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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1998)

af Amanda Foreman

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Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. HTML:

Winner of Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize, Amanda Foreman's bestselling work is a penetrating, marvelously written account of Lady Georgiana Spencer.

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. But Georgiana's public success concealed an unhappy marriage, a gambling addiction, drinking, drug taking, and rampant love affairs with the leading politicians of the day. With penetrating insight, Amanda Foreman reveals a fascinating woman whose struggle against her own weaknesses, whose great beauty and flamboyance, and whose determination to play a part in the affairs of the world make her a vibrant, astonishingly contemporary figure.

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Georgiana Cavendish (1757-1806) became Duchess of Devonshire when she married William Cavendish, the fifth Duke, at the age of 17. As the daughter of an Earl, Georgiana was accustomed to moving among the privileged class; as Duchess she took on an even greater role as pre-eminent hostess and trend-setter. But to label her a “socialite” (as Wikipedia has done) is selling her short. Georgiana was a natural leader with a keen interest in government and politics. She successfully organized national election campaigns for the Whigs, and mediated controversial disputes involving the Royal Family. She had a strong intellect, and in her spare time wrote fiction and studied science, in particular chemistry and mineralogy.

And yet, Georgiana’s personal life was a bit of a mess. Her marriage was less than satisfying, and while she bore three children she also had numerous miscarriages before at last producing an heir. Her lifelong best friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, had far too much power over the Duchess and her household. And Georgiana had a severe gambling addiction that repeatedly took its toll on the family finances.

This biography weaves together all of these threads and more into a fascinating story of a woman who, in many ways, was way ahead of her time. ( )
  lauralkeet | Feb 4, 2023 |
9780375753831
  archivomorero | Jun 28, 2022 |
Informative but uninspiring biography about a very interesting woman. ( )
  Litrvixen | Jun 23, 2022 |
Well researched and well written. I just couldn't get into it. ( )
  JMcGruder | Mar 23, 2022 |
So many extremes in the life of this woman at 20 y.o.: ultra rich, ultra fashionable, at the top of the aristocracy. Despite this background the Duchess could have been a nonentity like her husband but she was both outgoing and drew people to her throughout her life. I can see why the author was ensorceled and had to change dissertation topics once Georgiana made an impression. I enjoyed this as a visit to the late 18th century. The extreme gambling habits seem exotic, and Georgiana's losses snowballed (her own fault mostly) and haunted her for decades.

The writing made the political wrangling understandable and for the most part kept the cavalcade of characters distinct. The warm feeling of the author for Georgiana does not take over or keep her from showing real mistakes and faults. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
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I know I was handsome...and have always been fashionable, but I do assure you," Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, wrote to her daughter at the end of her life, "our negligence and omissions have been forgiven and we have been loved, more from our being free from airs than from any other circumstance."
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Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. HTML:

Winner of Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize, Amanda Foreman's bestselling work is a penetrating, marvelously written account of Lady Georgiana Spencer.

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. But Georgiana's public success concealed an unhappy marriage, a gambling addiction, drinking, drug taking, and rampant love affairs with the leading politicians of the day. With penetrating insight, Amanda Foreman reveals a fascinating woman whose struggle against her own weaknesses, whose great beauty and flamboyance, and whose determination to play a part in the affairs of the world make her a vibrant, astonishingly contemporary figure.

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