The one lesson I've learned from life: Emma Manners Duchess of Rutland

The one lesson I've learned from life: Emma Manners Duchess of Rutland

11/06/2022

The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Emma Manners, Duchess of Rutland, 59, says working hard does not mean you’ll will

Emma Manners, Duchess of Rutland, 59, is chatelaine of Grade I‑listed Belvoir Castle in Grantham, Leicestershire. She runs the commercial activities of the castle where she lives with her husband, David Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland (from whom she’s separated). They have five children. 

I’ve always believed that whatever you’re working at, whether fruit-picking, bringing up children or running a farm, it’s the work itself that is important. My mantra is ‘work hard because that’s where you find your reward’. 

The catalyst came when I was about ten and failed the 11-plus exam, which meant I couldn’t go to grammar school. 

Emma Manners, Duchess of Rutland, 59, (pictured) says working hard does not mean you’ll will. She says she believes that it is the work itself that is important

My parents realised how behind I was with my education and sent me away to private school to bring me up to speed. From then on, I really understood the value of hard work and application. Working hard doesn’t always mean you’ll succeed. I trained to be an opera singer but dyslexia meant I struggled with sight-singing. Having to leave that profession was a big thing for me, but I didn’t lose hope, I just threw myself into everything I did, whether it was being a chalet girl, tour guide or interior designer. As it turned out, every job I did equipped me for the job I do today. 

Taking care of Belvoir Castle is like living over the shop. It’s open to the public and you’re always juggling to make sure every part is working — from keeping the roof on and the windows watertight, to ensuring the furnishings are restored. You hope to hand it on in a better state than when you received it. 

There’s no such thing as ‘I’ at Belvoir — it’s all about teamwork. If we have a downpour and there’s no one else about, I’ll clean out the gutters. I grew up on a Welsh farm, so I learned the principle of all hands to the pump early. 

It’s a challenge to break even, and weddings and corporate events help keep the wheels turning. It was also my idea to allow filming here, including scenes for The Crown plus movies such as The Da Vinci Code and The Haunting. 

After 20 years of living and working here, we’re beginning to make the castle more safe and secure, but it’s taken a lot of hard work. As my mum used to say: Rome wasn’t built in a day. All you can do in life is keep your head down, put in the work and keep going.

  • The Accidental Duchess is out now (£22, Pan Macmillan). 

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