The grim truth behind Britain’s stately homes

(CNN) — Grand buildings replete with turrets, picture windows and kitchen gardens. Perfectly manicured lawns. And hundreds of rooms stuffed with antiques and objet d’arts from across the globe.

Few things are as quintessentially English as a stately home. Tourists love them. And they’re a guaranteed box office draw, as “Downton Abbey” and “Pride and Prejudice” can attest.

But there’s a more disturbing side.

Many of these country estates are indelibly linked to brutal legacies of slavery and colonialism. And while their grim origins may have been previously overlooked, they’re now facing a new level of scrutiny that — amid raging debates over how Britain reckons with its imperial past — has exploded into its own cultural conflict.

Published this month, the report identifies 93 places, roughly one third of all of its properties, that it says were built, benefited from or connected to the spoils of slavery and colonialism.

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