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Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,353 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
A fascinating insight into 18th century aristocratic life through the lives of the four Lennox sisters, the great grandchildren of Charles II, whose extraordinary lives spanned the period 1740-1832. Passionate, witty and moving, the voices of the Lennox sisters reach us with immediacy and power, drawing the reader into their remarkable lives, and making this one of the mos ...more
Paperback, 412 pages
Published November 30th 1995 by The Noonday Press (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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There are so many ways to sell/reasons for me to push this book, it absolutely boggles the mind:

-First and foremost and easiest for both the scandalmongers among us (and really, if we're honest, which one of us isn't, at least a little? :)), all these words, adjectives and happenings are involved in this book, probably many times over: an illegitimate line of the bastard children of kings, arranged marriages... that turn out to be fairy tale romances, forbidden courtships, scandalous secret marr
Aristocrats is a brilliant group biography of a family of noble sisters during the Hanoverian period in England. The Lennox sisters were great-granddaughters of Charles II (through his mistress Louise de Keroualle), daughters of the Duke of Richmond, and wives and mothers to politicians and peers, but also fascinating people in their own rights.

All their lives they wrote letters voluminously, to each other and to other family members, and it's these letters that Tillyard uses in her reconstruct
Jan 16, 2009 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: liz
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: Kelly
This is the story of four daughters of the second Duke of Richmond. Great-granddaughters of King Charles II, wealthy, titled, and intimate with the political leaders of the realm, the Lennox sisters were envied by many and watched by all. Their story lasts almost a century; it "begins in 1744, as the Jacobites were planning their last, desperate assault on the Hanoverian throne, and ends in 1832, five years before the beginning of the Victorian Age." The eldest, Caroline, eloped and became a ric ...more
Jan 27, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Wow. This is a fabulously good biography, one of the best I've ever read--erudite but juicy, and irresistibly readable from start to finish. A combination of the writing and the subjects themselves made it so amazing to me; these four Lennox sisters are just ridiculously interesting, every one of them intelligent, passionate, sympathetic and flawed in their own diverse ways. And yet, I've read biographies before of figures who are just as appealing, that still somehow failed to leap off the page ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Caroline rated it it was amazing
"Remember the Ladies!", as Abigail Adams once enjoined her husband - but so often of course history fails to. All of these women played significant roles in Georgian history, but at most they are footnotes in their lives of their male relatives - the Duke of Richmond, the Duke of Leinster, Lord Holland, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Charles James Fox. History remembers these names, but not those of Sarah, Emily, Louise and Sarah Lennox.

So this book was an absolute joy to read. Stella Tillyard delves i
Lauren Albert
Mar 07, 2016 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
An excellent group biography of 4 of the Lennox sisters which shows what it was like to be an aristocratic woman during the period. I thought that Tillyard did a very good job of showing what it was like to live through a scandal and how one might become brought back into society (to some degree) afterwards.
So I'm obviously both a complete history nerd & a bit of an Anglophile. I still strongly feel that this book could prove fascinating to someone who is neither of those things: the letters written between the four Lennox sisters & to their other family members reveal a world that is simultaneously surprisingly similar to our own & just enough different to be almost jarring at times.
The beauty to me here is the fact that, in history, you just don't tend to hear much from women, aristo
Amy Masonis
Dec 07, 2014 Amy Masonis rated it it was amazing
If you want to be there, read their letters. Letters had form, when letters were written, as Stella will describe. As in any art form, there is room to diverge, and write that "this is what I should say, but this is how it is". These sisters do that like any of us would. Letters were a sort of newspaper then, so when they have an addition to be read by the recipient alone, then THAT'S the good stuff. Details, details.

