“Even in death, the Duke was reluctant to leave these rooms: his last wish was that his body should remain there until the day of his funeral…The Duke had specifically asked that all but his family and his closest friends should be barred from his last resting place…On 27 April, three days after he was buried, someone broke into them.” Catherine Bailey, The Secret Rooms
British historian Catherine Bailey was given unprecedented access to the archives of Belvoir Castle. As she chronicled her findings, she was surprised to find that the 9th Duke of Rutland had removed artifacts and materials from three periods of his life. Her findings led her to uncover family secrets that he desperately wished to hide, even up to the moment of his death.
“The family’s downfall was unthinkable. William, Earl Fitzwilliam, had left a great fortune. Four sons–each named William after him–survived him. The coal industry was booming: the family’s wealth and power seemed as solid and unshakeable as the foundations of their vast house….Yet the Fitzwilliams and the thousands who worked for them were about to become the central figures in an approaching catastrophe…What was unthinkable on that day in February 1902 happened.” Catherine Bailey, Black Diamonds
In a house so large that guests were given tins of colored confetti to find their way back to their rooms, secrets lurked, placing its legacy on unstable ground. Historian Catherine Bailey sets a course to find out the truth behind the heirs of Wentworth House, the scandals that rocked the family, and the decline of one of the grandest families in England.
If you are as obsessed with Downton Abbey as I am, you are in for a treat with these two works of narrative history. The texts read like novels, and are full of fascinating facts, maps, family trees, and photographs. Indulge in the books while the popular program airs in the US, or wait to savor them to fill the void at Downton Abbey’s conclusion.
To win both books, simply comment below about your favorite Downton Abbey storyline, or related period piece. Enter by 9 PM ET on Monday, February 2nd, and share on social media. (US residents only, please.) Good luck!