Fortune’s Many Houses: A Victorian Visionary, a Noble Scottish Family, and a Lost Inheritance

Atria. Feb. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781982128623. $30. HIST
Written by TV producer Welfare (“Mysterious World” series), who is married to the subjects’ great-granddaughter, this account is a personal look at Lord and Lady Aberdeen’s contributions to the United Kingdom and Canada in the Victorian era and beyond. The Aberdeens were wealthy nobility, and the norms of the day were to tend to their homes and attend social events that would befit their station. While Lord Aberdeen (1847-1934) served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Governor General of Canada, Lady Aberdeen (1857-1939) focused on social works. These included founding the Victorian Order of Nurses, developing a household club whereby their servants could learn reading and other skills (highly controversial and frowned upon by their peers), and using their residences as hospitals during World War I. Over time, their overspending on homes and projects meant that they lost most of the fortune by their deaths in the 1930s.
VERDICT This work uses primary resources to tell the story of a special couple who were the exception rather than the norm. While there are a few other works about them, including their own 1927 reminiscence We Twa, this balanced recounting will be enjoyed by those who savor details on nobility during the Victorian era.
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