A multi-millionaire is suing a woman to get her out of a £15million country house which she claims he promised to leave her. Retired ambassador David Gladstone, 87, moved out of Wotton House, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, to isolate in Cumbria during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Leigh White at the Grade I-listed property.
A former high commissioner to Sri Lanka, Mr Gladstone now says he is desperate to spend the last years of his life at the mansion.
Its grounds, which include two lakes, were modelled by landscape architect Capability Brown.
Former Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair and Cherie Blair are among the neighbours, having bought one of the sprawling pile’s old coach houses in 2008.
Ms White, 55, was a close family friend who moved in after Mr Gladstone was “knocked sideways” by his son’s death in 2017.
She insists she has a right to stay as a “successor and heiress” to his estate. She is counter-suing.
The High Court heard Wotton was bought by the family of Mr Gladstone’s first wife, April, in the 1950s.
He inherited Wotton on her death in 2014.
Penelope Reed KC, representing Ms White, said Mr Gladstone asked over lunch at the National Liberal Club in 2007 if her client would take Wotton on when he and April died.
Ms Reed KC added this led Ms White to understand she would inherit it. She said the “promise” was repeated during dinner at a Thai restaurant in Islington in 2011.
It is alleged Mr Gladstone noted in his diary afterwards: “There is now no going back. Wotton is promised to Leigh.”
Ms Reed KC said it was only after shielding with his new wife Mary that plans changed with a demand Ms White move out. A new will also left her with nothing.
The barrister added she could only think that in his old age Mr Gladstone had forgotten his promise.
She said lawyer Ms White had “harmed” her legal career on the basis of inheriting Wotton and it would be “unconscionable” for Mr Gladstone to renege on the assurances.
Mr Gladstone, who is a descendant of Victorian prime minister William Gladstone, is also suing for the return of £800,000 in bonds transferred to Ms White.
The judge is expected to deliver a ruling at a later date.