The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and aFamily Secret [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 servants’ quarters of Belvoir Castle on April 21, 1940, his son and heir ordered the room, which contained the ...
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The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and aFamily Secret

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Overview

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 servants’ 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 records—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.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

When John the 9th Duke of Rutland died in April 1940, he was one of the wealthiest men in England—and probably one of the most lonely. Within days, his son decided on a strange response to his father's demise: He ordered that his papers be locked in a sealed room and not opened for sixty years. More than half a century later, Catherine Bailey, the author of this book, became the first person to peruse the immense archives of Belvoir Castle and the first to discover the dark secrets that had caused its suppression. A gripping family drama of World War I; perfect for fans of Downton Abbey.

Publishers Weekly
09/30/2013
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. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-01
A British documentary producer and historian creates a bang-up detective story around mysterious gaps in the archives chronicling the sad tale of the ninth Duke of Rutland. The master of the Belvoir Castle, commanding thousands of acres and priceless treasures dating from the 11th century, the Duke of Rutland--John Henry Montagu Manners--died of pneumonia in the bowels of his keep in April 1940, not long after a top-secret convoy of royal documents was delivered to the castle for safekeeping during the war. Bailey is truly a dogged detective in getting at the essential questions surrounding the reclusive duke's labored death: What was he so keen on finishing before he would give up the ghost? An obsessive archivist, he had spent the last decades of his life carefully sifting through and cataloging the records pertaining to his family history, even before King George VI had sanctioned the evacuation of important national documents to the castle. In 2008, Bailey was allowed access to the duke's private sanctuary, which had been sealed after his death. In her tireless digging, she discovered three important omissions of material encompassing three distinct dates in John's life: August 1894, when he was 8 and his older brother, then heir to the dukedom, suddenly took ill and died; June 1909, when he was 22 and corresponding with his uncle in cipher about his father, who had attempted to sell off his inheritance; and, finally, during much of 1915, when he was supposed to be serving on the western front but instead returned home to Belvoir at the instigation of his mother. What Bailey essentially uncovers is an entire moribund way of life in the great aristocratic families and the shockingly self-serving privilege put before the sense of national purpose. A compelling exposé on the once-almighty laws of ducal inheritance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101636749
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 12/31/2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 5,755
  • File size: 9 MB

Meet 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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Read an Excerpt

PART I

18–27 April 1940

Two doctors were already at the castle; a third, Lord Dawson, Physician to King George VI, was expected. It was mid-morning on Thursday 18 April 1940 and they were gathered at the entrance to a suite of rooms. The door leading into them was made of polished steel; the colour of gunmetal, it was the type used to secure a walk-in safe.

The door was firmly closed.

The light from the dim bulbs along the windowless passage cast pools of inky shadows around the waiting figures. Piles of cardboard boxes were stacked against the bare stone walls. Marked ‘Secret – Property of His Majesty’s Government’, they were secured with steel binding.

The doctors – Dr Jauch, a GP from Grantham, and Mr Macpherson, an eminent chest specialist – had been in and out of the rooms since dawn.

Shortly before eleven o’clock, the first footman, dressed in an azure tailcoat and navy-blue breeches, escorted Lord Dawson across the Guard Room. A coldly sumptuous hall, it was the first point of entry to the 356-room castle. Rows of muskets, taller than a man, and hundreds of swords, their blades sharp-edged and glinting, lined its walls. From the vaulted roof hung the tattered remnants of regimental colours, captured in battle. Directly in front of them, a magnificent staircase swept to the state rooms on the upper floors; and yet, as the footman led the King’s doctor across the hall, he veered to the right, heading for its farthest corner. There, he ushered him through a discreet swing door. It marked the border between master and servant. They had stepped into the ‘invisible world’.

Behind the Guard Room, the entire ground floor was devoted to the smooth running of the Duke’s household. A gloomy hinterland of fifty rooms, some cavernous, some no larger than a priest’s hole, it was where the servants lived and worked. From here, a network of passages coursed through the castle: hidden routes, which spiralled up the narrow turrets and towers to the splendid rooms above, enabling the servants to carry out their duties unobserved.

It was through this labyrinth of passages, deep in the servants’ quarters, that the footman conducted Lord Dawson, arriving at the steel door where the other doctors stood waiting.

They were at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. Built in the Gothic style and situated on a ridge eight miles from Grantham, it belonged to John Henry Montagu Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland. Aged fifty-three, he was one of the richest men in Britain. Three years earlier, he had carried the Sovereign’s Sceptre at the coronation. His family had lived at Belvoir since the eleventh century. Looking south from the castle’s Flag Tower, he owned the land as far as the eye could see.

Earlier that morning, the Duke’s wife, Kakoo, had telephoned Lord Dawson. Her husband was desperately ill. He must come to the castle immediately.

Up in the Flag Tower, the clock struck eleven. Ten minutes had passed since Lord Dawson’s arrival, but he had yet to be admitted to see the Duke. The sounds of distant industry drifted along the passageway: shouted orders; the banging of tools; the clatter of footsteps approaching on bare stone.

The sight of the King’s doctor in the passage immediately caught the servants’ attention.

