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Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of a Great English Dynasty Hardcover – 1 Mar 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (1 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670915424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670915422
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 4.8 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (281 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 317,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'Magnificent . . . peels back the grand façade of Wentworth to
reveal a family riven with fueds, mental illness and forbidden love'
-- Tatler

`A compelling new history . . . fascinating insights into the
dynasty that once ruled this Yorkshire roost' -- Daily Mail

`A finely researched piece of social history' -- Sunday Times

`An aristocratic tale of epic proportions, this gripping novel
cleverly interweaves interviews, letters and historical fact . . .
Fascinating' -- Easy Living

`One heck of a good read . . . brilliant, gripping . . . 'Black
Diamonds' will keep you bolt upright all night' -- Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Catherine Bailey read History at Oxford University. She is a successful, award-winning television producer and director, making a range of critically acclaimed documentary films inspired by her interest in twentieth-century history. This is her first book. She lives in West London.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

114 of 117 people found the following review helpful By J Wheeler on 18 Mar 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have to express an interest, having been brought up in one of the villages mentioned, knowing some of the people quoted, & going to a school founded by Lady Mabel Smith. It was a really fascinating read which I found hard to put down. It isn't easy to link the generations in a large family, but the author does it very well, the product of a great deal of research into the family, & much wider.

As the son of a miner I was particularly interested in the detail of the lives of the miners & their families, & the varying attitudes of the mine owners. The machinations of Royalty, the Government, & the committees explained so much of their struggle. Again the attention to detail gave credence & real life to the situations without the story dragging. In passing I would contrast the detail given of the Denaby situation with its wholesale evictions & legal threats, surely a milestone in industrial relations & the awful plight of many working people, with the lack of any mention in his book "The Edwardians" by local Labour politician Roy Hattersley. I found this book gave real insight & understanding of some of the important events in British history of the twentieth century, better than many textbooks, as well as a surprise unfolding of an aristocratic dysfunctional family. You are left asking "Are they all like that?"
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Gennoe on 7 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
A fascinating book which tells the story of the feuding aristocratic Fitzwilliam family and their struggles, both inward and outward, to hold on to their historic seat at Wentworth House and ultimately their place in British society.

Set against the wider backdrop of both the First and Second World Wars this is a story of love, glamour, revenge and bravery. It is also the story of the British coal industry and how the nationalisation of that industry threatened to rip the heart out of the very fabric of British society and its class system and was seen by many as being a far greater threat to our country than Hitler.

The book explores the grinding poverty of the coal miners who risked and often lost their lives for a pittance whilst their masters, like the Fitzwilliams, grew rich from the mineral mining rights. It makes you feel desperately ashamed that our country was built on the sweat of these people who from childhood braved the most horrendous working conditions and who during their often short lives were never far from the threat of mutilation and death from mine collapses.

The book also explores the glamorous lifestyle of Peter Fitzwilliam (8th Earl) as he flitted around the French Riviera in an attempt to escape from his loveless marriage to Obby Fitzwilliam and his ultimately doomed liaison with the American heiress, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, the devoutly Catholic daughter of Joe and Rose Kennedy and sister of Jack and Bobby. Kick is vividly brought to life in the book and we feel her anguish as she tries to balance her love for firstly the Protestant Marquis of Hartington and secondly for the Protestant Peter Fitzwilliam with the demands of her Catholic faith and her fear of causing the first family of America any scandal.

This is a thought provoking book and as such it is not necessarily a quick read but one which I would have no trouble at all in recommending.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By cb on 24 Jan 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having read this book before in paper format I can highly recommend it as a book - HOWEVER - my advice would be to buy the hard back or paper back edition, not the Kindle. It has been very shoddily converted to kindle format! Note links don't work ,it has no cover page, no table of contents. Photographs within the book appear at the end not within the appropriate text. All this I would maybe expect from a second rate publisher but not Viking/Penguin. Unless publishers can convert better than this I for one will be going back to filling my bookshelves with paper, much as I like the Kindle! And of course there is no way to return or complain about this, short of writing to the publisher.
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Format: Paperback
This is much more than the history of one family. The first part also paints a vivid picture of the lives of miners is south yorkshire before the first war. It makes clear the difference between the conditions in mines owned by companies and those owned by the families such as the Fitzwilliams and the all-round care that they provided for the thousands who worked for them.The other side of the story was the details of the often dissolute life lived by some members of the family and the links with the Kennedy family.
There was an excellent section on the results of nationalisation in particular the open cast mining on the estate which destroyed much of the landscaped grounds & seems to have been no more than vindictiveness on behalf of the Labour government of the time.
It would have been good to know more about the house itself but a very good job has been done with the information available before it passed into the present hands which has cut off all access.
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153 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Keith Jenner on 15 Jun 2007
Format: Hardcover
A few miles from where I like is the small village of Wentworth and the little known (outside this area) building called Wentworth Woodhouse.

The house should be well known, as it's the largest non royal residence in Britain (I believe), and one of the largest in the world. The east front is the longest facade in Europe at 185 metres and the house covers over 2.5 acres. It's a mysterious place though. You can walk down the drive past it and be impressed by its scale, but nobody knows too much about the current owner, who apparently does live in it.

The house was built by the Wentworth family, who's members included Charles I's adviser in the lead up to the English Civil War and a British Prime Minister in the 1700's. It then passed to the Fitzwilliams, who still owned the house and large tracts of land at the beginning of the 20th century. The family wealth was sustained by coal mining.

Despite the huge historical and architectural significance of the house and its estate, it is difficult to find too much information about it. Therefore, when I found this book in a garden centre (which is actually in the grounds of the house), I had to buy it.

At first glance there was a disappointment. The book is subtitled "The Rise and Fall of a Great English Dynasty", but there is very little contained in it about the rise. The book starts in 1902 when the Fitzwilliams were at the height of their powers. They controlled the whole area, owning the mines where people worked and the houses where they lived. Thousands of people were utterly dependent on the Family for their wellbeing.
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