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108 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You couldn't make this up
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...
Published on 18 Mar 2008 by J Wheeler

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book but shockingly badly produced Kindle edituon....
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...
Published 18 months ago by cb


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108 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You couldn't make this up, 18 Mar 2008
By 
J Wheeler "Weez" (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Paperback)
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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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Diamond of a Book!, 7 Nov 2008
By 
S. J. Gennoe "Whizzkid" (Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (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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150 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A local history that everyone should read, 15 Jun 2007
By 
Keith Jenner - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.

I am tempted to knock half a star off my rating because of the lack of information about how the family reached this situation, but I can't face doing that because the book itself is so well written and gripping. The story of how by the mid point of the century, the main line of the family had died out and the future of the title Earl Fitzwilliam was destined to die out (which it did in 1979), is told in a way that is very easy to read, and you feel yourself getting drawn into the story and forming opinions of the central characters which I find very rare.

Alongside the story of the family is told that of the battle between mine owners and the miners during the first half of the twentieth century. Whilst often presented as a battle of right vs wrong (the battle being won by the good guys after the second world war when the mines were nationalised), Catherine Bailey takes an admirable stand in not appearing to side with one group or the other and effectively getting across the message that both sides had their good and bad points. What was more important were the personalities of individuals within each group. Whilst many mine owners were guilty of abusing their position with their employees, there were others, such as the Fitzwilliams, who took their responsibilities seriously and were well respected by the miners. Equally, the revenge taken against the owners, as demonstrated by the desecration of Wentworth Park and near destruction of the house by the Labour Government after the war is not something that the Socialist movement can be proud of, and was fiercely opposed by the miners and unions in South Yorkshire.

The lesson we learn (and one that I strongly agree with) is that class war in itself is a damaging thing, just as we see the devastation of peoples lives caused by the battle between Protestents and Catholics. These are lessons which are still relevant today.

The supporting cast include the British Royal Family, The Kennedys, Various other British aristocratic families and thousands of ordinary Yorkshire working men and women. The story includes family tragedy and disputes, terrible accidents (affecting all classes), the devastation of war (imagine losing both your brother and husband to war in the space of weeks), conflicts caused by religion within families, and the day to day lives of ordinary people. The great hulk of Wentworth Woodhouse is always there in the shadows, just as it is in Wentworth village to this day.

One note of caution I would point out is that much of the story is based on speculation and eye witness accounts (which may be biased), due to the destruction of much of the documentary evidence by the Fitzwilliam family and others. This is acknowledged by the author and, whilst some of the speculation may be wrong, I have no doubt that the main tale is factually pretty accurate.

As a local, it is novel to read a story where places that I know and work, and the pubs that I visit are central to the story, and it is enlightening to learn more about the history of the area, but I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the social changes of the twentieth century.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History of afamily but alsoof coal mining communities andof wider society in the 20s & 30s, 22 Jun 2009
By 
Mrsjoan Davies "Joan Davies" (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yorkshires Gone with the Wind, 27 Sep 2008
By 
This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Paperback)
Stunning read. Yorkshires answer to Gone With the Wind, except its a true story. You could not make up a story like this it has enthraled everyone who has read it in our family and friends. Supprised it has never been made into a film on television series.Would outshine Brideshead Revisited.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beginnings of an obsession, 23 Sep 2008
By 
Lucy's Library (northeast england) - See all my reviews
I love books of this genre and this is one of the best I have ever read, I could not put it down and once I had finished I started it again! I have even made a special journey to see the house, which was amazing and am now avidly reading any research I can find about the house and family. A wonderful story, far better than fiction!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BlackDiamonds, 14 Jun 2010
This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Paperback)
I am loving every minute of this book - it starts a little before I did - which was 1927 - and covers every type of person and lifestyle which interests me. I do not aspire to the "Quality" Fitzgeralds coming somewhere in the Middle Class bracket, but had little tastes of their kind of life when I was billeted on them after my mother died and love to remember the little oddities that occurred to me at the age of 12 - such as the butler at the home of a family friend who lived in Berkeley Square bringing in the cat's supper on a silver salver laden with fresh blades of grass and milk in delicate containers. Alo, the embarrassment of a maid unpacking my suitcase and revealing school bloomers with pockets, celanese vests and cotton underpants.

Seriously though, I was interested how the morals of the titled families were as easy as they are in this day and age, but the scandals were kept under cover and there was very little media cover to sex it all up for the public and some taste shown by participating young and old by relinquishing their desires and becoming more decorous to save face for all involved.

But the meat in the book for me is the terrible suffering of the miners and their families and how they were as brave as the soldiers in their desperate situations during the war and down the mines. The comments from suffering people in those days were an inspiration when compared to the whingeing and lack of self help that we exhibit so widely today.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic story from a fantastic new author, 30 Jun 2008
By 
This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Paperback)
I was lent the book by my cousin. What a fantastic story - you could almost imagine that it was fiction. Catherine Bailey has thoroughly researched this magnificent book - bringing real characters back to life. She was impartial to both the aristocrats and miners alike and gave a fascinating insight into life in South Yorkshire at the turn of the 20th century.

A marvellous, evocative read. It made me cry. It also shows how one man's revenge - Manny Shinwell - brought about the destruction of a countryside so precious and loved by so many by envy. The Fitzwilliams were "good gentry" and obviously thought highly of their workers and their responsibility. Let us hope that one day, Wentworth and its story, will be known to all and that we will be able to enjoy its wonderful house, park, fields, woods and gardens as Billy wanted.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book but shockingly badly produced Kindle edituon...., 24 Jan 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Local Story, 20 April 2007
By 
Gareth Coulson (Near Wentworth) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Living very close to Wentworth and often a drinker in the local pub, the dramatic account of the recent history surrounding the estate and its people is something I have a great interest in.
Catherine Bailey has done a great job in explaining the details and events from such a dramatic time in our local history. The tragic and heartwarming events and activities of the Fitzwilliam's are brought into life in this book, one not to be missed by "us locals" and those that like to delve into the history of the class system.
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Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty
Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty by Catherine Bailey (Paperback - 6 Mar 2008)
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