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The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secretby Catherine Bailey
Synopses & Reviews
From the New York Timesbestselling author of The Secret Rooms, the extraordinary true story of the downfall of one of Englands wealthiest families
Fans of Downton Abbey looking for fascinating, real-life stories of the spectacular lives led by Englands aristocrats need look no further. With the novelistic flair and knack for historical detail Catherine Bailey displayed in her New York Times bestseller The Secret Rooms, Black Diamonds is a page-turning chronicle of the Fitzwilliam coal-mining dynasty and their breathtaking Wentworth estate, the largest private home in England. Taking place during the same time period as the current season of Downton Abbey, Black Diamonds chronicles the vast changes that swept through England in the first half of the 20th century.
When the sixth Earl Fitzwilliam died in 1902, he left behind the second largest estate in twentieth-century England, valued at more than £3 billion of todays money—a lifeline to the tens of thousands of people who worked either in the familys coal mines or on their expansive estate. The earl also left behind four sons, and the family line seemed assured. But was it? As Bailey retraces the Fitzwilliam family history, she uncovers a legacy riddled with bitter feuds, scandals (including Peter Fitzwilliams ill-fated affair with American heiress Kick Kennedy), and civil unrest as the conflict between the coal industry and its miners came to a head. Once again, Bailey has written an irresistible and brilliant narrative history.
"While researching another book, historian Bailey uncovered mysterious gaps in the correspondence of the 9th Duke of Rutland, John Manners. Wondering who had removed the letters, she unravels secret after secret of the wealthy family at Belvoir Castle circa WWI. These include coded messages, a cover-up of a young boy's death, disputes over inherited property, and possible military desertion. Bailey brings to life the calculating matriarch, Violet, Duchess of Rutland, who abandons John as a child and then tries to control every aspect of his life in adulthood via surveillance and emotional manipulation. She ruthlessly pursues a potential wife for her son and orchestrates a massive campaign to have him removed from the war's front lines that involved prostituting her daughter to a married military adviser. Bailey also recalls some of the major events of the war, including the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, where Britain suffered massive casualties while John was kept safe, due to his mother's machinations, and the Battle of Hill 60 at Ypres, where the Germans first used chemical weapons. Bailey deserves commendation for her meticulous research as well as her storytelling. Illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
For fans of Downton Abbey, this New York Times bestseller is the enthralling true story of family secrets and aristocratic intrigue in the days before WWI
After the Ninth Duke of Rutland, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, died alone in a cramped room in the servantsand#8217; quarters of Belvoir Castle on April 21, 1940, his son and heir ordered the room, which contained the Rutland family archives, sealed. Sixty years later, Catherine Bailey became the first historian given access. What she discovered was a mystery: The Duke had painstakingly erased three periods of his life from all family recordsand#151;but why? As Bailey uncovers the answers, she also provides an intimate portrait of the very top of British society in the turbulent days leading up to World War I.
About the Author
Catherine Bailey is an award-winning television producer and director of critically acclaimed documentary films inspired by her interest in twentieth-century history. She lives in London.
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