The Duchess by Amanda Foreman

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The winner of Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize and a bestseller there for months, this wonderfully readable biography offers a rich, rollicking picture of late-eighteenth-century British aristocracy and the intimate story of a woman who for a time was its undisputed leader.

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, at the age of seventeen, Georgiana achieved immediate celebrity by marrying one of England's richest and most influential aristocrats, the Duke of Devonshire. Launched into a world of wealth and power, she quickly became the queen of fashionable society, adored by the Prince of Wales, a dear friend of Marie-Antoinette, and leader of the most important salon of her time. Not content with the role of society hostess, she used her connections to enter politics, eventually becoming more influential than most of the men who held office.

Her good works and social exploits made her loved by the multitudes, but Georgiana's public success, like Diana's, concealed a personal life that was fraught with suffering. The Duke of Devonshire was unimpressed by his wife's legendary charms, preferring instead those of her closest friend, a woman with whom Georgiana herself was rumored to be on intimate terms. For over twenty years, the three lived together in a jealous and uneasy ménage à trois, during which time both women bore the Duke's children—as well as those of other men.

Foreman's descriptions of Georgiana's uncontrollable gambling, all- night drinking, drug taking, and love affairs with the leading politicians of the day give us fascinating insight into the lives of the British aristocracy in the era of the madness of King George III, the American and French revolutions, and the defeat of Napoleon.

A gifted young historian whom critics are already likening to Antonia Fraser, Amanda Foreman draws on a wealth of fresh research and writes colorfully and penetratingly about the fascinating Georgiana, 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.

About Amanda Foreman

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Amanda Foreman is a Visiting Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. She won the Whitbread Prize for Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She is married with five children, and lives in both New York and London.
Published September 16, 2008 by Random House. 512 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction, Religion & Spirituality, Self Help. Non-fiction

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The New York Times

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WITH: Keira Knightley (Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire), Ralph Fiennes (the Duke of Devonshire), Charlotte Rampling (Lady Spencer), Dominic Cooper (Earl Grey), Hayley Atwell (Lady Elizabeth Foster) and Simon McBurney (Charles James Fox).

Sep 18 2008 | Read Full Review of The Duchess

The Telegraph

In time, Georgiana too has an affair - with aspiring politician Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper, from The History Boys) - but feels obliged to reveal it to her husband.

Sep 05 2008 | Read Full Review of The Duchess

London Review of Books

This was not because of any troilism in the arrangement – though Georgiana loved Bess – but because each gave the other security: Georgiana was less likely to be expelled from Devonshire House so long as Bess was there, and Georgiana’s continued presence enabled Bess to live with the Duke respect...

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Oct 01 2008 | Read Full Review of The Duchess

Harvard Business Review

Foreman was tapping into a practice — well-known among professional writers — called “kill your darlings.” In fact, a community of writers in Atlanta has adopted that name for its website.

Aug 03 2011 | Read Full Review of The Duchess

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