The Accidental Duchess
Life in a castle isn’t always a fairytale, as the Duchess of Rutland vividly illustrates in her fascinating, revealing and funny autobiography.
When Emma Watkins, the pony-mad daughter of a Welsh farmer, imagined her future it was as the wife of a younger version of her father. But then she fell in love with David Manners, having no idea that he was heir to one of the most senior hereditary titles in the land. When David succeeded his father, against all the odds Emma became the chatelaine of Belvoir Castle, ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland.
She had to cope with five boisterous children while faced with a vast estate in desperate need of modernisation and staff who wanted nothing to change - it was a daunting responsibility. Yet with sound advice from the doyenne of duchesses, ‘Debo’ Devonshire, she met each challenge with optimism and gusto, including scaling the castle roof in a storm to unclog a flooding gutter; being caught in her nightdress by mesmerised Texan tourists; and disguising herself as a cleaner to watch filming of The Crown. She even took on the castle ghosts . . . At times the problems she faced seemed insoluble, yet with her unstoppable energy and talent for thinking on the hoof, she won through, inspired by the vision and passion of those Rutland duchesses in whose footsteps she trod, and indeed the redoubtable and resourceful women who forged her, whose homes were not castles but remote farmhouses in the Radnorshire hills.
Vividly written and bursting with insights, The Accidental Duchess will appeal to everyone who has visited a stately home and wondered what it would be like to live there.