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An evening with Marcus Scriven, the author of Splendour & Squalour

Date: 7th July, 2010

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Swinton Park, the luxury castle hotel in the Yorkshire Dales, is hosting a book talk and signing by Marcus Scriven, the author of Splendour & Squalour, on Sunday 26th September.

Hailed as “witty, gossipy and profoundly researched ” (Sunday Times), the book spills the beans on both Yorkshire aristocratic families and others, as he “guides us through each catalogue of errors with relish and wit ” (Daily Telegraph).

From stunning stately homes to the prisons of wartime Britain; from the House of Lords to Edwardian asylums; from the Ritz and the Dorchester to East End pubs, “Splendour and Squalor ” tells the stories of four of Britain's most illustrious aristocratic dynasties and of the black sheep who brought them down. They kept monkeys in West End hotels, and rent-boys in Deauville and Kensington. They spiced up life in pre-war Britain by patronizing illegal gaming clubs and staging elaborate five-in-a-bed sex in stately homes. They used firearms with convincing disregard for their own and others' safety and drove their Rollses and Bentleys with apparently suicidal intent. They acquired yachts and helicopters as they shipped the family silver to California and disposed of Old Masters at auction. They married frequently and unsatisfactorily, humiliating their wives and always withholding from them dynastic secrets of schizophrenia and insanity. Lacking the energy and appetite to do so, they rarely developed their talents. Carpeting their lives with deceit, they sought consolation in ferocious expenditure, funding narcotic and alcohol-fuelled blow-outs. They ignored the advice of sane relations, shrugged off trustees, and experimented with burglary, shop-lifting, vagrancy and fraud. Their primary, possibly sole, accomplishment was to drag down their families with them. They were the black sheep of aristocracy and this is their story.

Marcus Scriven read history at Oxford, was briefly a soldier, and then became a journalist, working initially for the Sunday Telegraph, then the Evening Standard, before embarking on research for Splendour & Squalor, his first book. He was a leading contributor to Channel 4's documentary on Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol.

Proceeds raised on the evening are being donated to Help for Heroes. Entry 10 per person (including a glass of wine).


Press enquiries : Felicity Cunliffe-Lister : 01765 680944 :

Notes for the Editor :

  1. Swinton Park is a 30 bedroom luxury hotel with 4 Red Stars and 3 Rosettes for quality of food. It is the ancestral seat of the Earl of Swinton and is owned by the Cunliffe-Lister family, who opened it as a hotel in 2001.
  2. The hotel has a cookery school, with day, evening and residential courses running all year. The residential courses are run by the TV Celebrity chef, Rosemary Shrager.
  3. The gardens, including the four acre walled garden, have been extensively restored in recent years. The walled garden now grows over 60 varieties of seasonal herbs, fruit and produce. The hotel is committed to keeping food miles to an absolute minimum, with the majority of all other produce sourced by the hotel coming from the surrounding 20,000 acre estate and Yorkshire countryside.
  4. The hotel has a carbon neutral woodchip boiler, eco-laundry and many other environmental measures in place winning awards for its green policies.