Another good part is how the sisters live politics through their husbands. Not
Guen Rossi
Dec 21, 2015 Guen Rossi rated it liked it
This book is a hybrid between a dissertation and a novel but I'm afraid that both kind of readers will find it disappointing. The writing style is disturbingly uneven: poetic and picturesque descriptions alternate to dry, essay style, mentions. Readers without historical background will probably give it up after the first 30 pgs. Bringing characters' back to life through their correspondence is a good idea but here pathos is sacrificed to extremely long and sometimes haphazard quotes. Pedantic ( ...more
Mar 23, 2014 Gabriella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: friend-gave-me
It is a really amazing and interesting book. I've always loved reading about English history I especially like historical novels or bibliographical ones and this book fulfilled all my wishes.
Apart from the life of the four sisters we can have a glimpse into politics, society, religion, everyday life, classes and military life.
A must-read for those who like me love history and beautifully written narratives.
Geraldine Moran
Dec 06, 2015 Geraldine Moran rated it it was amazing
Very well researched & well written historical account of the lives of this amazing family. This book almost reads like a historical novel - but it is all fact! Very entertaining read, and the sisters are brought to life again - and what a life they all had. It's true, 'the rich are different' even 250 years ago. I plan to read this book again and also read the story of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, one of Emily's sons and an Irish hero. I live within 10 minutes of both Carton (now a very posh gol ...more
Aristocrats it’s a biography centered around the lives of the Lennox sisters, but it is also a succesful portrait of a certain political and aristocratic sphere from the second half of the 18th century in the UK. Grand-daughters of one of the illegitimate sons of Charles II with Louise de Kérouaille, Cecilia (1723-1774), Emily (1731-1814), Louisa (1743-1821) and Sarah (1745-1826), proved that women could have as interesting lives as any man.

What is more appealing of these sisters lives is not on
Jun 05, 2007 Siria rated it really liked it
Aristocrats is a biography of the four Lennox sisters - Caroline, Emily, Sarah and Louisa, the daughters of the second Duke of Richmond, and prominent members of the nobility in eighteenth century England and Ireland. One married a duke and later an impoverished tutor, and had twenty two children; one married one of the most famous politicians of the eighteenth century; one married the richest man in Ireland; one divorced a baronet, and ended up happily married to an impoverished Scottish soldie ...more
Girl with her Head in a Book
The Lennox sisters were great-granddaughters of Charles II, they referred to Bonnie Prince Charlie as 'our cousin' - they make the Mitford sisters look like Little Women. The BBC screened a magnificent series back in 1999 which is still available via Youtube. The last of the Lennox girls died barely a decade before the dawn of the Victorian era - they were witnesses to a world that shifted on its axis and they were at the very centre of the drama - their varied lives offer privileged insights in ...more
Aug 07, 2014 Enid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
non fiction/history
A wonderful account of a remarkable family which encompasses life in Ireland and England,notable wel known historical figures include Charles James Fox and the early Whigs.The family lived at Goodwood so there is a local element. and this ties in with "Mapping a nation" since it was a Lennox who encouraged and financed some of the early Ordnance survey work.
Dana Loo
Oct 14, 2015 Dana Loo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una biografia che ha il fascino di un romanzo. Un periodo storico tra i più appassionanti, i 70 anni che precedono il Regno della Regina Vittoria, le vite vissute e strettamente intrecciate di 4 sorelle che, attraverso matrimoni, drammi, scandali, complotti, rivoluzioni, tragedie, ci presentano un quadro storico/politico, ma direi sopratutto umano, dell'Inghilterra del loro tempo straordinariamente accurato. Personalità diverse ma protagoniste indiscusse, donne acculturate, fragili, estroverse, ...more
June Louise
What an amazing story about the Lennox sisters! Elopements, adultery, countless children (especially in Emily's case!), politics and wars - it's all there - and throughout all these events the sisters stick together. It's an extremely interesting historical book; Tillyard has done extremely well relating this family's history from letters and diaries into story form.

Have a slight (ok, a major) issue with the characters beginning to experience "old age" when they approach forty. It doesn't make m
Jun 01, 2014 Barbara rated it liked it
Shelves: other
A fascinating account of the lives of these four women. I really enjoyed seeing this period in history from their point of view, rather than from the view of politicians and generals and other history makers.

