The golden age of the Peerage was during the Georgian period, as depicted in romances such as Bridgerton. Peers were still powerful, and their inherited lands generated immense wealth that financed their lavish lifestyle. This also enabled the eccentric to indulge their fancies, none more so than John Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland (1800 -1879).
After an unrequited love affair, the Duke became a recluse at Welbeck Abbey- so called because it was built on the site of a monastery. He started massive building works employing up to 1500 workers at a time, that must have cost millions. He built a vast network of chambers under the Abbey, including a huge ballroom, said to be the biggest in Europe. He built fifteen miles of tunnels under his home, some wide enough to ride a carriage, and one over a mile long that led to the local railway station.
Yet he lived alone and hardly ever left his bedroom. His bedroom door had two letterboxes, one for incoming letters and one for outgoing letters. The only person allowed in his bedroom was his valet – even his doctor had to stand outside the door to consult with him.