Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Secret Rooms - Catherine Bailey

A mystery discovered whilst researching for another book altogether meant that the author, with the permission of the current Duke of Rutland, set out to solve a riddle from the past and in doing so found two more.

The 9th Duke of Rutland died in 1940, in a small set of rooms on the ground floor of Belvoir Castle, Rutland.  His wife, the Duchess had called the doctor as a matter of urgency but when he arrived he was not permitted the enter, the Duke's footman had been ordered by the Duke not to let him in until he had "finished something" - he died next day, and his son ordered the rooms locked and sealed.  They stayed that way for over 60 years.  And there the mystery starts, although it begins much earlier, in 1898 when Haddon, the first child and heir and the elder brother of the 9th Duke, dies.

Catherine Bailey discovers three gaps in the family papers, and when she sets out to find out what those gaps covered in the history of the Manners family she finds things that you couldn't make up!  For me, this was as exciting as a thriller, only better;  it was shocking - the word Machiavellian comes to mind when thinking about John, Duke of Rutland's mother Violet!  It was truly a tale of power that goes with place;  it will bring you up with a shock on on sorts of subjects; and it was a real page turner!  Oh, and it will give you a feel for the way things were then in the upper classes and in society and Parliament.  You may think again about how politicians behave now;  and it is certain that our current armed forces are better supported by senior staff now than they were then..... If you remember the last series of Blackadder and the running joke about Haig's Drinks Cabinet - well, think again.

The book Catherine Bailey started out to research was originally about the number of workers from Belvoir Castle and the Belvoir estate who marched off to WW1, and she has added the entire list of the war dead from Belvoir towards the end of the book.   Recommended.