Saturday, November 8, 2014




What was John Henry Montagu - Manners, 9the Duke of Rutland up to until he died of pneumonia in the Muniment Rooms of Castle Belvoir?  It was 1940.  A few days before he died, he appeared to be recovering.  So he may have not known he was going to die.  In the book his doctors are portrayed accepting that he has dismissed them to continue work on his secret project.  Just as his brother who died in childhood of appendix might have lived today with medicine being so much more advanced, I can't help but think John Henry might have lived.

The Muniment Rooms of Belvoir Castle were a kind of archive space for the family letters and papers.   In some pictures of the castle you can see them as windowed rooms at the base of what looks to be a turret. The author of THE SECRET ROOMS, Catherine Baily, went into files and boxes that were on every available surface and had been left that way for years.  She worked with the family archivist as well as interviewing the servants.

pages 82-83

"What had he wanted to finish?  The one theory circulating among his servants was that it was a letter, or a package, for his mistress, the woman who broke into the Muniment Rooms a week after he died.  None of the servants I spoke to could remember her name, but a former housemaid told me that she had lived at Eastwell Hall.  It was an important lead.  Situated three miles from the Castle, The Hall belonged to the Belvoir Estate.  Whoever she was, she would have been a tenant of the Dukes."

page 87

There were also visitor books stored in the Muniment rooms. Hilda Lazard had first stayed at the castle in October 1936 and her husband wasn't with her.  Four months later she visited there again.  On both visits she waswith the guests Hubert Duggan and Phyllis de Janze, who were known to be part of the Kenyan "Happy Valley" set. (British who were living in Kenya, Africa).

"At John's funeral, 40 people had sent flowers.  Hilda's name was the last on a list.  But why did, 3 days after John was buried, did Hilda return to the caste in the dead of night and broken in to the Muniment Rooms?"

It was 1940, she was near 50 years old, but in the dark of night she had "climbed up fifteen feet up a drain pipe and then negotiated a precarious maneuver to an adjacent window ledge.  She was obviously determined to get into the castle at any cost."

She tried the window first . "According to servants this clandestine route of entry was one that she had used countless times before." 

Their affair went on for some years.

Was it to get a keepsake, or to retrieve something?

page 88

John had probably not seen Hilda in his last days.  Perhaps he was destroying incriminating love letters or perhaps there were rubies hidden somewhere for Hilda.  He was discreet.  She was not mentioned in his will.  Would he not have wanted to provide for her in some way?


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