The Guilt and the Gingerbread

There is nothing quite as beautiful as an English country house in summer. And there has never been a summer quite like that Indian summer between the two world wars, a period of gentle decline in which the sun set slowly on the British Empire and the shadows lengthened on the lawns of a thousand stately homes across the nation.

Real life in the country house during the 1920s and 1930s was not always so sunny.  By turns opulent and ordinary, noble and vicious, its shadows were darker. In  this blog, I intend to uncover the truth about a world half-forgotten, draped in myth and hidden behind stiff upper lips and film-star smiles. Drawing on thousands of memoirs, on unpublished letters and diaries, on the eye-witness testimonies of belted earls and unhappy heiresses and bullying butlers, The Long Weekend gives a voice to the people who inhabited this world. In a definitive social history which combines anecdote and narrative with solid scholarship, it brings the stately homes of England to life, giving readers an insight into the guilt and the gingerbread, and showing how the image of the country house was carefully protected by its occupants above and below stairs, and how the reality was so much more interesting than the dream.

And along the way, The Long Weekend revels in the sheer variety of country house life, from George V poring over his stamp collection at Sandringham to Sir Oswald Mosley collecting mistresses at ancestral homes across the nation; from Edward VIII entertaining Wallis Simpson at Fort Belvedere to David Niven playing cards in the servants’ hall at Leeds Castle and the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim losing his wife to a pack of pet spaniels.

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