** The Disinherited by Robert Sackville-West

Based on family archives, The Disinherited: A Story of Family, Love and Betrayal is the amazing tale of a branch of the author’s family, descendants of a great uncle who had five children with his mistress, all illegitimate since she was herself still married to her husband, from whom she was long estranged.

All that would not matter much today, but in the late 19th century these children had no claim to their father’s estate, and their father happened to become (rather unexpectedly) Lord Sackville and to inherit a fabulous mansion and fortune, neither of which could be passed on to his children. But one of the children, Victoria, married her first cousin, apparently very much with the goal of becoming the mistress (ha!) of that fabulous mansion, while her siblings spent their lives trying to get a slice of the pie. It’s a terrible tale of a family gone wrong, documented in great detail thanks to the interminable lawsuits between the siblings, all of which produced copious documentation. I wish that the author had gone a little lighter on the minutiae of those trials, but the story is engrossing.

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