Peter Randolph Louis Beatty (2 April 1910 – 26 October 1949) was an English racehorse owner and breeder, businessman and member of the aristocracy.

Early life and personality

Born on 2 April 1910, Beatty was the younger son of David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty and his wife EthelSocialite and member of the aristocracy. An heiress in her own right, Beatty’s mother was the only daughter of Marshall Field, an American millionaire who was involved in the department store business in Chicago.[1][2] His mother’s death in 1932 made Beatty a millionaire.[3] As a baby Beatty suffered from ophthalmia neonatorum.[4] It affected his eyesight and personality throughout his life; he was frequently high-strung, and his eyesight gradually deteriorated.[2] Beatty had consulted eye specialists in the UK and the US and also had many eye surgeries; none were able to offer him any improvement for the condition.[3]

Beatty was described as having a shrewd business sense, particularly when it came to horses and horse racing. He was also said to be witty and at times, mischievous. Despite his failing eyesight, Beatty managed to obtain a commission in his father’s old unit. He served with the company in the Middle East until his secret was discovered and he was honourably discharged from service.[5] He was a tall, dark and handsome man who had once been named one of Britain’s most eligible bachelors.[3] At the time of his death Mereworth Castle in Kent was his main residence.[6] Aly Khan and his wife, Rita Hayworth, were Beatty’s guests at the castle for the running of the Epsom Derby in June 1949.[7][a]Portions of the 1967 film Casino Royale were filmed at Mereworth Castle.[8]

Horse racing

Beatty’s nickname was “Lucky” because of the success he had enjoyed at an early age in horse racing.[7] He told friends that he had consulted a fortune teller, who told him he would win the Epsom Derby with a horse whose name had three “s” in it; four years later, Beatty’s Bois Roussel won the race.[9] In 1936 Beatty inherited Reigate Priory, the last private individual to own the property, and added stables to the grounds for his racehorses.[10] He sold the property to the Mutual Property Life and General Insurance Company in 1942.[11] Beatty was also involved in horse breeding; the noted racehorse My Babu was bred by Beatty.[12]

Beatty had racehorses trained at Beckhampton by Fred Darling. He purchased the racehorse Bois Roussel from Leon Volterra for £8,000, and it went on to win The Derby on 1 June 1938.[13] The horse had been listed as having 20 to 1 odds. The win surprised both Beatty and many others at the racecourse. King George VI, whose horse, Licence, was also entered in the race, invited Beatty to the Royal Box after the win.[14] The Derby victory won Beatty around $50,000.[15][b]Beatty donated £500 of his purse to various racing charities;[16] he also won a sizeable sum from the bets he had placed on his horse.[9] Beatty and Prince Aly Khan were friends and business partners, sharing a love of horses and horse racing.[7] Beatty and Khan were joint owners of Tant Mieux, the 1939 winner of the Gimcrack Stakes.[17]

Death and legacy

Beatty died on 26 October 1949 after falling from a sixth floor window of The Ritz Hotel, London, having been informed that he was going completely blind.[2][18] At the time of his death, Beatty’s eyesight had failed to the point where he needed to be in the company of his valet to walk. He was wearing his pyjamas and a robe when he told his valet he was going to the sixth floor of the Ritz to visit friends there. He then fell six floors to his death at the rear of the hotel.[3] Beatty’s most recent eye surgery was on 5 September. His brother, David Beatty, 2nd Earl Beatty, with whom he was living at the time, said that after the surgery Beatty began to lose what little sight he had left, but gave no indication that he intended to kill himself.[7][19] A coroner’s verdict was that Beatty had committed suicide, since he had recently learned that there was no hope of saving his sight.[20]

It upset Beatty greatly that his blindness meant that he could no longer see his racehorses.[2] For a number of years, he needed to have someone describe the races to him when he went to a racetrack.[3] His estate was valued at more than £306,000 in 1950,[21] equivalent to £29.1 million as of 2013.[22][c]Comparing the economic status of £306,000 in 1950 with 2013. Mereworth Castle was left to Michael Lambert Tree, Beatty’s nephew.[6] Tree was a son of Ronald Tree, Beatty’s half sibling from his mother’s first marriage.[23] Ronald Tree’s other son, Jeremy Tree, inherited Beatty’s bloodstock and became a racehorse trainer himself.[24]

Citations



Bibliography


A, W. W. (1949, October 31). Mr. Peter Bailey-Letter to the Editor. The Times, p. 4.
BBC Sussex. (n.d.). Surrey History. BBC – Southern Counties. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/southerncounties/content/articles/2008/08/19/reigate_priory_feature.shtml
British Pathé. (1938, June 2). THE DERBY 1938 – British Pathé. The Derby 1938. Retrieved from https://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-derby-1938/query/the+Derby+1938
Griffiths, R. (1993, March 9). Obituary: Jeremy Tree. The Independent.
Hunter, A. (n.d.). My Babu. Retrieved from http://www.americanclassicpedigrees.com/my-babu-fr.html
Massie, R. K. (2003). Castles of steel: Britain, Germany, and the winning of the Great War at sea. Ballantine Books.
Montgomery-Massingberd, H., & Watkin, D. (1980). The London Ritz: a social and architectural history. Aurum.
Officer, L. H., & Williamson, S. H. (2018). Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1270 to Present. Retrieved from https://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ukcompare/
Ranft, B. (2004). Beatty, David, first Earl Beatty (1871–1936). In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online). Oxford University Press.
Staff writer. (n.d.). Reigate History – Reigate Priory. Burnley Video Productions. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20141206153049/http://www.reigatehistory.co.uk/prioryhistory.htm
Staff writer. (1968, March 6). “Bond Villa” Finds Buyer. The Times, p. 4.
Staff writer. (1952, June 20). British tax may topple castle of a Field heir. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1952/06/20/page/45/article/british-tax-may-topple-castle-of-a-field-heir
Staff writer. (1949, October 28). Going Blind, Millionaire’s Son Kills Self. Hope Star, p. 6.
Staff writer. (1949, October 28). Adm. Beatty’s Son Committed Suicide, Verdict of Coroner. Brooklyn Eagle, p. 11.
Staff writer. (1949, October 26). 6 Floor Plunge Is Fatal. Lethbridge Herald, p. 1.
Staff writer. (1949, October 26). Peter Beatty Victim of Fall. Greensburg Daily News, p. 6.
Staff writer. (1949, October 27). Millionaire Is Killed in Six Floor Plunge. Galveston Daily News, p. 7.
Staff writer. (1949, October 26). Peter Beatty falls to death. Milwaukee Journal, p. 18.
Staff writer. (1950, March 22). Mr Peter Beatty’s estate. Dundee Evening Telegraph, p. 1.
Staff writer. (1938). Our Special Correspondent. “Racing.” The Times, 4.
Staff writer. (1939, August 25). OUR RACING CORRESPONDENT, and OUR NEWMARKET CORRESPONDENT. “Racing.” The Times, p. 4.
Staff writer. (1938, June 1). Bois Roussel Epsom Victor. The Pittsburgh Press.
Staff writer. (1938). Bois Roussel Comes From Behind to Win Derby at Epsom Downs. Sedalia Democrat.

Notes

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a. Portions of the 1967 film Casino Royale were filmed at Mereworth Castle.[8]
b. Beatty donated £500 of his purse to various racing charities;[16] he also won a sizeable sum from the bets he had placed on his horse.[9]
c. Comparing the economic status of £306,000 in 1950 with 2013.