Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire

by Amanda Foreman

Random House Publishing Group | January 16, 2001 | Trade Paperback |

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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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 512 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: January 16, 2001

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375753834

ISBN - 13: 9780375753831

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– More About This Product –

Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire

by Amanda Foreman

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 512 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: January 16, 2001

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375753834

ISBN - 13: 9780375753831

Read from the Book

Debutante Georgiana was only fourteen when people began to speculate on her choice of husband. Lady Spencer thought it would be a dreadful mistake if she married too young. "I hope not to part with her till 18 at the soonest," she told a friend in 1771.37 Her daughter''s outward sophistication led many to think that she was more mature than her years. In 1772 the family embarked upon another grand tour, this time with all three children in tow. The rapturous reception which greeted Georgiana in Paris confirmed Lady Spencer''s fears. According to a fellow English traveller, "Lady Georgiana Spencer has been very highly admired. She has, I believe, an exceedingly good disposition of her own, and is happy in an education which it is to be hoped will counteract any ill effect from what may too naturally turn her head." Georgiana combined a perfect mastery of etiquette with a mischievous grace and ease which met with approval in the artificial and mannered atmosphere of the French court. Wherever Georgiana accompanied Lady Spencer people marvelled at the way in which she seemed so natural and yet also conscious of being on show. Many were daunted by the complex and highly choreographed set-pieces which passed for social discourse in French salons. "It was no ordinary science," reminisced a retired courtier, "to know how to enter with grace and assurance a salon where thirty men and women were seated in a circle round the fire, to penetrate this ci
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From the Publisher

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.

From the Jacket

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 menage a 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 theBritish 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.

Editorial Reviews

"Georgiana bursts from the pages of Amanda Foreman''s dazzling biography like the force of nature she undoubtedly was — passionate, political, addicted to gambling, and drunk on life. This is a stunning book about an astonishing woman." — Simon Schama "A most impressive début. I predict a great future for Amanda Foreman. She is a scholar who matches her learning to a sense of adventure and writes with engaging vitality." — Michael Holroyd "A mesmerizing read. . . . The charm of Amanda Foreman''s Georgiana is that it gives you all the fascinating detail you want . . . and is at the same time a serious, scholarly work, based on exhaustive archival research." — Antonia Fraser, Literary Review "Stunning historical research plus feminine acuity yield a vivid portrait of a shrewd, seductive ancestor of Princess Diana''s in an age before democracy or contraception." — Brenda Maddox, author of Yeats'' Ghosts and Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom "I put this book down entranced by the woman. This is an outstanding début by a young biographer fully in control of her sources, and with an easy, elegant writing style. She tells a tale that calls not only for our admiration but for our compassion." — Roy Strong, London Sunday Times "This is an accomplished and well-written biography, remarkably mature for a first effort; diligently researched and entertainingly presented. Amanda Foreman is
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Bookclub Guide

1. Georgiana emerged into the world with considerable poise and charm, but she was desperately needy and easily manipulated. How much can her lack of emotional balance be attributed to her mother, Lady Spencer''s, influence?

2. The Duke of Devonshire was a shy man who had hardly known his parents. He craved affection but did not know how to receive or give it. Was his marriage to Georgiana doomed from the start?

3. Georgiana clearly adored the attention of the press. How much of her celebrity was self-created and how much was foisted upon her because of her style and status?

4. Lady Elizabeth Foster was considered to be so "artificial, it almost seemed natural." Was her friendship for Georgiana pure calculation, or did she share Georgiana''s feelings?

5. By 1782 Georgiana had become the most powerful woman in the Whig party. Do you think she wanted power for herself?

6. After her triumph at the Westminster election in 1784, Georgiana wrote, I hate myself " She displayed classic symptoms of bulimia; she resorted to alcohol and drugs to find relief-, and, worst of all, she became a gambling addict. Was this behavior a form of protest against her unhappy marriage, an expression of anger against a society that favored men over women, the result of childhood trauma, a demonstration of character weakness, or an amalgamation of all of these?

7. When Fanny Burney met Georgiana she assumed that blackmail had to be at the heart of Georgiana''s continuing friendship with Bess. What kept the two women together by the 1790s?

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