Saturday, 31 January 2009
'Mea Gloria Fides'.
This is a non-fiction book which follows the fortunes of the Fitzwilliam family from South Yorkshire. It focuses on the lives of the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam or Billy Fitzbilly as he was known, although his official title was Lord Milton. His life stretched from 1872-1943 and during that time he owned coal mines in South Yorkshire. The Fitzwilliam estates had descended from 'Black Tom Tyrant', Thomas Wentworth, who was the 1st. Earl of Strafford . A trusted friend and chief advisor of Charles 1.
Part of the book concentrates on the conditions both down the mines and in the pit villages. The book explains that Billy looked after his miner's well, in both wages and extending the use of the grounds of his home at Wentworth House.
Unfortunately Billy's personal life was not so regulated , beginning with his birth being subject to accusations of illegitemacy and following this some family members never being reconciled.
As the book progresses we are transported through the General Strike and eventually the destruction of his estate through open cast mining.
His son Peter, the future 8th Earl Fitzwilliam, was born in 1910 and led a very 'colourful' life. Apart from a brief stint in the armed forces during the war he seemed to spend his time socialising.
One of his personal friends was Kathleen Kennedy , sister of J.F.K. She had arrived in England with her parents, as her father Joe was Ambassader to the Court of King James. Once here, she was presented at court and enjoyed a whirlwind lifestyle of parties. After the death of her husband the Marquis of Hartington , 'Kick'(as she was known)eventually recovered from grief and started dating Peter. He had succeeded his father to the Earldom by this time and he was married to a very patient lady, Olive Dorothea Plunkett. Their affair shocked both the Kennedy and Fitzwilliam families but this did not deter them. Only a fatal journey could halt their fling.
With no son to follow Peter the Wentworth estate was eventually converted into a college.
The Fitzwillam motto, -'Mea Gloria Fides' -- 'My Glorious Faith' , unfortunately their faith did not endure!
This book was so different for me as I don't normally read non-fiction but having been lent it from a friend I thought I'd try it and I was not disappointed.It was a fascinating read, a wonderful descripton of social history of the time.
I've read this as part of the Chunkster Challenge.