The Secret Rooms : A Castle Filled with Intrigue, a Plotting Duchess and a Mysterious Death, Paperback

The Secret Rooms : A Castle Filled with Intrigue, a Plotting Duchess and a Mysterious Death Paperback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


A Plotting Duchess, a Mysterious Death and a Castle Full of Intrigue in Catherine Bailey's The Secret Rooms.

At 6 am on 21 April 1940 John the 9th Duke of Rutland, and one of Britain's wealthiest men, ended his days, virtually alone, lying on a makeshift bed in a dank cramped suite of rooms in the servants' quarters of his own home, Belvoir Castle, in Leicestershire.

For weeks, as his health deteriorated, his family, his servants - even the King's doctor - pleaded with him to come out, but he refused.

After his death, his son and heir, Charles, the 10th Duke of Rutland, ordered that the rooms be locked up and they remained untouched for sixty years.

What lay behind this extraordinary set of circumstances?

For the first time, in The Secret Rooms, Catherine Bailey unravels a complex and compelling tale of love, honour and betrayal, played out in the grand salons of Britain's stately homes at the turn of the twentieth century, and on the battlefields of the Western Front.

At its core is a secret so dark that it consumed the life of the man who fought to his death to keep it hidden. This extraordinary mystery from the author of Black Diamonds, perfect for lovers of Downton Abbey, Brideshead Revisited and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.

Praise for The Secret Rooms: "Reads like the best kind of mystery story.

It is a tale of mistresses and heirlooms, cowardice and connivance, and a deeply dysfunctional family ...gripping". (Sunday Times). "Astonishing ...jaw-dropping...It would spoil the book if I revealed the whole works, suffice it to say ...what a family". (Sunday Telegraph). "An extraordinary detective operation". (John Julius). Norwich Catherine Bailey is the author of Black Diamonds.

She read history at Oxford University and 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.

She lives in West London.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480 pages, 24pp b/w photo inset
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9780141035673



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Historian and writer Catherine Bailey came to Belvoir Castle,home of the Dukes of Rutland originally to research the history of the family. She was shown the vast amount of letters and records which were stored in the five muniment rooms of the castle. As she read her way through these,she discovered a far more interesting story than the one she had begun to study.The story of John,the 9th Duke was one of mystery and intrigue and one which Bailey began to follow with increasing interest. He died,virtually alone,living his final days in the five damp and bare muniment rooms surrounded by private letters. These family letters had,Bailey discovered,had three distinct gaps which she determined to fill. Two of these (his war-time letters and the later ones,) she solves and explains well) The third,those concerning the death of his brother,is left virtually unexplained.Overall a good,solid piece of work which is well worth reading.

Review by

When Catherine Bailey goes to Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, it was with the intention of writing a book about the impact of World War I, on the Duke of Rutland's estate. Let into rooms that had been closed, the 9th Duke having died in them, she finds a treasure trove of letters and other historical documents, she also finds a mystery. Certain time frames have had all letters and documents from all members of the family excised. The mystery of why is too much to ignore and so the focus of her book changes. It was very interesting following her as she attempts to piece together the why of the missing documents. Loved following her mind as she makes, at first small, and then larger discoveries. The dukes remaining letters create a vivid picture of the lives and morals of the very top of Edwardian society. From a tragic happening in his youth, to his enlistment in World War I, and his marriage we get a clear glimpse of what life was like for this Duke. Speaking of dysfunctional families, this family had it all. His mother the Duchess was a major=r piece of work, and his father not much better. I did understand and excuse certain things about his father, because he was under enormous pressure to keep up appearances and the large family estate together at a time when all fortunes were declining. The letters detailing his life in the war and the reason he did not go to the front, were very illuminating. From other letters in his possession and the facts uncovered by the author we get a horrifying look at the War, the battle of Ypres, and the major cost of lives on this estate alone. Over two hundred young and older men would die in the war. IF I have one complaint I think a few of these letters could have been kept out without a detrimental effect on the story, they sometimes just seemed like overkill. All in all though this is a solid look at lives of the last few Dukes of Rutland and the uncovering of a mystery that was 1/2 century in the making. Also loved that the author doesn't just end the book but lets us know the fate of all the leading players. Very solid and interesting historical.

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