The Clermont Set
The Clermont Set was a group of very rich upper crust British gamblers who belonged to a private gambling club called the Clermont Club in London in the 1960’s. The club was based in No 44 Berkley Square and was one of the first private casinos to open in London. The Clermont Set comprised over the years of a number of Earls, Lords, Cabinet ministers and other Royals. Princess Margaret the Queen’s sister was a part of the club and the set at one stage as was Sir Ian Flemming and Peter Sellers. The Clermont Set was known to be high rollers, and big partiers. Over the years the Clermont Set was accused of various nefarious things, but not much could be proven as so often happens with rich, private people.
How the Clermont Set got Started
Beau Brummel first occupied the fashionable address of 44 Berkley Square when gambling in the UK was still illegal away from racecourses. This did not stop the infamous dandy and womaniser from hosting illegal gaming nights with friends at his house. A flamboyant and charismatic character, Beau classed among his friends the future King George the IV, and often invited him to the illegal gaming nights. From there a number of other celebrities including Lord Lucan, Sir James Goldsmith and John Aspinall all helped to put the notorious address on the map as an underground but still well known gambling house. These were the originals of the Clermont Set.
John Aspinall turned the property into a proper private casino in 1962, after the gambling laws in the UK had been relaxed. In fact his club, the Clermont Club was the first casino in London. At the club one could find a mixture of backgammon, card games, French Roulette and bridge. Mr Aspinall had a large amount of capital from operating illegal gambling sessions in the homes of friends, including Beau Brummel and No 44 Berkley square before he took over the property and made it official. The Clermont Club became wildly popular, especially among the rich and upper class. A number of Arab oil sheiks also frequented it, splashing their oil money around willy-nilly. During this time period the Clermont Set gained a reputation for political intrigue as well as being the brains behind many of the biggest business deals of the 1960’s in England.
Clermont Set Intrigues
Two main allegations bugged the members of the Clermont Set during its heyday. The first was that the main character John Aspinall was in fact a gigantic con man, and managed to steal millions of dollars from unsuspecting gamblers who were not a part of the Clermont Set. This was achieved through marked cards and other techniques. Eventually John Aspinall took all of his ill gotten money, and indulged in his passion for animal husbandry, starting a small zoo on his property that included a tiger, two bears and a monkey.
The second allegation centred on a Clermont Set member Lord Lucan. Lord Lucan was accused of killing his nanny in 1974 and attacking his wife, or hiring a hit man to do so. It is alleged that his friends in the Clermont Set set him up with the funds necessary to carry out his project, and when he needed to disappear made it look as if he himself had been killed. To this day his body has never been found, and he has been supposedly sighted all over the world. The other theory is that his high society friends, repulsed at the thought of becoming embroiled in the scandal, arranged his murder.