In this week’s episode, the Duchess speaks to Lady Ailsa of the historic Stonor Park. In the episode, Lady Ailsa tells the Duchess about the mysterious story of Hollywood’s lost aviator, we get the backstory on Stonor Park’s mystical foundations, and the ladies discuss the estate’s fascinating history of Catholic martyrdom.
"When living in these homes you do really reflect on how extraordinary it is to have this great tapestry of hundreds of years surrounding you." - Duchess
"These homes aren't built for five people to rattle around in. They're built for everyone to see." - Lady Ailsa
"In lockdown, we have noticed an enormous reconnection with Belvoir from the local community. We hope it will stay because the only way we will keep the roofs on these places is from the support of local people in the surrounding area. Living in heritage is such a partnership" - Duchess
About the Guest and Stately Home:
Lady Ailsa was born Ailsa Mackay, the daughter of Kenneth Mackay, 4th Earl of Inchcape and Georgina Nisbet. She married Hon. William Stonor, son of Sir Ralph Thomas Stonor, 7th Lord Camoys, in 2004. The couple have three children together. Lady Ailsa is a landscape designer who worked in international development for non-governmental organisations and works alongside her husband in the running of the house.
Stonor Park has been in the Stonor family for over 850 years, and is one of the oldest family homes to be lived in today. The first mention of Stonor is ‘Stanora Lege’, or ‘stony hill’, appearing in AD 774 with the first recorded family member, Robert De Stanora, living there during the late 12th Century. For the following three centuries the family prospered, acquiring lands and titles, administering lucrative wardships, farming their flocks of sheep, fighting in great battles, holding high office and marrying into powerful local families. This expansion was curtailed with Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy as the Catholic Stonors refused to accept the monarch as head of the church. This unwavering commitment to their faith came at a great cost, and by 1650 all of the Stonor estates, barring the Stonor Valley, had been sold to pay recusancy fines. After generations of lobbying, the Catholic Emancipation Act was eventually passed in 1829 at which point the 3rd Lord Camoys once more embraced government and public life. Stonor is now home to three generations of the Stonor family – the Lord and Lady Camoys reside in the recently restored 14th Century Wool House.
About the Host:
Emma Rutland, The Duchess of Rutland, did not always stride the halls of stately homes. Born Emma Watkins, the Duchess grew up the daughter of a Quaker farmer, in the Welsh marsh countryside. She trained as an opera singer in the Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a successful interior designer before meeting her future husband David Manners, the 11th Duke of Rutland, at a dinner party. Their marriage in 1992 would transform Emma Watkins into the 11th Duchess of Rutland, thrusting her into the world of aristocracy, and handing her the responsibility of one of the nation's great treasures: Belvoir Castle. While simultaneously running the day to day operations of the castle, and raising five children, The Duchess became fascinated with the history and importance of the other stately homes of the UK. Join The Duchess as she embarks on a wonderful journey through time, to learn more about the incredible homes that have defined Great Britain and, most importantly, meet the other extraordinary women who work tirelessly behind their doors to preserve their history and magic for future generations.
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