In recent years, while his wife has devoted her energies to opposing GM foods and intensive farming, Bunter ploughed his efforts into party-going, usually in the company of pretty women.

When I once tackled him about the presence of a young actress 25 years his junior, who was often at his side, he offered this apercu: ‘I’ve been at parties with her, but I have not been to parties with her.’This was an elegant explanation that perhaps allowed the Worcesters’ marriage to rub along.

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One thinks of David Carnegie, who became Duke of Fife a couple of years ago and overnight became impossibly grand.‘I hope Bunter doesn’t change.’As he’s already of pensionable age, there is every chance he will not.

He will, after all, be the first of Britain’s 20 non-royal dukes to be a rock and roll musician.

As dowager duchess, provision will certainly have been made for her to move out of the big house and into a smaller property on the 52,000-acre Gloucestershire estate. Friends hope it will not be a hasty ejection — certainly not before her husband’s funeral and possibly not for some time afterwards. Bunter is in the process of ending his marriage to actress-turned-environmental activist Tracy Ward after three children and 30 years. Indeed, as Tracy told the Mail’s Shakespeare diary this week, she and her husband ‘continue to amicably negotiate our separation’.

I can reveal, however, that no matter how long this ‘negotiation’ lasts, Tracy, who has the title Marchioness of Worcester, has no plans to become chatelaine at Badminton — home of the world’s top three-day equestrian event.‘As Harry and I are separated, I will not be moving into Badminton House,’ she tells me simply.

His first wife and the mother of all four of his children, Lady Caroline Thynne, died in 1995 and the duke remarried in 2000.

His bride Miranda Morley, now 70, a landscape gardener and daughter of an Army officer, is only five years older than her stepson Bunter.

With the title of Duke of Beaufort comes one of England’s most historic estates, a £315 million fortune and ownership of Badminton House (pictured), a Palladian mansion with 40 bedrooms, multiple staircases and walls hung with masterpieces, including a brace of Canalettos either side of the fireplace George VI attended the 11th duke’s wedding in 1950, and when Bunter married in 1987, Prince Charles and Princess Diana as well as the Duke and Duchess of York were guests.

Princess Anne and her daughter Zara have been regular competitors at Badminton Horse Trials.

Another friend who has often accompanied Bunter on his night-time forays around London’s smarter parties, says: ‘He’s almost too nice to be a duke, not at all serious.

The trouble is, when people inherit these very senior titles, they often change.

He sings with seven-piece progressive rock band The Listening Device, described by Jools Holland as a ‘cross between Ray Charles and Nick Cave’.