curiosities and wonders

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When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed a property listing for a grand estate that had been unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled into one of the most surprising American stories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Empty Mansions is a rich tale of wealth and loss, complete with copper barons, Gilded Age opulence, and backdoor politics. At its heart is a reclusive 104-year-old heiress named Huguette Clark.

After the Ninth Duke of Rutland, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, died alone in a cramped room in the servants' quarters of Belvoir Castle on April 21, 1940, his son and heir ordered the room, which contained the Rutland family archives, sealed. Sixty years later, Catherine Bailey became the first historian given access. What she discovered was a mystery: the Duke had painstakingly erased three periods of his life from all family records-but why? As Bailey uncovers the answers, she also provides an intimate portrait of the very top of British society in the turbulent days leading up to World War I.

This post contains suggestions for how to earn your Explore History: Super Bookworm and Keep It Real: Super Bookworm badges.
Learn more and earn badges on the Connect Your Summer page.

The extraordinary true story of the downfall of one of England's wealthiest families. When the sixth Earl Fitzwilliam died in 1902, he left behind the second largest estate in twentieth-century England -- 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?

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