A STUNNING estate has gone on the market that once belonged to the Queen Mother’s treasurer – a man said to have been driven over the edge by managing her finances.
The elegant £2m property in the far north of Scotland was owned by Sir Ralph Hugo Anstruther who served as the Queen Mother’s treasurer for almost 40 years.
Towards the end of his career, the Old Etonian baronet suffered a complete breakdown in health, believed by some to be the result of his increasing stress over the state of her finances.
Watten Mains, a 618 acre farm in Wick, Caithness, was often visited by Queen Elizabeth to go through her money matters with Sir Ralph.
The stately seven-bedroom farm house comes with 534 acres arable land as well as 67 acres permanent pasture, 5 acres of woodland and an extra 12 acres including mature gardens.
An array of farm outbuildings are also included in the sale, which is being managed by the estate agents Strutt & Parker.
The decorated former Army officer was a stickler for precision struggled in vain to control the Queen Mother’s spending and the level of her overdraft.
His health eventually declined – likely due to the chaotic state of the Queen Mother’s funds and his own advancing age.
His regal duties ranged from administering the financial affairs of Clarence House to Queen Mother’s wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.
Sir Ralph, who also had a home in London, would also organised his employer’s annual private holidays in Italy and France, even visiting the venue beforehand to instruct staff of the Queen Mother’s particular preference for Tanqueray gin.
According to one report, he suffered two strokes, and latterly began turning up for work on Sundays, believing it was a weekday.
On one occasion, he was seen walking without his trousers through the Royal residence at Clarence House.
Sir Ralph was finally succeeded by Nicholas Assheton, the Deputy Chairman of Coutts but complained that he had been replaced “a little clerk from Coutts.”
The Queen Mother, who was deeply fond of Anstruther, intervened in 1998 and ordered him to go to Scotland and remain there, a command which he obeyed.
It is understood that Queen Elizabeth left behind over £7 million of debt at the time of her death in March 2002. Sir Ralph himself died two months later and the house passed to his family before being sold to the current owners in 2007.
According to the seller’s brochure: “Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, enjoyed regular trips to Watten Mains House to visit her Treasurer, Sir Ralph Anstruther.“
They add: “Dating from 1763, Watten Mains House is an attractive and substantial stone-built property of traditional design and beneath a pitched slate roof.
They add: “A notable feature of Watten Mains is the fishing on Loch Watten.
“Loch Watten is the most productive and famous of all of the Caithness lochs.
“It is often described as the ‘Leven of the North’ on account of the quality wild brown trout that it offers to anglers and can be fished from the bank or boat.”
The late Royal was well known for her love of Caithness, with her favorite residence being Castle of Mey, near Thurso.
She was known to have visited friends at other regal homes in the area, such as Dorrery Lodge where she would have picnics with Donald Carmichael, a manager at Dounreay nucular power station.