Baronet joins stately homes pledging oaks to Notre-Dame, saying he feels guilty for ancestors role in beating Napoleon

Gabriella Swerling
Sir Benjamin Slade, 72, says he feels compelled to help rebuild the stricken cathedral to 'make amends'' after years of his ancestors battling nobility in France and ''killing French people''.   - Jay Williams

An eccentric aristocrat is joining a legion of British stately homes pledging to help rebuild Notre Dame, saying he feels guilty for his ancestor’s role in beating Napoleon.

Sir Benjamin Slade, 72, says he feels compelled to help rebuild the stricken cathedral to 'make amends'' after years of his ancestors battling nobility in France and ''killing French people''.

He said he will now ship 50 oak trees from his 2,000-acre estate at Maunsel House in Somerset to Notre Dame.

One of his ancestors, Sir Thomas Slade, used English oak to design Nelson's ship HMS Victory which beat Napoleon's forces at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Sir Benjamin said: “l was shocked at the news about Notre Dame and I feel a bit guilty about how my family has treated the French over the centuries, especially as one of my ancestors designed Nelson's ship the Victory and built it out of English oak, so I thought this gesture might help to make amends.''

A spokesman for the aristocrat added: ''When once asked by an American visitor to Maunsel House, what his families' main line of business over the centuries consisted of, he replied 'mainly killing the French'.

''He has now has announced that he is donating a 50 ancient oak trees to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral.''

Sir Benjamin recently made headlines after publicising his search to find a wife who can provide him with two sons.

His eyebrow-raising list of requirements for the perfect "breeder" stated she should be no taller than 5ft6ins, aged between 30 and 40, possess a gun licence and be "castle trained".

The aristocrat, who made his fortune as a shipping magnate, also made headlines in 2012 after police staged a dramatic raid on his home, which saw him charged with possessing a firearm without a certificate and breaching a shotgun certificate by leaving a weapon unsecured.

He said he used the shotgun to shoot at foxes from his bedroom window. The descendant of King George IV said he wanted a "lady of the house" who is happy with £50,000 a month "pocket money".

British oaks from some of the UK’s most famous estates could contribute towards the rebuilding of Notre Dame cathedral, following an offer from members of Historic Houses, the association for independently owned historic houses and gardens.

So far more than one hundred donor estates, including Belvoir Castle, Hutton-in-the-Forest, Scone Palace, Castle Howard, Holkham Hall and Powderham Castle have volunteered valuable trees, planted for timber centuries ago, as a gift from the UK to France for the restoration of the iconic landmark’s roof, destroyed by fire last week.