‘Saltburn’ for Real: Meet the Young, Rich ‘Narco-Toffs’ Who Party Hard

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty

The extraordinary claim by Rebel Wilson that she was invited to a drug-fueled orgy by a minor royal at an L.A. party was greeted with wry amusement by friends of some hard-partying members of the British aristocracy and minor royals this week.

Dubbed the “narco-toffs” by their peers, there has always been a section of the upper class that has incorporated copious drug-taking alongside the more traditional society pursuits of hunting, shooting, and fishing.

Take the famously dissolute John Hervey, the 7th Marquess of Bristol, who inherited a vast fortune but died penniless from drug addiction in 1999. The writer Anthony Haden-Guest described his parties as places where “cocaine and heroin were catered like flowers.” Hervey kept a helicopter at his country estate, and would famously steer by a road map on his knees, while snorting cocaine off it. He died in agony of multiple organ failure brought on by drug use.

Rebel Wilson Says a British Royal Invited Her to an Orgy Party

Another wild figure of the 1970s and ’80s social scene was Viscount Jamie Blandford. He was the great-grandson of gilded age grande dame Consuelo Vanderbilt, whose loveless marriage to the 9th Duke of Marlborough poured gold into the depleted family coffers. Jamie was jailed multiple times and clocked up over 20 convictions for drug and other offenses. He had such a well-known affection for fast living that his father, the 11th Duke, at one stage took court action to try and bar him from inheriting the family pile.

However, Blandford mended his relationship with his father and in 2014 succeeded to the title and the estate. Indeed, he cleaned up his act to such an extent that in 2021, seven years after having succeeded to the dukedom, he successfully stood for election to his local town council.

In more recent years, several minor royals have been caught up in drug use scandals. Lord Frederick Windsor, 45, a second cousin of King Charles III, admitted using cocaine at the age of 20 and Tom Parker Bowles, son of the future Queen Camilla, was caught admitting to cocaine use in 1999. Viscount David Linley, Princess Margaret’s son, was blackmailed in 2007, by being threatened with the potential release of video footage showing alleged sexual acts and alleged cocaine use. His blackmailers got five years in prison.

A photo including a photo of Prince Harry.

Prince Harry.

Kevin Winter/Getty

Prince Harry is currently facing questions about the drug use he admitted to in his memoir by a conservative American think tank that wants to see his immigration application. And this week it was revealed that Princess Beatrice’s ex-boyfriend Paolo Liuzzo was found dead of a suspected drug overdose in a Miami hotel room. He once claimed Beatrice and her sister Eugenie, then 15, had attended a party with him in Jamaica where guests drank magic mushroom tea.

And then there is the writer Aatish Taseer, who dated Lady Gabriella Windsor and subsequently wrote in Vanity Fair: “For three surreal years, Ella and I hung about Kensington Palace; we swam naked in the queen’s pool in Buckingham Palace; we did MDMA in Windsor Castle.”

So, while Wilson’s claim in her new memoir Rebel Rising, that she was invited to a lavish party which turned into a molly-fueled orgy by a man who was “tenth or fifteenth” in line to the throne, has been called into question by some, to London’s upper-class party set it rings very true.

One source in the posh British party scene told The Daily Beast: “Drugs and sex? It’s what the lotus-eaters do.”

One London drug dealer, who sells products regularly to London’s upper-class party set, said it came as no surprise to him that a minor royal should be accused of attending a drug-fueled orgy. “Lots of my customers are ex-boarding school students with cold parents who don’t even know they are traumatized by it. I’ve known them for years, I went to university with them, I’m an equal, I just happen to be bringing the gear. These people don’t want to use anonymous drop-off services.”

The dealer said cocaine “is very passé now,” with parties more likely to be fueled by magic mushroom-infused alcohol “drops” that cost as little as £60 ($75) for about 40 drops. “Someone puts two drops on your hand and you lick it off. No need to go buggering about in the toilets, and you don’t get the jitters that you do from cocaine.”

