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Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles Hardcover – August 31, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

Sackville-West conducts an extensive, multi-century tour of his family estate in Kent and the successive generations of Sackvilles who inhabited it. Now owned by National Trust, Knole was the ancestral home of thirteen generations of quirky aristocrats. Purchased in 1604 by Thomas Sackville, First Earl of Dorset, the original medieval structure was eventually refashioned into a magnificent Renaissance palace, boasting 365 rooms, 52 stairways, and 7 courtyards. Though the house itself was built to impress, it is merely a splendid backdrop for the excitement and drama created by the people who lived in it over the years, imbuing and animating Knole with an invigorating life force. Proving that the walls do indeed talk, Sackville-West provides a memorable romp through the hallowed house and the family history of one of the most intriguing clans in British history. --Margaret Flanagan
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1St Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802779018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802779014
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Knole is the ancestral home of the Sackvilles and its story is written by one who has inherited it under the laws of primogeniture (the oldest male heir becomes heir to the property). He covers the advantages and the disadvantages of this practice. He does well in writing of the burdens of owning these huge homes. The story begins in 1604 and ends, as so many others do, with The National Trust's takeover. To Sackville-West's credit he deals with the attitude of many, that The National Trust is subsidizing a life of continued grandeur for these family members in private apartments and wings of these residences. It is filled with the castoffs off royal furniture, especially that of the Stuart period.

One of the problems in a book of this kind, is the assumption of the author that his audience knows where the house is and what the surrounding countryside is like. It is confusing to someone not familiar with English countryside or the fact that you can be an Earl of Dorset and not live there. There are no maps of the house's location. It is not until you are well into the chapters that you can finally see that it is located in southeast England and even then, not much is told about its surroundings.

What is really missing are pictures of the property and of its views. He writes of these and you long to see what they look like, but these pictures are not included. There are some photographs of the property and furnishings today, but the lack of illustration of what the house looks like, and the furnishings and illustrations of changes through the years is a huge hindrance to the representation and understanding of the house's grandeur.
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Format: Hardcover
It is very old. The total number of rooms is somewhere very close to 365 (depends on your definition of room). There are 52 staircases (one for each week of the year) and within its grey ragstone walls, are the seven famed courtyards (one for each day of the week). Reason enough to name Knole the "Calendar House." Completed in 1486, Knole in Kent in the United Kingdom epitomizes a British Stately Mansion.

"Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles," by Robert Sackville-West is the storied history of the home, one of England's largest, and the 13 generations of Sackvilles who have inhabited the grand 15th-century building for more than four centuries.

Vita Sackville-West, part of the Bloomsbury crowd and Virginia Woolf's great friend and lover, famously described her Sackville ancestors as "a race too prodigal, too amorous, too weak, too indolent and too melancholy; a rotten lot, and nearly all stark staring mad."

Of Knole, she wrote "It has the deep inward gaiety of some very old woman who has always been beautiful, who has had many lovers and seen many generations come and go, smiled wisely over their sorrows and their joys, and leant an imperishable secret of tolerance and humour."

Vita loved her childhood home but her gender prevented her from inheriting Knole when her father died. Instead, her uncle took over title and estate. Knole is now under the care and partial ownership of England's National Trust. The Sackvilles still call Knole home and have ownership of a sizable portion of the house and gardens.

Charles Sackville, the 6th Earl of Dorset who occupied Knole in the late 1600s was certainly in the running for the most rowdy (randy, too) of Vita's rotten lot.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an interesting read as one normally doesn't get the story of the house from the viewpoint and in the context of the people have who lived in it. Each chapter discusses each of the occupants of one of the most famous - and largest - English country houses, Knole, as written by the present occupant. From it's acquisition by Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, through to the author, the present Lord Sackville, we follow the vicissitudes of the house, estate, and its owner/occupants. It's very readable and the family is interesting. However, what I felt was missing was content that made the reader familiar with the house itself and the surrounding estate. There isn't even a good photo of the house though there are some early drawings and a few photos that show Knole as a backdrop for photos. The book is exactly as subtitled: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles. One certainly gains an overview of the family history and an understanding of how each has felt about the house. While this makes a good, readable story, it wasn't exactly what I expected. I still recommend it, but with the warning that you won't learn a lot of details about the house, its rooms, and its contents. You'll learn about how it was all acquired, lived in, and hung onto.
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Such a dynamic family! Such a marvel of a house! Such a boring book! Ouch! All the stuff is in there, but it's just IN there. When I was teaching history, this was the kind of writing I expected from students who were just learning to research and write... NOT from a published author. Really, with all the comings and goings at that House, a much more interesting book is expected, not just a listing of who lived there, what they spent on good times and how many kids they had. Don't read this book if you want to know more than contents, names and dates. Very disappointing.
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