William FitzRoy was of royal descent, the son of a Baron and nephew of a Duke. After a career in the Coldstream Guards, cut short when he was only 30, FitzRoy took up the tenancy of Kempstone Lodge Farm on Thomas William Coke’s estate at Holkham. Of a different social standing to the other tenant farmers he set out to ‘Make Kempstone Perfect’, a model farm according to the best agricultural practices of the day. But his relationship with Francis Blaikie, the dour and meticulous Scottish agent at Holkham, was not always harmonious. It is the correspondence between FitzRoy and Blaikie which forms the backbone of this fascinating study in social and agricultural history.
Blaikie, the smoothly efficient professional, master of all the details of the estate management from crop rotation to the proper loading of carts, wields his skilful pen against FitzRoy, the enthusiastic amateur with friends in high places. In the background hovers the benevolent presence of the great Coke of Holkham.