Since its purchase in 1604 by Thomas Sackville, first Earl of Dorset, the house at Knole, Kent, has been inhabited by thirteen generations of a single aristocratic family, the Sackvilles. Here, drawing on a wealth of unpublished letters, archives, and images, the current incumbent of the seat, Robert Sackville-West, paints a vivid and intimate portrait of the vast, labyrinthine house and the close relationships his colorful ancestors formed within it.
Inheritance is the story of a house and its inhabitants, a family described by Vita Sackville-West as "a race too prodigal, too amorous, too weak, too indolent, and too melancholy; a rotten lot, and nearly all starkstaring mad." Where some reveled in the hedonism of aristocratic life, others rebelled against a house that, in time, would disinherit them, shutting its doors to them forever. It's a drama in which the house itself is a principal character, its fortunes often mirroring those of the family. Every detail holds a story: the portraits, and all the items the subjects of those portraits left behind, point to pivotal moments in history; all the rooms, and the objects that fill them, are freighted with an emotional significance that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Now owned by the National Trust, Knole is today one of the largest houses in England, visited by thousands annually and housing one of the country's finest collections of secondhand Royal furniture. It's a pleasure to follow Robert Sackville-West as he unravels the private life of a public place on a fascinating, masterful, four-hundred-year tour through the memories and memorabilia, political, financial, and domestic, of his extraordinary family.
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After studying History at Oxford University, Robert Sackville-West worked in publishing, founding Toucan Books in 1985, which creates illustrated non-fiction books for an international market. He now combines that with chairing Knole Estates, the property and investment company which runs the Sackville family's interests at Knole. In 2008, he and his wife and three children moved in the house, which has been occupied by the Sackville family for 400 years.From Publishers Weekly:
Knole is best-known as the family home of writer Vita Sackville-West and famously memorialized in her lover Virginia Woolf's elegiac novel Orlando, It's a Renaissance palace in Kent that, with 365 rooms and spread over four acres, is one of the largest private houses in England. Knole has been inhabited for the past 400 years by 13 generations of a single family, the Sackvilles. Elizabeth I's immensely wealthy cousin Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset, an acclaimed poet and moderately corrupt but quite successful politician, acquired Knole in 1604 and at the age of 70 embarked on a massive building program, turning a ramshackle medieval mansion (previously owned by Henry VIII and Elizabeth) into a great show house. The author relates this rich history of Knole inhabitants, filled with gadabouts, swashbuckling royalists, deft politicians, art collectors, and schemers sure to enchant and delight readers. The author--who as the 7th Lord Sackville shares the house with the National Trust and 80,000 annual visitors--pens candid, intelligent, insightful mini-biographies of the various residents, giving readers a glimpse into England's aristocratic heritage while whetting anglophiles' appetites to see Knole for themselves. Photos.
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