Thursday, November 19, 2009

Toil and Trouble

A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth’s Castle by Liza Campbell

Liza Campbell, second daughter to the 25th Thane of Cawdor, tells the story of her Grimm’s fairytale life – complete with castles, servants, evil charms, evil stepmothers and Beauty-and-the-Beast-style father. It is detailed look at the world of the nobility, immersed in bygone ways and traditions. Steeped in history as a child, Campbell knew how to do the Scottish reel before she attended parties with peers her own age and could explain the history of the area while knowing little of current events.

Liza Campbell's memoir depicts a privileged and tortured childhood made terrifying by her unpredictable and power-drunk father, Hugh Campbell, who didn’t know how to communicate love, except in letters. She describes her father's decline as he struggles with great responsibility and fear of living up to his family name by philandering, drinking, doing drugs, and selling family heirlooms. Although she was obviously scarred by her experiences, Campbell manages to portray her father with some sympathy. His parents did not teach him how to handle emotions, prepare him to handle his huge estate or show him how to be a good husband and father. His role models were always those who showed off their power, hurting those around them. Scared of the great responsibility to live up to his title and bearing the weight of generations, Hugh Campbell avoids it with every effort. At his death, he deals a blow to his successors that they are still dealing with today.

This is definitely a tell-all book, designed to bolster the position 26th Thane of Cawdor and his siblings in their feud over heirlooms with their stepmother. It is a fascinating story – I barely put it down over the 6 hours I read it – and I ended feeling fired up, wanting to send a letter to the Dowager Countess, demanding that she return all property to her stepchildren. This sort of story has sadly become more common as families split, remarry and make wills that run counter to expectations. It is my opinion that widows should be provided for, but that all family property and heirlooms should always follow family lines -- maybe reverting to them after her death -- unless they give up all claims to it. But, as Liza Campbell herself notes at the beginning of the memoir, “My story is only one slender wedge of the pie.”

 For further reading check out the following websites:

The feud continues here and here.

Liza Campbell's website. She is an artist!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jennifer,
    I too really loved Liza's story. I didn't want to put this book down, and so I didn't, ending up reading it all in one evening.
    One of Liza's most fascinating insights is that family and friends stood by her father Hugh's decline without intervening because of his position and money. They were intimidated by him. If he had been a poor man, perhaps someone would have stepped in and tried to get him to stop drinking earlier.

    I really hope the property will be returned to the Campbell kids. It's interesting how people feel so differently about wills. On one hand I do agree that people's intentions and desires should be honored as much as possible. After all, it is their property and they can do what they want with it. But in this case, when it is family heirloom property that seems to belong more the family as a whole and as part of history, it does seem so wrong to give it to the second wife who has no children of the Campbell line to pass it down to. Liza says that the properties don't so much belong to any Thane as they are given into the stewardship of that Thane. And I agree. The property should be kept in the family.

    Thanks for the additional links.