‘If there was something serious going on, the housekeeper and the butler would try and keep it quiet,’ George Waudby, the third footman, recalled. ‘They might talk together, but they’d be tight-lipped in front of us lower ranks. We were their inferiors. We were the lowest of the low. We were never told anything. Everything we knew depended on what we saw or overheard.’

‘We all talked. We weren’t meant to, but we did,’ said Dorothy Plowright, the daughter of the boiler stoker. ‘Every rank had its gossip: the upstairs maids, the kitchen staff, the footmen, they all had their grapevines.’

Until that morning, the servants’ grapevine had had nothing to report. They had seen and heard very little. ‘We knew the Duke was unwell. He had been ill for a week. But we didn’t realize it was serious,’ said George Waudby. ‘We rarely saw the Duke. He spent all his time in his rooms. Every day, all day, he was in there. That had been the case for months. We knew this because they were in our quarters. Of course we had no idea what went on in there. Those rooms were absolutely secret. But we were told it was where the Duke worked. Nothing struck us as unusual. His routine hadn’t changed. He had carried on working as normal.’

The servants had had no reason to believe the Duke’s illness was life-threatening. Only two days previously, after spending the night at Belvoir, Lord Dawson had returned to London, satisfied that the

Duke was on the mend. Before leaving the castle, he had issued a short statement to the press:

The Duke of Rutland is suffering from pneumonia at his home, Belvoir Castle, and is now stated to be making satisfactory progress. The Duke, who is 53 and succeeded his father in 1925, was taken ill during last weekend.

That morning, however, the servants had reason to suspect that the Duke’s condition had deteriorated. Shortly after breakfast, three mysterious-looking packages were delivered to the castle. From that moment, they were on tenterhooks.

The porter was on duty when the packages arrived at the lodge. Marked ‘Urgent’, they were addressed to Mr Speed, the Duke’s valet. Two of the boxes were long and bulky; one was very heavy. The labels gave away their contents; they had come from Bartlett’s of Jermyn Street, Suppliers of Oxygen Tents.

The castle’s odd-job men were summoned to take the packages to the entrance of the Duke’s room, where Mr Speed was in attendance. ‘Besides the butler and the housekeeper, Mr Speed was the only ser- vant the Duke allowed in his rooms,’ George Waudby remembered. ‘The rest of us were forbidden to go in there.’

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    I found The Secret Rooms to be a fascinating read. Why did the N

    I found The Secret Rooms to be a fascinating read. Why did the Ninth Duke of Rutland erase himself from his family history. This is the question by brilliant writer and researcher Catherine Bailey in this book. The research is very in-depth. The writing is excellent. I give this book high marks.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2014

    This is a wonderful book that is interesting and very well-writt

    This is a wonderful book that is interesting and very well-written. The writer has the ability to make the reader feel as if he/she is a part of the mystery. The Secret Rooms is a page turner and one of the best books I have read. I highly recommend!!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2014

    Well researched. Too bad the characters were not more sympatheti

    Well researched. Too bad the characters were not more sympathetic. I give it 4 stars due to the excellent research and writing. But there are really no bombshells. Just manipulative parents and unhappy children. More sad than shocking.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 21, 2014

    SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!   I'd have to give the book 5 stars for th

    SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!   I'd have to give the book 5 stars for the research alone, but half way through when you realize
    what is happening  the impact or rather the let down of the mystery dips to 2 stars, so I marked it at three to sort of even it out.   
    Bailey is a great researcher and story teller but I did find the story started to drag down in retelling and minutia.   In the end I didn't like any
    of the characters, detested some and felt sorry for others, but all in all the great mystery is, frankly, a let down!   If I had to read one more 
    of the mothers letters I would scream!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    this is an okay read, just a little dry.

    The book seemed to drag on. Some parts of the book were repeated when the author is talking about his time on the front line. The review on the book made it sound more exciting and mysterious and made the mother sound very evil, when it wasn't. You learn about how he was rejected by the family, then how the family tried hard to get him to see he is the only heir left and how he needs to think of everything else and stop thinking of himself. just to find out he was in on it at the end.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    excellent

    intriguing look into english mystery and drama

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  • Posted February 8, 2014

    I REALLY wanted to like this book. Like another has mentioned, y

    I REALLY wanted to like this book. Like another has mentioned, you start this book and cannot put it down. It begins with mystery, immediate empathy for the main character and fills your mind with ideas of what the answer to the mystery is. Halfway in, it becomes beleaguered with detail and minutia that felt like sitting through history class. I felt the bulk of the read to be about WWI making me forget the "mystery" and "intrigue". Why the book description even refers to fans of Downton Abbey escapes me. The book was exceptionally well written, the author's research no doubt to be the most thorough and painstaking. However, this was an interesting read at best; my attention waning the closer I got to the finish.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Dowton Abbey fans won't be disappointed

    Castles, aristocracy, AND mystery? And its all a true story? Just started this today and can't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2014

    &stars. &knights. &rooks. &telephones.

    &smileyface

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 9, 2014

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    Posted March 13, 2014

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    Posted February 12, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

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