I was a little disappointed that the author managed to make all four women seem thoroughly unlikeable.
Aug 04, 2008 Judy rated it it was amazing
Must admit I often find history books hard to take in, but this fascinating, well-researched account of the lives of four aristocratic sisters reads almost like a novel, and is very hard to put down. So many letters and diaries are quoted that their individual voices come across vividly.
Tillyard also tries to give a feeling of what life was like for the servants of these women, although unfortunately we don't have any of their papers.
I'd say this is even better than 'Citizen Lord', by the same
Jan 15, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I love this book. For it's size and story I would consider it an easy and enjoyable read. This book is the true life story of the Lennox sisters. This story is beautifully put together by Stella Tillyard who compiled the sisters' letters to piece their lives together. Although the sisters lived a life considered ordinary for aristocrats, their life was anything but ordinary. Two elope, one was the object of a King and one extended family member led the Irish revolution. This story is almost too ...more
Apr 18, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer by: Tweedy
Shelves: biography
I was surprised at how much I liked this book. I'd seen the miniseries and was lent the book by a neighbor. It's fat and I didn't think it would be all that interesting. The author does a good job of stringing the sisters together into one story. The only real problem was that I found the time line hard. Occasionally the story went back in time and I was pulled out of the story. Still, it was an interesting peak into a time period and women's lifes.
Dec 29, 2010 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my SECOND time reading this book---and I loved it. The Lennox sisters lived extraordinary lives (during the latter half of the 1700s to the 1820s), and fortunately for us, their letters survived. Tillyard crafts a wonderful biography of the four sisters---Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah---who seem so much like women I know, yet they are different with their large houses, servants, meetings with the King, and long trips to the Continent.
Aug 01, 2007 Milli rated it it was ok
Tillyard writes well, with vivid details and a great narrative voice ... which is the only reason this book gets two stars. The topic at hand -- the biographical account of the lives of four aristocratic women living in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries -- is handicapped by its very nature, and even Tillyard has trouble bringing the reader to care (even a little) about the lives of these four women.
Joana Starnes
I have found a great deal of details regarding the workings of a late 18th - early 19th century country house, including the componence of the household; where were various groups of servants supposed to have their meals; the duties and interests of some of the 'ladies of the house' etc.

Haven't finished it yet (although it might be saved under 'read') and I'm still unable to rate it, but I highly recommend it.
Jul 31, 2010 Fiona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful historical account of the lives of 4 upper-class English sisters who married some of the most influential men of their day. Painstakingly researched and detailed, makes the period in English history come alive and tells the oft untold tale of the role and place of women. Of course, the fact I read this while on a 6-week trip through Europe with my now husband probably enhanced the reading!
May 10, 2015 Nicole rated it liked it
I read this book about 15 years ago and kept circling back to the period n my reading so I thought I would read it again to refresh my memory. The women of this period were anything but dull ciphers. There personal and political mingle with the scandals. Well worth re-reading. I would give it four stars but the time frames skip around so much it was frequently hard to keep track of things.
Bonnie G
Sep 28, 2014 Bonnie G rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful kind of history in that it is based on letters, but reads like a novel. The four sisters are endlessly fascinating in their unpredictability. They grew up in the mold of privilege, but broke it in many places while staying true to each other. I'm glad the author focused on the women in the family rather than the men who were famous in their own milieux.
Kate Bundy
Jan 12, 2014 Kate Bundy rated it really liked it
I learned five times as many things from this book as I do from most of my reading. The home lives of aristocratic women in the eighteenth century are fascinating, but the same things that make them so also become a little overwhelming in reading. The intense exploration of the minutiae of their lives can get a little tiresome. A book best read in segments.
Aug 17, 2012 Nell rated it liked it
This is one of those books I feel as if I ought to have enjoyed more than I did, though I don't have any fault to find. It is quite readable, well researched, and gives a clear picture of daily life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. And for all their privilege, the sisters weren't immune from family disagreements and sorrows. I just didn't connect.
Lissa Chandler
Dec 02, 2009 Lissa Chandler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography, we-own
This non-fiction work, though sluggish towards the middle, reads more smoothly than almost any other history book I have ever read. Perhaps it is because the subject matter is so intriguing, but Tillyard creates a strong narrative, stringing the lives of these four sisters along in a linear, straight forward matter that is easily digested.
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Stella Tillyard is a British author, best known for the best-selling Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832 which was made into a BBC Miniseries in 1999.

Stella Tillyard studied at Oxford and Harvard Universities, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has taught at Harvard, UCLA, and the University of London. For long periods she has lived in the United St
More about Stella Tillyard...

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