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Pellegrini Three Daughters

Harridans and Heroines: The Women of Castle Howard

March 22, 2024 1:00 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. ET
Curt DiCamillo

The women of Castle Howard were not merely decorative figures, languishing from boredom or ill-health; nor were they simply wives whose sole duty was to provide an heir. They were dynamic, combative individuals, who wrote, painted, travelled, pursued political careers, as well as superintending several family homes. They included the three daughters of the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, the builder of Castle Howard; the 4th Countess renowned for her 18th-century recipe book and unconventional lifestyle in Europe; Lady Caroline Cawdor who journeyed through Europe as Napoleon’s armies marched on Paris; the 6th Countess who gave birth to twelve children; and the "Radical" 9th Countess, who campaigned for women’s suffrage and for Temperance, and was a supporter of Irish nationalism as well as an acerbic critic of her peer group. What each of these women left behind is a priceless record of written material that opens up their inner lives. This talk challenges how we look at great houses and estates: they were not the exclusive preserve, or responsibility, of the male members of the family.

Dr. Christopher Ridgway has been Curator at Castle Howard since 1985. He has lectured on the estate and its history and collections all over the world and has published extensively. He is the chair of the Yorkshire Country House Partnership, a collaborative research project among the houses of the region; adjunct professor at the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at Maynooth University; and sits on the board of the Irish Heritage Trust. In 2019 Ridgway was awarded a UK Heritage Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award. His recent publications include Castle Howard and Brideshead, Fact, Fiction and In-Between (2011); The Morpeth Roll, Ireland Identified in 1841 (2013); George Howard, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, A Life in Yorkshire and Beyond (2019); and "New Walls for Old Pictures," in Country House Collections: Their Past, Present, and Future (2021), jointly edited with Terence Dooley. Learn more about Castle Howard.

Curt DiCamillo, who joined American Ancestors/NEHGS in February of 2016 as the organization’s first Curator of Special Collections, is an internationally recognized authority on British historic houses and the decorative arts.