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Download Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed England Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed England, by Catherine Bailey, Gareth Armstrong Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (166 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Catherine Bailey, Gareth Armstrong Narrator: Gareth Armstrong Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Rooms, the extraordinary true story of the downfall of one of England’s wealthiest families

Fans of Downton Abbey now have a go-to resource for fascinating, real-life stories of the spectacular lives led by England’s aristocrats. With the novelistic flair and knack for historical detail Catherine Bailey displayed in her New York Times bestseller The Secret Rooms, Black Diamonds provides a page-turning chronicle of the Fitzwilliam coal-mining dynasty and their breathtaking Wentworth estate, the largest private home in England.

When the sixth Earl Fitzwilliam died in 1902, he left behind the second largest estate in twentieth-century England, valued at more than £3 billion of today’s money—a lifeline to the tens of thousands of people who worked either in the family’s coal mines or on their expansive estate. The earl also left behind four sons, and the family line seemed assured. But was it? As Bailey retraces the Fitzwilliam family history, she uncovers a legacy riddled with bitter feuds, scandals (including Peter Fitzwilliam’s ill-fated affair with American heiress Kick Kennedy), and civil unrest as the conflict between the coal industry and its miners came to a head.

Once again, Bailey has written an irresistible and brilliant narrative history.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Black Diamonds has the great gift of bringing to life personal histories…wonderfully paced and wholly satisfying.”

    Kate Atkinson, New York Times bestselling author of Life after Life

  • “A triumph of research.”

    Evening Standard (London)

  • "Brilliant, gripping…one heck of a good read and will keep you bolt upright all night.”

    Daily Telegraph (London)

  • "Black Diamonds admirably reflects both the nobility of the minors and the degradation of those who exploited them.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Intriguing and thoroughly researched, Bailey’s biography details the often tumultuous past of England’s Wentworth House and its dysfunctional occupants…The text reads like an exciting period drama, and readers will be racing to get to the end in order to unravel the secrets and eventual collapse of the elusive Fitzwilliams…This fascinating history is highly recommended to anyone who loves family gossip and mystery.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “[A] fascinating true-life tale of British aristocrats behaving badly. In the early years of the twentieth century—the Downton Abbey era—the Fitzwilliam family resided in the staggeringly large Wentworth House, which boasted five miles of corridors. Bailey traces the family’s decline in the decades that followed, as their coal-mining fortune succumbed to social changes and a messy trail of family scandals and secrets.”


  • “The author’s remarkable story primarily covers the time of the seventh Earl of Fitzwilliam, who inherited the title in 1902. She shows how class differences and the effect of two wars, strikes, and the final blow of the postwar Labour government brought down many of the aristocracy…Bailey uses accounts of the miners and their families to describe both the lives of the wealthy Fitzwilliam family and those of the poverty-stricken laborers…Gossipy bits—e.g., questioned legitimacy, grand entertainments, and “Kick” Kennedy’s marriage to the Devonshire heir and subsequent affair with the ninth Earl—keep the reading lively. The real value of this work is in the recounting of the ends of two classes, the lower and the very upper.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A BookPage Top Pick for January 2015

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Ro | 2/9/2014

    " An absolutely fantastic read. I couldn't put it down. The story of Wentworth is beautifully played out. You can sense the writers frustration at so many secrets and unknowns still. It most certainly leaves the reader wanting to know more! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Sarah | 2/4/2014

    " Excellent historical study of life 100-150 years ago in a mining district. The rich family and the effect of their actions on the people who depended on their patronage. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Sally | 1/28/2014

    " This is a truly wonderful book. Thoroughly enjoyed the style, learnt loads and understand much better the role of the aristocracy in mining. Really great "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Richard Hakes | 1/20/2014

    " A good book and interesting and if you are interested in Wentworth invaluable but let down by a few bad bits of geography and geology. Foe example she claims Chatsworth to be an hours ride or three hours cartridge ride away from Wentworth. Bearing in mind that the journey would have taken them through Rotherham and Sheffield then over the Derbyshire hills, I do find this a little optimistic. Similarly she goes on about the limestone at Wentworth and a few other mistakes. She is very good at trawling historical records and creating a story but she should go visit and open her eyes more. "

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About the Author

Catherine Bailey read history at Oxford University and is an 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.