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111 of 114 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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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read but dragged on
Enjoyable enough but disapointing in the fact that the book was padded out with information that really did not need to be in there, ie Kennedy story for one which went on for far to long, and it also seemed to me that the Author keep going adjacent to the story line to pad it out for a longer book because of gaps and little information she had regarding the Fitzwilliam...
Published on 25 April 2009 by septimus-blake


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111 of 114 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
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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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39 of 40 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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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
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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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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
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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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely gripping read, 4 July 2010
By 
J. Holmes - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Paperback)
This book was a gem. Beautifully written and brilliantly researched. The writing brought to life the way it must have felt to live and work on a large country estate. The story of the Earls and their demise is fascinating. This book brings history to life. I cant recommend it highly enough and have bought copies for many friends. After reading it I felt compelled to visit Wentworth Woodhouse and see the house for myself. Although you cant go inside it you can walk around it and through the estate, and from the neighbouring garden centre you can get into some of the gardens. Read it and then visit it! I hope Catherine Bailey writes another book soon.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A story of wealth, coal & good & bad luck - fascinating history, 12 Nov 2009
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This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Paperback)
In the 1970s for days on end piles of family papers were burned in bonfires at Wentworth house in Yorkshire taking with it most of the late 19th and early 20th century history of the earls of Wentworth. This is the reconstructed story of the aristocratic Wentworth family from their glory days, flush with coal wealth at the end of the 19th century to their decline and fall in the 20th century.

Wentworth house was one of the great treasure houses of the UK with the longest façade of any house in the country. It was stuffed to the rafters with all the treasures extraordinary wealth for 250 years could buy. However that wealth was bought on the backs of the miners who worked in the coal mines on their land. It comes as somewhat of a relief when you read this book to find the Earls weren't the demons to their employees that the corporations of the period were. In those days you considered yourself extremely fortunate to work in their mines. Yet despite this the revenge of the coal mining industry, when it came in the 20th century was devastating to Wentworth and when it's all said and done, it's a loss for us all if the description of the old house interiors and park are anything to go by - it could easily have been another Chatsworth House with better luck and decisions.

This is a fascinating book in which family decisions made for love, money or greed are played out over generations. You get a good look at the old British coal mining industry, service in the great houses and high society and a good look at Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy (of THE American Kennedy's) who died with 8th Earl Fitzwillam in a plane crash in 1948 and the occupation of the house in world war 2 which effectively bought an end to the house on a residential basis for the family.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History lessons were never this good!, 18 Nov 2008
By 
Jimmy Stix (Sheffield, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Paperback)
A superb investigation into the Fitzwilliam family, and in particular those that lived at Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire. However, this book is so much more than that.
Catherine Bailey also tells the story of a once mighty British industry from all sides, the rich and powerful, the Government and of course the workers and their families. All of this against a background of secrets and sadness behind a once great estate. The research is incredible and the author constantly leads you down little side tracks from the main tale which are truly fascinating.
I have visited the grounds of Wentworth since childhood and have stared so often at the enormous frontage and wondered what stories that house could tell. Catherine will let you in on just some of them.
If you have any interest in the social and industrial history of Britain I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Just wonderful!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read - truth is definitely stranger than fiction, 4 Feb 2009
This review is from: Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Paperback)
You definitely don't need a local or mining connection to enjoy this book; as a Southerner who had never heard of Wentworth or the Fitzwilliams, and knew zilch about mining I was enthralled. Apart from the industrial relations side of social history, the book is fascinating on attitudes to religion and "mixed" marriages back in the forties, and the issue of parental control over adult children.

A prequel would be very welcome to describe the rise in fortunes of the Fitzwilliams (the title is misleading in claiming to cover their rise) and building and rebuilding of the house leading to its enormous proportions at the opening of the book. One complaint: shame there isn't a picture of the other (Vanbrugh I think) facade - all the illustrations show the front.

Despite my petty complaints, this is a 100% recommemdation.
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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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