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The Downton Era: Great Houses, Churchills, and Mitfords

Who was the most beautiful woman in England in the twentieth century – and why did she become the most hated woman? Who spent £500,000 to remodel her house for a king’s weekend visit? What country house has a roof that is seven acres in size? What prime minister’s mother had at least twenty lovers? How many million individuals were killed in World War 1?

The answers to such startling questions show that history is an unnerving mixture of breathtaking moments and punishing reversals. Written as a rattling good read, The Downton Era takes the reader on a journey through twentieth century England by pointing out the personal landmarks that make up history. When we see elegant country houses, we discover that such great piles of rock record the aristocratic arc of the English upper class from its Victorian heyday onward into the twentieth century. Titles and dances and hunts were social events that linked families and forged governments. By exploring the interwoven family chronicles of the Churchills and their cousins, the Mitfords, we see history at a personalized level. In their lives are woven together stories of great houses, the lure and weight of title, the range and challenge of political influence, and the privileged entrapments that undermined their dazzling social world. As with tragedy, the scale of greatness and disintegration in these families and their class makes for riveting reading.