In 1999, Alexander Chancellor reported in The Sunday Telegraph that a staircase in Longleat was decorated with 68 portraits of the wives, painted by Lord Bath, each with a number attached but unnamed: “One of them, he said nonchalantly, is from his… wife, though he’s not interested in indicating which one.
Although Lady Bath tried to sabotage a deal in the early years of their marriage by threatening divorce, she learned to pretend wives didn’t exist – even after her husband fathered a daughter by one of them. them – and they were warned to stay in purdah. when she visited Longleat.
Lord Bath told his biographer that his wife was “more likely to ask me what I spent” than his sex life. She kept a close eye on Longleat’s accounts and ensured that cleaning and cooking were carried out to her specification in her absence. “Anna is a very fierce woman. I think a lot of the staff are quite scared when she comes,” her husband insisted.
The couple were often combative in each other’s presence: Lord Bath claimed that she constantly harassed him during car journeys and that he repeatedly stopped the car to slap her, with little effect. She would, however, try to ensure that the staff fed him healthily and provided him with vitamin pills.
“Anna would have preferred a more conventional marriage,” Lord Bath told Nesta Wyn Ellis. “My children think that I treated [her] very badly.” In public, however, Lady Bath endured what many would have considered a life of hardship with admirable stoicism, maintaining, for the most part, a dignified silence.