The discreet announcement, made just yesterday, was much as you might expect for the very newest member of the British aristocracy: ‘To Emma, Viscountess Weymouth, and Ceawlin, Viscount Weymouth, a son, Henry Richard Isaac.’
Born at a private clinic on December 30, the Honourable Henry Thynn – a second grandson for the 7th Marquess of Bath – will soon be tucked up safely in his ancestral home, the magnificent Longleat House.
There, however, the sense of tradition comes to a genteel halt. For, as Henry’s visibly relieved father cut the umbilical court and Lady Weymouth cradled her son for the first time, both new parents turned to another woman; an exhausted but beaming thirtysomething lying in the delivery bed – and thanked her gratefully.
The miracle that is modern medicine means Henry is almost certainly the first member of the British aristocracy to have been born by surrogacy, in this case using one of his mother’s eggs and his father’s sperm, a process overseen more than 5,000 miles away from rural Wiltshire in the pristine surroundings of a Californian medical facility.
‘We are simply ecstatic,’ says Emma. ‘His arrival has completed our little family and brought us so much happiness.’
The couple already have a two-year-old son, John, which means they can now look to the future with ‘an heir and a spare’, the family line secure.
Her husband adds: ‘Never did I imagine that in West Hollywood I’d become father to John’s little miracle baby brother.
‘It’s a wonder of modern science that the Longleat Bath family has been completed (for now at least) by Emma and I having a much-loved son, helped so crucially by a tremendous surrogate in California, to extend our family.’
Henry is named after his great-grandfather, the 6th Marquess, who caused a scandal after the Second World War when he opened the Longleat house and gardens to the public, before later creating the country’s first safari park.
Ceawlin, 42, and 30-year-old Emma have already made history – the Viscountess is the country’s first black British aristocrat following their 2013 marriage. He will one day become the Marquess of Bath and she his Marchioness.
But that achievement, which came in the face of prejudice and in some cases downright hostility, is nothing to the struggle she has undergone to have a second child.
As the couple explain today, their choice of surrogacy is the result of a terrifying brain illness suffered by Emma during her first pregnancy in 2014, when doctors warned that having a second child could kill her.
At what has been their temporary home since Christmas, a six-bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills, the couple have decided to share their story to help take the stigma and mystery out of a process which may cause unease in the strait-laced circles of the aristocracy.
‘We have certainly been worried about how people will react to the news,’ says Emma. ‘I just want them to know this is not about my vanity or that I was too lazy. I’m not the kind of person who would have done this for anything less than a very important reason.
‘I didn’t care about my weight gain or that breast feeding would ruin my body. I just want to live to see my children grow up. I did not want to take the risk of something tragic happening. I really enjoyed being pregnant up until the point when the terrifying pains began.’
Relaxing on a sofa in a reception room with a spectacular vista of sprawling LA, she gently cradles the sleeping newborn as she recalls the trauma of her first pregnancy.
The problems began when Emma was diagnosed with a disorder of the pituitary gland, which left her with searing pain she describes as ‘like a knife stabbing at my brain’.
The memory clearly still overwhelms her. ‘I had never known such pain,’ she reveals. ‘It was beyond anything I could imagine.
‘I tried everything to alleviate it, but often ended up lying in a dark room trying not to move. Even breathing too hard was agony.’
The headaches – which started in the summer of 2014, during her third trimester – were manageable with painkillers until the family was on holiday in the South of France. There, her symptoms escalated.
‘I was more worried about the baby than myself,’ she continues. ‘It was so upsetting to be that ill. It hurt so much that I threw up and Ceawlin called an ambulance.’
Doctors at the local hospital thought the pain was hormone-related. But once back in Britain, Emma’s symptoms got progressively worse. She tried various treatments – including wearing a neck brace – but nothing worked.
Emma says it felt as if she was bleeding in her brain, which is exactly what an MRI scan revealed.
Although doctors initially suspected a non-cancerous tumour, she was diagnosed with a rare but serious condition called hypophysitis, involving swelling and bleeding, which can cause a stroke during a ‘traditional’ birth.
Ceawlin, seated beside his wife, takes up the story. ‘The doctors didn’t understand hypophysitis very well at all, but they knew it was potentially fatal,’ he says.
‘They had to inject Emma with steroids to help develop the baby’s lungs, as they prepared for an emergency C-section three weeks before her due date, because her life was at risk from a natural birth.
‘It was a very worrying time, especially as no one could really tell us much about the condition.’
As it was, Emma underwent months of tests even after John was born safely, and is still being monitored by doctors because of the growth on her brain, which though small has not disappeared.
She has had ten MRI scans in the past two years, but does her best to ignore the anxiety.
‘I try not to think about it because the doctors don’t know what to do,’ she admits.
