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At 24, Johnny Arkwright, grandson of the "richest commoner in Europe," inherits Hampton Court, Herefordshire, putting him among the elite of the world's most powerful nation. Yet those of his generation that seemed to inherit the earth were about to see their world disintegrate and disappear, as landowning entered its biggest shake-up since the Reformation. The 60 years of "champagne and shambles" between Johnny's 21st birthday in 1854 and World War I are brought vividly to life by Catherine Beale. She shows why so many of the country houses that we visit today have lost their occupants, and by using Johnny's own letters reveals how it felt to let such a rich inheritance go. She also reconnects those houses to the land by which they were surrounded, demonstrating that many of the issues facing the countryside today are not new. Uncovering how so many of these houses became the property of the National Trust, Catherine Beale reconnects the UK with their heritage.

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