Splendour & Squalor: The Disgrace and Disintegration of Three Aristocratic Dynasties
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From stately homes and prisons to the House of Lords and Edwardian asylums—the stories, spanning the 20th century, of the disintegrating fortunes of three of Britain’s most illustrious aristocratic dynasties and the scapegraces responsible
Splendour & Squalor traces the disintegration of three aristocratic dynasties through the twentieth century: families who seemingly had everything yet decided to take 'the down-escalator of life.' They include the Montagus, Dukes of Manchester, who had once employed Vanburgh—creator of Blenheim Palace, Churchill's birthplace—to remodel their principal family seat, Kimbolton Castle; shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the Montagus oversaw further renovation—converting the Kimbolton chapel into a bar, and stocking it with glasses decorated with 'pornography of the most interesting kind,' for the benefit of guests like the restless, bisexual Duke of Kent, younger brother of George VI. Four consecutive generations of the family went to jail. The Herveys, Marquesses of Bristol, went inside too, although John Bristol (7th Marquess of Bristol, born 1954; died 1999) spent most of his time investing his inheritance in helicopters, heroin, and—for strictly recreational purposes—handcuffs: a blazing quest for self-gratification which led him into the company of Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger. Splendour & Squalor offers a riveting insight into the disintegration of a once seemingly impregnable elite. The resultant portrait is the authentic Downton Abbey—stripped of gloss, mythology and sentiment, and brought mercilessly up-to-date.
- Atlantic Books, May 2011
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