Powys Digital History Project

Upper Swansea Valley
Craig-y-nos Castle 5
by Len Ley

Madam Adelina Juana Maria Patti (1843-1919)
Madam Patti was born in Madrid on the 19th February 1843, of a Sicilian father and an Italian mother, both of whom were opera singers. She was the youngest of six children and her parents were relatively poor. Realising her potential, they launched their daughter in to an early musical career and at the age of eight she was singing in the concert halls of New York.

Adelina soon rose to international fame and performed at Covent Gardens in 1861. The doors of high society were opened to her, and in 1868 she married the Marquis de Caux, Equerry to Napoleon III of France, at a Roman Catholic Church in London.
It was not a happy marriage and in 1885 the Diva secured a divorce after settling half her current fortune upon her ex-husband. The agreed figure was said to be £64,000, a considerable amount in those days. She recovered financially and became the highest paid performer ever known.


inscribed "Madam
Patti Nicolini
in Gabriella"

By kind permission
of Brecknock Museum

Her rise from relative poverty to world renown indicated a remarkable talent underwritten by great strength of character. This great star was already deeply attached to Ernest Nicholini, a French Tenor, with whom she had often performed, sometimes Juliet to his Romeo.
Signor Nicholini was a dark, handsome man of indifferent health who became fond of hunting or fishing for trout along the Tawe.
Eventually the couple were married by the Spanish Consul at Swansea on the 9th February 1886 and the Rev. Glanley blessed their marriage at St. Cynog’s, Ystradgynlais, on the following day. These happy years were shared with the man she loved and Adelina returned to her castle, pouring care and money in to massive alterations that would cost over £100,000 adding the north and south wings, clock tower, conservatory and a magnificent winter garden.

She was now commanding over £1000 for each appearance, and a tour of the Americas in 1889 brought over £100,000 in fees and other commissions. Continuing her brilliant career, the Diva travelled the world from her remote Welsh castle, leaving by horse and carriage along a privately built road to an isolated railway station at Penwyllt where a small waiting room, richly furnished, was placed at her disposal.
The railway company provided a locomotive to pull her beautifully appointed private carriage, and she was taken to where ever she chose.

Madam Patti was kind to her staff and generous to the local communities, (see the pages on Coelbren School) giving many charitable concerts for hospitals at Swansea, Neath and Brecon. She often raised over £700 at a single performance.
Known as the Diva, she cared for her staff and continued to pay those who were ill, sending the doctor to them and their families. Adelina usually arranged a hamper of food for the household and would often take it herself.
Those who served her long and faithfully were given a pension upon retirement and those with no alternative accommodation were given a room at the castle for the rest of their days. 
  There are 10 pages on Craig-y-nos. Use the box links below to view the other pages.