When home is a castle

2009-06-03 00:00


The Music Room

William Fiennes


IN his tender and lyrical memoir, The Music R oom, William Fiennes describes the experience of growing up in a 700-year-old castle with his three siblings, the eldest of whom has brain damage as a result of a succession of severe epileptic fits.

For the young Fiennes, the 14th-century ancestral castle — with its moat, gatehouse tower, Great Hall, medieval chapel, leathery library, the music room of the title, portraits, sets of armour, rumours of ghosts and a vast estate — is the norm, as are the seizures, and subsequent moodswings, aggression and physical violence of his older brother, Richard.

While by the age of 15 the restless adolescent has begun to tire of “our moated world”, he nevertheless values his upbringing there. When he opts, after school, to take an adventurous gap, he spends time consciously absorbing the ambience of the place, wanting “to make it part of me … to carry it with me •…”

The memoir consists of recollections of life in and around the castle — exploring the numerous rooms, acknowledging the private and public domains of the building, interacting with the servants, coping with invasions of film crews (Joseph Andrews and The Scarlet Pimpernel appear to have been filmed at this venue), observing musicians, tour groups, angling clubs (the moat is replete with fish), play productions and fairs.

It consists too of accounts of Richard’s seizures, of his visits home from the epileptic centre where he is institutionalised, of his endearing idiosyncrasies, unpredictable aggression and bewildered remorse.

Further, the author includes items of research which he has pursued regarding epilepsy and the identification of behavioural aberrations connected with frontal lobe atrophy.

The music room is a sanctuary in the castle where Fiennes’ mother practises the viola, where the metronome is capable of dictating time, where Richard, however deluded, might dress himself up and give a performance.

Fiennes’ childhood has the potential for the idyllic. But castles are anachronisms in the modern world — their maintenance calls for entrepreneurial inventiveness and their inhabitants are not exempt from the realities of human suffering.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.