"The Decline and Fall of the Dukes of Leinster, 1872–1948
by Terrence Dooley
304 pages with colour illustrations
This book tells the story of the Dukes of Leinster, and in particular the personal story of Hermione, the 5th Duchess of Leinster, and her three sons. It is an extraordinary tale full of pain, heartache and scandal. The stories in this book will make the scripts of 'Downton Abbey' and the exploits of the Crawley family look like children’s tales.
In a 70-year period, the Dukes of Leinster fell from being Ireland’s premier aristocratic family, close friends of the British monarchy, secure within the world’s most powerful empire, to relative obscurity in an independent Irish Free State (Irish Republic after 1949) that did not recognize titles. And while in 1872, when this work opens, the 3rd Duke of Leinster resided in some grandeur in the Palladian Carton House, the 7th Duke would die impoverished in a one-room bedsit flat in St. George’s Drive, Westminster, London, just over a century later in 1976. The story moves from the small town of Maynooth, County Kildare, to London, to Continental Europe, to an asylum in Edinburgh, to the U.S., before completing the circle and ending back in Maynooth in the 1940s. The narrative of decline and fall unfolds against such historical watersheds as the Land War of the 1880s; the simultaneous rise of the Home Rule movement; the breakup of Irish landed estates after 1903; the Great War of 1914–18; the revolutionary turmoil of 1916–23; and the 1920s global economic depression. The impact of such public has featured prominently in the historiography of the decline of the Irish landed class, both north and south. However, little attempt has been made to combine that history with private lives and experiences. This book sets out to rectify this. In the process, it reveals the tragic personal story of Hermione, 5th Duchess of Leinster, and her three sons, gathered from sources heretofore unused by historians of the Leinsters.
Terence Dooley is Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, NUIM (National University of Ireland, Maynooth). He is the author of several books on country houses and the land question in 19th and 20th-century Ireland. His most recent is an edited volume with Christopher Ridgway, "The Irish Country House: Its Past, Present and Future" (2011).