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Everything else had been carefully catalogued including the estate accounts, so what had happened to John during these times of his life that he was determined to erase? John was the second son of Henry, the 8th Duke of Rutland and his wife Violet. Their first born son Haddon tragically died at the age of 9. Haddon's death occurs at the time of the first batch of missing correspondence in John, aged just 7 at the time, was sent away from home immediately after the funeral to live with his Uncle Charles - his mother Violet could not bear to look at him and Haddon was deeply mourned by his parents.

Violet's apparent cruelty, neglect and lack of compassion to her second son continues throughout his life, not once did his parents visit him when he was sent away to school and it was not until he was due to go to France as an Army officer in the Great War that they began to take notice of him again. It was not that they feared for John's safety, it was purely because they needed the Rutland name to be continued and the Belvoir Estate to remain in the family.

Violet's manipulating and pressurising of leading Army figures is astonishing to read, she comes across as a driven and hard-faced woman who will stop at nothing to get what she desires. John's father Henry was a weak man, more concerned with appearances than with his son's feelings. It is no wonder that John grew to be a damaged, vulnerable and needy adult. A man who found it difficult to love and to be loved and preferred to surround himself with inanimate objects and who was determined that no one would find out the family secrets. And there are so many secrets uncovered in this story; just how did little Haddon die?

Where exactly did John spend most of the war years? Catherine Bailey is a historian and successful television producer. She has produced a story that is accessible and well written, that reads like a novel but is in fact the whole truth. This is a fascinating look at how the wealthy and titled lived their lives, raised their families and how they behaved on the battle fields and beyond during the Great War.

A war that hundreds of thousands of ordinary men never returned from, but a war that Dukes and Lords often looked upon as a bit of a 'jolly' as they tucked into their luxury hampers whilst watching the battles from afar. The book is beautifully presented, with a detailed family tree, black and white photographs and a plan of Belvoir Castle. Dec 12, Kaethe Douglas rated it it was amazing Shelves: mystery , uk , war , nonfiction , gothic , history , biography , edwardian. After years of reading fictional gothic horrors, it's kind of a weird delight to discover that there are even stranger things going on in real life.

As mentioned in my review of Black Diamonds, I loved it so much I immediately had to get a hold of this, which was her first book. Baily is an historian who is granted access to the Duke of Rutland's private archive. She's going through these beautifully stored and catalogued collections of letters so many letters , and there are three g After years of reading fictional gothic horrors, it's kind of a weird delight to discover that there are even stranger things going on in real life.

She's going through these beautifully stored and catalogued collections of letters so many letters , and there are three gaps. The rest of the book is the painstaking collection of evidence to fill in those gaps and solve those mysteries.

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It's like watching Sherlock at work, as Bailey describes what she has to find next, and how, only she reveals what she discovers as it comes to light. The process is fascinating, as are the things those people got up to a century ago, not least because where did they find the time to plot and write all those letters?

The most entertaining sort of history. It's amazing, really, how quickly family history can be hidden. Props to the current Duke and Duchess of Rutland, for giving Bailey such access and assistance.

Questions?

Library copy. Jan 17, Courtney rated it liked it. This book bills itself as more riveting than it is. It does have a mystery- three actually- but is limited by the destroyed historical record, made all the more intriguing because it was done by John, the protagonist. Bailey is great at creating tension and suspense, but the pay off is extended and not complete enough.

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I would recommend reading this book if you know you can finish it in a short period of time; I read it in a week and that pace was even agonizing for the reveal. Slight spoilers b This book bills itself as more riveting than it is. Slight spoilers below - I wish the ending would have had a coda, with the author trying to link all three cuts together. Overall I feel like the book jacket promises more answers than the author could possibly deliver, which taints an otherwise interesting historical account.

Jun 06, Ghost of the Library rated it really liked it Shelves: library-book , england , english-history , european-history , high-society , british-empire , ww1. If I didn't know this was true I would have given sincere congratulations to the author for a very well balanced and inspired tale worthy of a movie adaptation However, as CBailey is given access to the family papers, locked away since the 9th Duke's death is , a different story literally falls into her lap and leads her on a journey just as compelling as any Gosford Park or Downton Abbey - only this time its the real deal.

When he died on April 20th the 9th Duke of Rutland, John, had spent the last years of his life metodically going through his family archives - no one really sure of what exactly he was doing, but so intent on it that he spent his last days locked away in those rooms and died in there.

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His son inherits the Dukedom and then proceeds to lock away the Muniment Rooms and its content, until the time that the author comes along to investigate the ties of the family to ww1 and the lifes of the men who fought in it. Sorting through boxes and boxes and papers she comes across missing pieces of information in the life of the Duke and these end up taking her in a completely different journey through the life of John, 10th Duke of Rutland. Having become heir to the tittle by the early, and tragically sad death, of his big brother Haddon, John carries most of his life the guilty of this death and the heavy burden his grief consumed mother and his distant father place on his shoulders.

Intrigued yet? This reads really well, and makes for a compelling read, especially for anyone interested in british society during WW1 - especially british high society.


