Henry was the epitome of the English hunting man, and the Beaufort Hunt was the hunt of all hunts, so it is not surprising that the Duke was the prime target for all the hunt-saboteurs of England. When they first buried him in the church of Badminton House (yes, it's big enough to have it's own church), some anti-hunt demonstrators crept in during the middle of the night and dug the poor Duke's corpse up, leaving it on show above ground for people to discover in the morning. When they reburied him, they made sure that this could not happen again by covering the spot with a six foot by six foot by six inch thick pad of concrete. That would keep the old boy down. It may also explain why I cannot find any pictures of the elaborate tomb on Google - they do not want to attract any attention, I suppose.
I arrived at Simon's workshop just as he was putting the finishing touches to the table-top tomb, and it stood next to a full-size plaster mock-up in the little room. Next to the mock up was a velvet cushion on which was placed the actual red and gold coronet of the Duke, so that Simon could copy it in Portland stone - including cushion with tassels - to sit like a cherry on top of the cake-like monument in the churchyard. He had to go to Badminton and borrow the coronet, which was given to him by the current Duke's butler, who told him to take good care of it, as this was the only one in existence, and it had existed for about 300 years. It was covered in cling-film to protect it from the dust.
Coming from a sound and sensible masonic background, it was to be my job to oversee it's installation at the church, and this little job was not without incident - some of which were hair-raising in the extreme, and almost involved the loss of even more lives than the Duke's.
When I arrived at the churchyard to assess the situation, I found the massive slab of concrete which covers the Duke, and was looking at the wall of the church where I could just make out the sprayed graffiti words, "BEAUFORT ROT IN HELL" which had been put there by the grave-robbers and partially cleaned off by the flower ladies, when a car pulled up sharply and two men in suits got out and challenged me.
I told them who I was and they relaxed, but I asked them how they knew I was there so quickly, and they pointed to an antennae scanner on the roof of the church. They said that it used to go off every night, and they would rush to the grave expecting to find it being attacked by hunt saboteurs again, but always found nothing. After about a week, they lay - hidden - in wait, and discovered that it was being set off by a fox which trotted over the old Duke's grave at the same time every night.
The tomb is basically four five inch walls and a roof, and when I constructed it, the inside of the walls had to be reinforced with a matrix of concrete blocks, so that it could not be knocked through with a sledge-hammer - a very likely possibility at the time. When we unpacked the blocks for the walls, we discovered that the supplier of the stone had rubbed a small chamfer on all four sides of every block, which - when laid - would have given the impression that the joints in the masonry were about 4 times thicker than they actually were, and Simon (as was usual) hit the roof. Nothing could placate him, and he was furious that he could not blame me for it.
"The first person who is going to see this thing is the fucking Queen, for God's sake!" he yelled, and he was telling the truth. HRH was going to be at the dedication and memorial service for the Duke, and - given her position in society - would be the first one to lay flowers against the tomb. There was nothing for it but to rub about 2mm from the face of each and every block, putting about an extra 4 days on the job.
As Martin (his brilliant but taciturn assistant) and me began to build the finished walls, an elderly lady wandered up, looking confused and bewildered. "I'm looking for my husband. Have you seen him"? she asked imploringly, and it wasn't until a nurse came up to her to lead her back to the house that we realised that this was the Duchess - widow of the very person upon whose grave we stood and who she was looking for. Very sad, and a good example of how death is, indeed, the great leveler.
At last, the time came to lay the table block on the four walls before literally crowning it with the stone coronet. Easy-Peasy.
The piece of intricately carved stone was about 7 feet by 5 feet by 6 inches or so, and weighed about three-quarters of a ton. My plan was to bring a 'shear-leg' tripod on site and sling a chain hoist from it, pick the slab up, build a pedestal of straw bales beneath it, let it down on them, then roller it across a bridging board to the top of the tomb, move the shear-legs to over the walls, pick it up again then lay it in place. Simple - but not simple enough for Simon, who is not known for his patience when it comes to viewing the finished work. At the time he looked upon me as a clay-footed, belt and braces sort of pedestrian, and he insisted that we would pick the thing up on the tripod and simply swing it over to the tomb. Wrong, but he would not hear otherwise.
I tried - in vain - to explain to him that shear legs were made for direct lifts only, and the fact that they only had three legs was proof of this, but he was having none of it, so I began lifting the thing against my better judgement and waiting for the disaster which would inevitably occur. It did.
As he and Martin began to push and pull the huge slab over the four feet toward the top of the walls, one scaffold-pole leg fell out of it's socket and struck Simon full on the head, leaving the 3/4 ton block swinging from two spindly legs only, and Martin and me desperately trying to keep it upright as Simon reeled around the yard with blood pouring from his head-wound.
Somehow, we managed to stop it from falling flat on it's side and destroying itself, the rest of the tomb and Simon all in one go, then cranked it down onto the safety of the four walls before laying the two legs flat on the grass, seeing to our wounds and getting our breath back.