies and medals for sporting achievements on elephant and horseback. Every year many thousands of Campbells from all over the world come to Inveraray to meet the head of their clan. For example in the summertime during the Highland Games, which feature bagpipe players and strong men in kilts. Even more visitors have been arriving since the airing of “Downton Abbey.” In 2012, an entire episode of the popular British television show was shot in the castle. The family had to move out temporarily, says the duchess, but a friend who was part of the film crew kept them up-to-date about the elaborate shoot. Much like it did for the fictitious Earls of Grantham in “Downton Abbey,” life has changed dramatically for the Dukes of Argyll over the last hundred years. Gone are the liveried butlers who serve dinner to their lordships every evening. Today, the duke and duchess happily do the cooking themselves. Torquhil’s father still had the castle closed at lunchtime so that he could walk from the dining room to the library after his midday meal without being disturbed by tourists. “Today that would be unthinkable,” says Torquhil. “I run the estate and the business very differently to the way my father did. What I do works now but it wouldn’t have worked then, and I don’t expect Archibald will do as I did. It has to be relevant to the times.”

IssueGG Magazine 04/17
City/CountryInveraray/ Scotland
PhotographyMark Seelen