The “manifold glories” of growing up rich and entitled in England.
Born in 1952, Russell was raised between Egerton Terrace, in Knightsbridge, London, and two castles belonging to his grandmothers: “Granny A” had a restrained castle in Dunguaire, Galway Bay, Ireland; “Granny B” had the very grand Leeds Castle, in Ken, England. This rather humble memoir is low-key, and the author sometimes sounds as amazed or bemused to be enjoying his privileged childhood as we are to read about it. His lineage is absolutely mystifying for American readers, but suffice it to say that Granny A was Lady Ampthill, who caused a great scandal in the 1920s for a trial she eventually won over the legitimacy of her son; Granny B, Lady Baillie, was related to the wealthy American Whitneys and actually bought Leeds Castle in 1926 for $874,000, renovated it luxuriously and ran the place in a lock-step feudal system, surrounding herself with courtly homosexual admirers and former members of Parliament. For young Russell, Leeds proved an idyllic weekend retreat, where his beloved Nanny stood in for elusive parents (“Our family connection to Leeds had lasted seventy-five years, one of the longest associations in the history of one of England’s oldest and most romantic ‘stately homes’ ”). He relished the old-world rituals, like the launching of the ducks, wherein Granny B would preside at the pond and christen each new baby duckling to polite applause, and the fox hunt, naturally, which got underway in earnest at Dunguaire every year, with Granny A riding gracefully in sidesaddle. Eventually, the grim exigencies of a wider world intruded, such as having to go away to boarding school, first to St. Aubyns, then to Stowe, where the scions of England attended as a matter of course.
Nostalgic reading for die-hard fans of English royal life.