Monday, June 24, 2024

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The Duchess Podcast… To Save the Castle

Last month, Emma, ​​Duchess of Rutland sat in her drawing room and weighed the pros and cons of living in a sprawling garden. In particular, Belvoir Castle, pronounced “beaver”, is a large and beautiful landmark on a wooded hilltop in the English countryside, comprising more than 356 rooms and large neo-Gothic turrets and smaller turrets. The castle has been the residence of the family since the 16th century.

“It’s wonderful, of course, we’re incredibly lucky, but you never know who lives with you,” said Duchess Emma. “Most people don’t have the privacy they expect from their homes,” he added. And don’t even get me started on ghosts.’

Emma Manners, Duchess of Rutland, at Beaver Castle in Leicestershire, England (Alice Zoo/The New York Times)

How do you finance a heritage castle?

There is a PS who wanders around with a giant flag that needs to be fixed before flying over the palace’s 2.5 acre rooftop. Downstairs, the castle’s tea room featured tourists sampling jam cakes made on the Beaver Estate. Nearby, a group of pickup trucks make their way through the obstacle course of the latest Tough Mudder endurance event. For the Duchess, born Emma Watkins, it was a day like any other.

The daughter of a Welsh border farmer, she moved to Beaver in 2001 when her husband became the 11th Duke of Rutland, one of England’s oldest hereditary titles. He may have inherited a fairy-tale castle, but they shouldered £12m (nearly $15.5m) in inheritance taxes, and in the wife’s words: “There are phalanxes of rats and staff that clearly supported the castle’s previous occupants. before us.”

Over the years, as Lady and Executive Director of the Castle, the Duchess has brokered photography and event deals, facilitated manor operations and undertaken restoration work in charge of preserving Beaver Castle for the next generation.

While newspapers have recently talked about the castle’s unconventional living arrangements (the Duke and Duchess legally separated and lived in separate units in 2012), historic houses in Britain are increasingly part of a culture war about how the country perceives its past. Colonial, the duchess showed a greater inclination to be the center of attention, albeit on her own terms.

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Beaver Castle’s operating and maintenance costs are £1m a year (Alice Zoo/The New York Times)

In 2020, she started a podcast called “The Duchess” in which she interviews other Duchesses. The Duchess Gallery store on the estate sells branded clothing and homewares. Last year, the Duchess published her autobiography, The Accidental Duchess, which details her husband’s series of affairs and the series of miscarriages she suffered while raising five children.

Now 59, she appears to be one of the most acceptable public faces of Britain’s aristocracy at a time when many prefer to keep a low profile. That means they are more confident than others in revealing secrets.

Old houses and the cost of maintaining them

It’s a curious – and very safe – joke of the British cultural landscape, in which many stately homes can receive visitors. About a third of historic houses are in the care of conservation and preservation charities such as the National Trust or English Heritage, but Beaver Castle in Leicestershire is privately owned.

“Many homes opened their doors for the first time since World War II and had to find new sources of income to cover repair bills,” said Ben Coyle, general manager of the Historic Homes Trust, a nonprofit that helps preserve 1,500 private homes. Owners are unable to keep properties and houses when they are demolished.

Beaver Castle in Leicestershire, England (Alice Zoo/The New York Times)

Beginning in the 1970s, laws on inheritance taxes were changed to make it financially advantageous to open houses to the public for a certain number of days each year, which would provide funds to cover traditional conservation costs. (Today, Historic Homes estimates their collective holdings are about 2 billion pounds — about $2.5 billion — in repair and maintenance arrears.)

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“We find that visitors are more interested in seeing historic homes where the owners still live than they are as uninhabited museum pieces,” says Coyle.

Some spend the night at Beaver Fort. The castle — which replaced Windsor Castle in the series “The Crown” and appeared in films including “The Da Vinci Code” and “Young Victoria” — often hosts guests for weekend events and photo shoots. Stay in the luxurious master bedrooms, many of which have been recently renovated, with walls covered in hand-painted wallpaper in collaboration with de Courney.

Beaver Castle was used to film scenes from the series “The Crown” (Netflix).

Indeed, preserving the wallpaper is often a priority for the Duchess, who was once an interior decorator (an estate agent and an opera singer). It’s the cornerstone of his new philanthropic venture, American Friends of Beaver Castle, which will hold its inaugural fundraiser next year at the luxury Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.

The American fascination with ancient British houses, fueled by the popularity of shows such as “The Crown” and “Downton Abbey,” was important to the castle’s financial affairs. However, as the Duchess puts it, Beaver Castle costs £1m a year to run a “fixed estate”. She is always looking for donors.

“Americans want to find meaning in their roots and the history we have here,” he said. It was wonderful to have so many listeners from America for The Duchess Podcast.

But the Duchess of Rutland, who says she doesn’t know what a “podcast: podcast” is, why she agrees to interview other women who run posh houses, including Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill of Blenheim Palace. , and Duchess of Argyll of Inverary Castle and Countess Spencer of Ulthrop House? Wasn’t she worried that such a blatantly sophisticated and elitist plan might backfire? The Duchess was shocked at the suggestion.

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To which she said, “Not even for a moment! People may love me or hate me, but I have never thought of the negatives of others. The Duchess’ podcast is meant to give people a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like for a woman to run one of these massive properties alone. It can be a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ve had breakfast in bed once in the two decades I’ve lived here.

An antique telephone at Beaver Fort (Alice Zoo/The New York Times)

The podcast was the brainchild of the Duchess’s eldest daughter, Lady Violet Manners, who came up with the idea while studying at UCLA. Her mother said Violet felt there was an interested audience listening to such an audio series. A highly skilled interviewer, the Duchess, in her words, casts herself in the mold of a “sublime showgirl” and is always happy to be in her role.

The Duchess said: “I grew up on a farm. I wasn’t born to a high title, I don’t know any worldly heritage or aristocracy, but as long as I live here I will do my best to make Beaver Castle prosperous.

The duchess still believes in seniority, or the right to an eldest son, and doesn’t think her other four children would want to carry such an inheritance burden anyway. Lady Violet, Lady Alice, and Lady Eliza, dubbed the “naughty pretty sisters” by London parties as their neighbors complained in the newspapers, now work in creative consulting and interior design, where their brother Charles works. , is in London and his brother Hugo is studying at Newcastle University.

New York Times Service.

Pandora Bacchus
Pandora Bacchus
"Coffee evangelist. Alcohol fanatic. Hardcore creator. Infuriatingly humble zombie ninja. Writer. Introvert. Music fanatic."

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