Another regular party-goer said that the narco-toff scene has now divided into two, with one side still knocking back cocaine and molly at rave-style private parties and the other more boho camp taking a hippy wellness approach to their drug taking. “They are into microdosing, ayahuasca, magic mushrooms and (the psychedelic) DMT,” the source said. “It’s much more about spiritual highs. I heard of one crew recently that flew a shaman in from Peru for an ayahuasca weekend at a stately home. That’s been going on in Ibiza for ages, but it’s a new thing here.”

The patron saint of this Gaia gang, of course, is Prince Harry, who revealed in his memoir, Spare that he had used ayahuasca, at first recreationally but subsequently as a therapeutic tool.

“It is genuinely different to be going on an ayahuasca weekend than to just be staying up all night getting fucked on chemicals, which is actually a pretty grim thing to do when you have kids, and responsibilities,” the source said. “Also, if you are mid-rewilding the estate, it doesn’t really do to be supporting crime gangs and ecological destruction in the Amazon to get your nosebag.”

The sybaritic lifestyles of some sections of the British nobility remains, anachronistically perhaps, a powerful narrative in contemporary film and TV. Most recently, of course, there has been Saltburn, a kind of Brideshead Revisited redux with added narcotics, and Guy Ritchie’s posh crime comedy caper series The Gentlemen, which tells the story of a newly-ennobled duke who discovers his late father has been keeping the roof on the place by allowing a powerful criminal gang to grow industrial quantities of weed in an underground factory in a far-flung corner of the estate.

A photo including Barry Keoghan in the film “Saltburn” on Amazon Prime Video.

Barry Keoghan in “Saltburn.”

Amazon Prime Video

The younger generation of toffs sometimes ironically refer to themselves as “chins”—an abbreviation of the phrase “chinless wonders” which once disparagingly described a class of slightly useless, rich and privileged aristocrats. Their lives and language are documented by the anonymous author of the hilarious publishing hit The Chin Dictionary, an anarchic take on Nancy Mitford’s famous Noblesse Oblige for the 21st century.

One entry, which perhaps gives a wry insight into the ideal Chin party, is “Bowser’s Castle,” described as, “The popular, after-dinner game of driving a quad bike up the hall stairs. Named after the N64 Mario Kart level, where you have to navigate a huge castle, dodge ancient statues, and forget to leave a tenner for the cleaner.”

The author, who preserves his anonymity, preferring to go by the title Chief Chin, was unable to speak to The Daily Beast when we called for a chat on the subject of narco-toffs, as he was just stepping into a drinks party at private London bank Hoares which, he joked, was “the most Chin thing imaginable.”

However, in a subsequent email he said: “Mushrooms are ubiquitous, gak (coke, for your less-initiated readers) are passé. Mushrooms are more socially acceptable: not only are they synonymous with woodlands and festivals and outdoor space, but the psilocybin component links neatly to the tech/VC scene which chins get excited by.

“Also, everyone has the same dealer who is reputedly turning over £500k a month. He brands his mushrooms in lovely chocolate bars designed to look like Green and Blacks, and can be found dressed like a kind of pirate-wizard at most festivals but especially Noisily and Heartwood.

“A pinger (an E) at a wedding is also very common. Its users (of which I am not one, I just enjoy observing others’ behavior) really kicks the traditional wedding band and bog-standard marquee-in-field in the nuts.”

But as for servers handing round MDMA at the party Rebel Wilson attended, that wouldn’t happen these days, another source told The Daily Beast.

“Maybe in 2014 that was a thing, but none of the poshos are doing drugs in public these days because they don’t want to lose their jobs at JP Morgan,” the source said. “Also, she said it was at a rented house, which sounds a bit tacky. Far better if you have your own fuck-off stately to host the party in, and then you don’t have randos like her selling you out.”

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