Yet they had always wanted two children. ‘Ceawlin and I had talked about it from the start,’ she continues. ‘We thought two was a good number because we wanted John to have a brother or sister.’
Which meant the only choices were adoption – or the seemingly radical step of surrogacy.
They opted for surrogacy because two family friends had done it. ‘They said it was wonderful,’ recalls Emma. ‘We also took advice from friends who were doctors.’
They settled on California, again after a recommendation.
Ceawlin explains that the US state has the most advanced legal system for the procedure.
For example, it allows money to be exchanged, while Britain insists no more than expenses can be paid to the woman who will carry the child.
‘Obviously, we would have preferred to do it closer to home, but the legal system in Britain has not evolved with medical technology, so any contract with a surrogate is not binding,’ he says.
‘Even if the baby is 100 per cent yours (ie the sperm and egg) the surrogate still has the right to keep the baby. California has the most evolved legal system in the world [for surrogacy].’
They flew in to meet with the agents of a commercial surrogacy firm in September 2015 and were told at the consultation that there was a willing surrogate available. There was no selection process.
Not long afterwards, they met the woman, who had three children and, says Ceawlin, they ‘clicked immediately’. ‘She was young and healthy. It was her first surrogacy and she was eager to help. We liked her very much.’
As the months passed they kept in touch by Skype, and have met her natural family. ‘I think we’ll always have a connection,’ Emma says.
‘We are so appreciative about the gift she has given us. But I always felt it was our child she was looking after for us. We were just grateful someone was so generous as to give up so much of their lives for us.
‘It will be an important life lesson for Henry to learn when he is older and we tell him what we went through to have him.’
Which was a great deal, including an intense medical regime to synchronise the two women’s menstrual cycles and ‘tons and tons’ of drugs, to increase Emma’s eggs for harvesting and in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Six weeks later they found they had a number of embryos to choose from.
‘We naturally chose the healthiest one,’ continues Emma. ‘It turned out to be male, but it was not planned. Yes, we wanted to know the sex, but it didn’t really matter. We just wanted the strongest one.’
Despite frequent trips to America, they managed to keep the process private, telling people they were on business. Indeed, until a couple of months ago, they had told only close friends and family, fearing something might go wrong.
However, they wouldn’t say if ‘family’ includes Ceawlin’s father, the colourful Marquess of Bath or his mother, both of whom snubbed the couple’s wedding in 2013, held at Longleat.
Lord Bath has expressed great displeasure at Ceawlin’s modernisation of Longleat since he took control of the estate in 2013, which involved removing a number of the Marquess’s prized erotic paintings from the main house.
Emma’s side of the family did know about the surrogate pregnancy. Her sister Samantha and her mother, Suzanna McQuiston, flew to LA to support the couple as they waited for the birth, which had been expected just before Christmas.
Emma and Ceawlin were both present when, finally, Henry arrived. ‘It was amazing and very emotional,’ says Emma. ‘We cried with happiness and I felt the love immediately, as I had with John.’
They had planned to take the baby home that night, but he was not feeding properly and had a slight case of jaundice.
Though not in danger, it was decided to monitor him overnight. Instead, the couple celebrated New Year’s Eve at the clinic with two-year-old John meeting his new brother the next morning.
‘We had talked to John about the new baby and so he was as excited as us when we took him home,’ she says. ‘He smiled the biggest smile ever and could hardly wait to touch his baby brother.
‘It has been the perfect start to the New Year. Having my first baby was wonderful, but I’m now much more confident and my state of mind much better.
‘I’d forgotten how tiny new babies are. With John, I was so ill and frightened – I felt overwhelmed.
‘The fear made me worry about him so much that it was crippling. I became an insomniac and worried about everyone falling ill. It was disturbing to feel so completely out of control of my body, especially as I had always been very healthy.’
The joy shines out of face as she cradles Henry, who is burrowed into her chest and makes mewling sounds in his sleep.
‘I felt so guilty not being able to carry him myself – what mother would not wish to do so?’ she says. ‘This time around I am able to enjoy the pleasure of being a mother without any shadows.
‘I feel very lucky and blessed. I know I’m very fortunate to be able to afford it.’
Emma, the daughter of a Nigerian oil tycoon and an English mother, says that she had hoped the arrival of a grandson could help heal the rift with Lord Bath and his wife.
That does not appear to have happened.
But with a dozen of her unused eggs in storage, there may be more chances to promote harmony at Longleat House, where both sides live in separate wings.
‘Who knows how we will feel in the future?’ says Ceawlin. ‘Of course it would be another surrogacy and we would want it to be a daughter.’
But for now, Lord and Lady Weymouth are content with just the two, who will ensure a 400-year line succession continues, if not quite smoothly, then uninterrupted.
SOURCE: ANGELLA JOHNSON