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Paperback The Duchess Book

ISBN: 0812979699

ISBN13: 9780812979695

The Duchess

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Book Overview

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK - NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE Lady Georgiana Spencer was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales, and was nearly as famous in her day. In 1774 Georgiana achieved immediate celebrity by marrying William Cavendish, fifth duke of Devonshire, one of England's richest and most influential aristocrats. She became the queen of fashionable society and founder of the most important political salon of her time...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Excellent, readable history

This biography of Georgiana, the duchess of Devonshire in the late 1700s and early 1800s is really fascinating. She came of age just at the time when the press had an inclination and the ability to create a kind of celebrity. Poor Georgiana became a short of Paris Hilton of her time. The public watched her every move, imitated her when they could. She seemed to enjoy the notoriety, when she was young, and partied until exhaustion. This well researched book revealed several problems for her: 1) She married a man who, while be brought her a wonderful position, was totally unsuited in personality. 2) She developed a problem with compulsive gambling and ended up with horrendous debts which she feared to bring to her husband's attention. 3) She had adulterous affairs which resulted in an offspring that she had to give up. All of this within a period of not much more than 20 years, before her health and beauty faded. But she really was more than just the obvious surface society lady. She loved science (especially geology), and she was a true friend to those she loved. I found this book to be fascinating, also, because (I hate to admit it!) I always loved those period romances (think Georgette Heyer). Reading this book was like reading one of those! Only other addicts will understand when I say things like "the book has Lady Jersey!! The Ton!! The Queen's Drawing Rooms!" This book is worthwhile, thus, as both serious history, and as enjoyable background for other reading!

Fascinating Biography

Much more detailed and complex than the cinematic bodice-ripper starring lovely Keira Knightley, this fascinating and thorough biography takes you up close and personal with the famous Duchess and her intriguing supporting cast of characters. Startlingly modern in her politics, passions and problems, Georgiana's story is well worth reading. She is as captivating all these centuries later as she clearly was while living. History buffs and political afficiandoes will certainly enjoy this juicy tome.

A Modern Woman In The Eighteenth Century

"The Duchess" is the movie tie in version of Amanda Foreman's excellent 1998 biography "Georgiana". Except for the cover depicting Keira Knightley as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, it is essentially the same book. Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, was born in the eighteenth century and died in the early nineteenth century, but her life was very modern in many ways. She was an open activist at a time when women were supposed to stay behind the scenes, a bold and flamboyant hostess who used her social prestige to advance her political agenda, and a beautiful but ultimately self-destructive woman whose emotions helped shape British history. Georgiana was born into one wealthy and powerful aristocratic family and married into an even wealthier and more powerful one. The Cavendishes were bastions of the Whig oligarchy, which governed Britain almost continuously through the eighteenth century until the 1760s, when King George III forced them out of power. In opposition the Whigs became the progressives or liberals of the day, calling for curbs on the King's powers, protection for the liberties of the people, and for progress and social reform (with the ultimate aim of regaining power for themselves, of course). Georgiana was married to the Duke of Devonshire, who was retiring where she was outgoing, far more interested in living a quiet life with various mistresses than in helping to advance the Whig cause. Georgiana, frustrated with a husband who did not appreciate her, threw herself into politics, becoming a friend of Whig leaders like Charles James Fox and campaigning openly for him and others. Georgiana's private life was complicated. She and her husband were involved in a years long menage a trois with Lady Elizabeth Foster, who was simultaneously Georgiana's best friend and the Duke's mistress and mother of his illegitimate children. Georgiana was addicted to gambling and lost enormous sums which she feared to reveal to the Duke. Eventually Georgiana herself had a love affair which nearly caused her marriage to end and forced her temporarily out of sight. Although she returned to political life after some years, her health broke down and her influence remained diminished. Amanda Foreman has produced a work of great scholarship which reads like a novel. Georgiana's life is so fascinating that I've read this biography several times just to see what she would get up to next and how she would get out of one scrape after another. Foreman makes the good point that Georgiana epitomized many women of the eighteenth century, who were far more active and involved in politics than is generally supposed, as well as being a harbinger of the kind of power base to which women in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries still aspire.

Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

The only bad thing about this book is that it's inevitably going to end. If you love superbly written and beautifully researched biographies and have ANY interest whatsoever in history, you'll want to add this one to your library. The author, Amanda Foreman, is a former freelance journalist, which probably goes very far in explaining why the story is so incredibly absorbing. It reads like a novel. Typically, I actually knit while I read. With this book, I finally put my knitting aside because it was slowing down my reading! I admit to minoring in history in college, with a focus on British history, but I've learned all kinds of information that I never fully understood before. (The author also has a PhD from Oxford.) The only other biography I've read that comes close to this one was also written by another Amanda ... Amanda Vaill's Everybody was So Young. If you appreciated that one, you'll probably love reading about Amanda Foreman's Georgiana.

Awesome!

This is one of the best books I've read in ages. I totally loved the way Ms Foreman manages to make the period come alive and it reads like a modern story with a completely authentic old feel. I'd much rather read this lively, energetic and amusing writing than the strangely successful Angelas Ashes
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