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 moneya 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.
and#8220;In pages more reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe than Evelyn Waughand#8230; [Bailey] reminds us why this seemingly insignificant story bears telling.and#8221; and#8211; The New York Times Book Review
and#8220;With gripping detail and graceful proseand#8230;Baileyand#8217;s work can best be described as a work of probative history written with the storytelling skills of a latter-day Agatha Christie.and#8221; and#8211; The Richmond Times-Dispatch
and#8220;Populated with a bevy of real-life aristos who played by their own twisted and privileged set of rules, a searing portrait of family intrigue, dysfunction, and hubrisand#8212;a la Downton Abbeyand#8212;emerges.and#8221; and#8211; Booklist
and#8220;Bailey is a truly dogged detectiveand#8230; a compelling exposand#233;and#8221; and#8211; Kirkus Reviewsand#160;
and#8220;Bailey deserves commendation for her meticulous research as well as her storytelling.and#8221; and#8211; Publisherand#8217;s Weeklyand#160;
and#8220;Gripping. Reads like the best kind of mystery story. It is a tale of mistresses and heirlooms, cowardice and connivance.and#8221; and#8211; The Sunday Times (London)
and#8220;Compelling. A remarkable piece of research which throws a bright shaft of light on powerful people, hypocrisy and the First World War.and#8221; and#8211; The Guardian
Praise for Black Diamonds
“Black Diamonds has the great gift of bringing to life personal histories…wonderfully paced and wholly satisfying.” - Kate Atkinson, New York Times bestselling author of Life After Life
“While this will be an easy sell to Downton Abbey fanatics, this fascinating history is highly recommended to anyone who loves family gossip and mystery.” - Library Journal
“Gossipy bits…keep the reading lively. The real value of this work is the recounting of the ends of two classes, the lower and the very upper.” - Kirkus Reviews
"Extraordinary, fascinating, harrowing. A truly compelling read" The Sunday Telegraph
"Brilliant, gripping . . . one heck of a good read and will keep you bolt upright all night" The Daily Telegraph
"A fascinating story . . . breaks the heart and haunts the memory" Country Life
"Research worthy of an unsolved serial killing" The Sunday Times
"A compelling new history . . . fascinating insights into the dynasty that once ruled this Yorkshire roost" The Daily Mail
"A triumph of research" The Evening Standard
"With all of the dramatic trappings and romantic details of a sweeping epic . . . vibrant and gripping" The Observer
"Bailey offers an extraordinarily vivid series of descriptions of life at Wentworth" Literary Review
"Black Diamonds admirably reflects both the nobility of the minors and the degradation of those who exploited them" The Guardian
For fans of Downton Abbey, t
his 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 read history at Oxford University and is an award-winning television producer and director, making a range of critically acclaimed documentary films inspired by her interest in twentieth century history. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Secret Rooms and Black Diamonds. She lives in West London.