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The author assumes a secondary role, almost one of simply gathering information, and letting these ghosts of Christmas past do all the talking through the many many letters she uncovered over the course of her research - ah, the wonderful art of proper letter writing What I found especially interesting was the many passages devoted to WW1, John was involved in it, and through letters and diary extracts we are given a privileged look at a world long gone, but still fascinating and compelling. I wont go into plot details, I don't want to spoil the fun of reading this one - suffice to say its worth the time and trouble The style of writing was a times a little tired but nonetheless, the story alone is worth all effort!

Happy Readings! Nov 12, Teresa rated it it was amazing. I don't usually read a lot of non-fiction but something about this story really drew me in and, to use that well-worn cliche, "you couldn't make it up".

The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey: review

From a daunting mountain of documents, Catherine Bailey has succeeded in excavating an intriguing and involving true story of one man's life - a very sad story emerges as she fills in the gaps in the life story of John Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland.

This is a very detailed and extremely well researched account which highlights the I don't usually read a lot of non-fiction but something about this story really drew me in and, to use that well-worn cliche, "you couldn't make it up". This is a very detailed and extremely well researched account which highlights the immense power held by the Manners family - power which is abused by Violet, John's mother, who is portrayed as a manipulative matriarch, determined to safeguard the future of the family line, at any cost.

Could duty to one's family possibly override duty to one's country at a time of war? When you don't have the luxury of "an heir and a spare" does the end justify the means? Despite John's efforts to cover up events, he hadn't reckoned on the tenacity and investigative skills of Catherine Bailey. It makes you feel quite sorry for some of the aristocracy although that is tempered a lot when you consider the immense numbers of Rutland estate workers who died in the trenches during the Great War. A very engaging and eye-opening read. Sep 30, Damaskcat rated it it was amazing.

The ninth Duke of Rutland died in in a suite of rooms which was then sealed by his son. For many years no one was allowed in the rooms. Catherine Bailey, the author of this fascinating book, was allowed access to them and to Belvoir Castle archives so that she could find out how World War I had affected the ordinary people of the area. Before long she realised there was another mystery she needed to investigate and write about.

Why had the ninth Duke spent the last years of his l The ninth Duke of Rutland died in in a suite of rooms which was then sealed by his son. Why had the ninth Duke spent the last years of his life closeted in these rooms? Why were there three conspicuous gaps in the records and in the family's personal correspondence? Why were these small rooms sealed after his death? Unravelling the mystery took a great deal of clever detective work because John Manners, the ninth Duke of Rutland, had been very thorough in his attempts to cover up those three periods in his, and his family's life.

Unfortunately for him, death had claimed him before he was able to complete his task. There were still bits of information scattered throughout the castle archives which provided clues to the missing months in , and I really enjoyed this intriguing historical detective story which is even more interesting because it actually happened. What emerges from the book is a fascinating picture of a family which probably today would be labelled dysfunctional.

John Manners was sent away from his parents after the sudden death of his brother and was brought up by his maternal uncle to whom he was very close. His mother, Violet, was manipulative and a thoroughly unpleasant character who believed that aristocratic families were still above the law even in the twentieth century. His father, Henry, was patriotic but believed he had to live in a certain style which the income from his vast estates could no longer support.

Both parents had idolised their dead eldest son and rather despised John, their second son. John himself had wanted an academic career but let himself be talked out of it. I found this book compulsive reading and was fascinated by the way the author managed to work out the possible explanations for the gaps in the records. The solutions to the mysteries give an insight into how strings could be pulled by those who knew the right people.

It also painted a vivid picture of the emotional life of a family after tragedy struck and the way family dynamics can affect one member of that family in a disproportionate way. This is a complex and detailed book, with many illustrations, plans of Belvoir Castle and a family tree as well as notes on all the chapters.

It will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading biographies or history. Jan 15, Sarah rated it it was amazing. I am big fan of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the lives of the aristocracy in late 19th Century and early 20th century Britain. Their traditions and way of life were quickly becoming unsustainable and irrelevant and their stories make great reading with many opportunities for humor. Bailey sets out to write a book abou I am big fan of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the lives of the aristocracy in late 19th Century and early 20th century Britain. Bailey sets out to write a book about the WWI experiences of young men from the villages surrounding the estate of the Duke of Rutland and requested access to the family archives in order to do her research.

John Manners, the 9th Duke, had been a young man at that time and had served for a time in France and she hoped to find good material in his files. Bailey tells the story of how she ferreted out the truth and you discover along with her what the Duke was trying to hide. While in the end the mysteries themselves were not so shocking, the behavior of many, though certainly not all, the titled and powerful, were. As I read this book I was reminded once again that novelists such as Waugh and Greene should be admired not so much for their cleverness but rather for their powers of observation.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Perhaps it is because of all the hype, but I found this book to be less than desired. Bailey discovers that a former lord of the castle has destroyed some correspondances for certain years and sets out to find out why.


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She can write; it is a galloping read. Yes, what she did was classist and all, but it almost seems like Bailey wants her to be the bad woman in every situtation as opposed to Perhaps it is because of all the hype, but I found this book to be less than desired. Yes, what she did was classist and all, but it almost seems like Bailey wants her to be the bad woman in every situtation as opposed to a mere human who might be not want another child to die before her.

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Jan 26, Penny rated it really liked it Shelves: 20th-century-history. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and it confirms by belief that truth is always far, far stranger than fiction.