Lady Cara Willoughby of Birdsall House - Duchess

Episode 4

Lady Cara Willoughby of Birdsall House

Published on: 7th October, 2021

Episode Description: 

In this week’s episode, the Duchess journeys to the beautiful Birdsall House to meet Lady Cara Willoughby. In the show, Lady Cara tells the Duchess about the incredible, swashbuckling life story of Britain’s most reckless naval officer, Lady Cara reveals how Jane Austen was influenced by Birdsall in her novels, and the ladies explore more ghostly-goings-on in heritage. 

Top Quotes:

"Living in heritage you become extremely aware through portraits on the wall, and the history of the family, that you are a very small link in the chain and, therefore, you inherit it, you do what you feel is right in your generation, and you hand it on." - Lady Cara

"As custodians, we are guardians of the house." - Lady Cara

"In heritage you always seem to be planning your life for your death." - Duchess

"The magic of Downton Abbey and The Crown is that they show these houses to be full of riches and staff but, of course, now they are not at all. We as custodians are juggling all the time to keep the reality and the magic." - Duchess

About the Guest and Stately Home:

Lady Cara Boyle was born in 1976 and is the daughter of John Richard Boyle, 15th Earl of Cork and Hon. Rebecca Juliet Noble. Her father is a hereditary peer with the house of lords. Lady Cara married her husband, James Willoughby, 13th Baron of Middleton, in 2005. The couple have three young children together. Lady Cara is a graphic designer having attended the Glasgow School of Art. The decision to end the family’s 478 years of exclusive use was made by Lady Cara Willoughby, and her husband. 

Birdsall House has been the home of the Willoughby family since 1729. The Willoughby family have had a long line of MPs, public officials, and military personnel providing service to the crown. Birdsall was built on the ruins of a 12th century monastery, some of which are still visible at the front of the house. Birdsall is a grade II* listed structure. The Jacobean building was enlarged and owes its stunning looks to the Georgians and to Victorian architect Anthony Salvin who designed the North wing. The Oval Room’s width was built to equal the jump of Henry Willoughby’s horse in 1790. The walls of the home are also lined with an unbroken line of family portraits dating from 1588 to the present Lord Middleton and to Lady Cara herself.

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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About the Podcast

Welcome to Duchess - the podcast in which the Duchess of Rutland explores the historic homes of Great Britain and meets the inspiring women who lead them today.
Welcome to Duchess - the podcast where the Duchess of Rutland explores the historic homes of Great Britain, and meets the inspiring women who lead them today.

Have you ever watched Bridgerton, The Crown or Downton Abbey and wondered what it's really like to be a Duchess? If so, this is the podcast for you.

Stately homes are manors, palaces, and castles of great historic significance. They were built by the finest architects, adorned with the finest treasures and surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. They homed the most powerful families and, with their wealth and social pedigree, shaped the world we live in today.

Emma grew up far away from the aristocracy but her life changed forever when she married her husband - the 11th Duke of Rutland - and moved into Belvoir Castle. At once Emma became both a Duchess and custodian of one of Britain's most important buildings.

The Duchess wanted to learn more about this world, these homes, and the other empowering women who, just like her, work tirelessly to ensure they see tomorrow.

In this podcast the Duchess will travel to breathtaking homes, learn the epic tales of their construction, meet the historic figures that walked their halls, hear chilling ghost stories and the heartbreaking tales of romance. All of this whilst getting to know the inspiring, powerful women that work to find the delicate balance between preservation and transformation.

Join Emma on a very special journey. This is Duchess, the podcast.