Splendour and Squalor: The Disgrace and Disintegration of Three Aristocratic Dynasties
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.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Taken from my review of this book on Amazon: I found this book too crashingly boring to want to waste my time even to finish it. I forced myself to plow through the first 'Book' on Edward Fitzgerald, Duke of Leinster, then chucked the whole thing. Feel free to discount this review that is based on only a partial reading on that account. The writing style was not to my taste. The narrative, if you could call it that, seemed diffuse and disorganized. The author did not seem to have a clue how to organize the material so as to provide pace or drama. Perhaps the first person the author featured was ill chosen for drawing in the reader. Perhaps the others depicted in the book are more interesting. I'll never know. I was reading the Kindle version, which lacked the illustrations. Including them might have made some difference to holding my interest, though I doubt they would have redeemed the book enough for me to want to continue reading.
Splendour and Squalor: The Disgrace and Disintegration of Three Aristocratic DynastiesUser Review - Book Verdict
In this detailed account of the fall from grace of four 20th-century members of the British aristocracy, UK journalist Scriven shows that privileged birth does not always lead to success and happiness. The "gentlemen" behaving badly here are Edward FitzGerald, seventh Duke of Leinster; Angus Montagu, 12th Duke of Manchester; and Victor Hervey and his son John, the sixth and seventh Marquess of Bristol, respectively. Variously, they indulged in adultery, gambling, wild spending, drug and alcohol abuse, robbery, and fighting and other forms of unsavory behavior—indiscriminate use of fire arms seemed to have been a favorite. Scriven's tone is matter-of-fact and witty, neither sympathetic nor judgmental. The supporting cast of endless dukes, earls, and marquesses can be confusing, and some factual errors slip through. VERDICT Although rendered in engaging prose, the stories of the waste of staggering amounts of money and potential are sad. Perhaps the only bright side is that some of the ancestral homes these aristocrats sold are now hotels or National Trust sites open to those of us once scorned as commoners.—Megan Hahn Fraser, Univ. of California Lib., Los Angeles