The Disinherited: A Story of Love, Family and Betrayal by Robert Sackville-West - review by Jane Ridley

Jane Ridley

The Marriage Plot

The Disinherited: A Story of Love, Family and Betrayal


Bloomsbury 308pp £20

Mention the word disinherited in connection with Knole and most people will think of Vita Sackville-West. Unable to inherit because she was a woman, she mourned Knole for the rest of her life. Robert Sackville-West has unearthed a much stranger, sadder story – the tale of Vita’s illegitimate Spanish family. This book brilliantly exposes the shadowy side of the Victorian aristocracy and the horrors of life on the wrong side of the blanket.

The story begins in Paris in the 1850s, where Lionel Sackville-West, a young attaché, had an affair with a Spanish dancer named Pepita. The daughter of a barber from the backstreets of Malaga, Pepita’s outstanding talent had made her a celebrity. Lionel was the fifth son of Lord De La Warr, and he seemed destined for a career of honourable obscurity in the Foreign Office.

After 14 years of on–off romance with Lionel,

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