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The Duchess

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  10,905 ratings  ·  889 reviews
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 politica ...more
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Published June 15th 2009 by Tantor Media (first published 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
A pretty girl from a titled, extremely wealthy family is sold off to an older man with an even more aristocratic title and loads more money as a brood mare. She is told he loves her, what 17 year-old wouldn't believe that? It isn't true, he just wants a mother for his future son and heir.

As she grows a little more mature she discovers twin passions - fashion and politics, which being a woman, she can only comment on, not vote or act herself. Combining those into a glittering salon for the wealth
...more
Lindsay
For those of us who love to read, hearing about an exciting movie adaptation makes us want to read the book. We, the few and the proud, will sit on our literary high horses and wait to finish the book even if it means the movie is no longer in theaters. I am one such reader and this is one such book. I saw a preview and was immediately drawn in, but as soon as I realized it was based upon a prize-winning biography, I immediately ordered a copy. I had high expectations, which I am glad to report ...more
Christina
The title of the biography and the jacket blurb would lead one to believe that Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire is about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. But I think the biography was less about Gerogiana and more about the politics in Georgiana’s time. I realize that Georgiana was very involved in the Whig party, but the book as a whole droned on and on about England’s political scene.

And while I personally find politics fascinating, in this book the Duchess of Devonshire, the most popular per
...more
Elena

After finishing "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire" by Amanda Foreman, I have come to the conclusion that the flaming youth of the 1770's and 80's were just about as wild a bunch that could be. It seems that the generation of aristocrats who came of age in the decade and a half immediately before the French Revolution liked to live life at the edge. Fashions were extreme, homes were elaborate, and fortunes were gambled blithely away. Traditional morals and religious practice were given a public n
...more
Kelly
Jun 11, 2007 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history geeks, women
Beautiful, passionate, but lost. That story didn't have a happy ending in the 18th century, either. This story is rather depressing at times, but vastly amusing and interesting otherwise. To say this woman led a fascinating life is an understatement. She did ridiciulous, stupid things, and the author is a little bit overly tolerant of these mistakes. (She said herself she's in love with Georgiana a little.) So you have to take the somewhat rosy picture of Georgiana's character being painted with ...more
Madeline
A good, very thorough biography of a fascinating woman - Foreman is lucky to have had access to hundreds of letters written by Georgiana and her colleagues, so we get to see the historical figures telling their stories in their own words (something I'm not used to, being more fond of Tudor-era history). Also interesting was how many of Georgiana's letters don't survive, and why. She had some Victorian descendants who, due to being Victorian, took it upon themselves to clean up their ancestor's i ...more
Esme
This book really took me by surprise. It's not candycoated historical fiction, it is a really exacting portrayal of Georgiana. The author has tons of (interesting) quotes and footnotes, and relies soley on facts to paint a RICH portrait of the french revolution, the whig party etc. REALLY GOOD!

fun fact I learned from this book: apparently, while giviing toasts during the men-only portions of fancy dinners, english politicians would relieve themselves into chamber pots in the corners of rooms, w
...more
Sherwood Smith
The separate spheres view of life in the 18th century in particular was probably necessary in order to shift perceptions of what was important to dig out of attics and archives and study. The focus has usually been the eternal rehashings of king/prime minister/ Parliamentiary carousels, or economic development (Marxist scholars). Until Braudel and his French quantifiers started looking at cemetery stones and baptismal records and counting up demographics, no one paid much attention to what the f ...more
Jamie
An entertaining biography. Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, was charming, intelligent and creative; she was the leader of high society in late 18th-century London; she was an author and an amateur scientist. She was also a key figure in the Whig political party. She broke new ground for the participation of women in politics (much of which would be lost in the Victorian age) and also for the use of personal celebrity to advance a political cause. The author’s doctoral thesis was on Georgian ...more
Iset
Jul 13, 2012 Iset rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 18th century afficianados, or people interested in Georgiana

I yield at around the two-thirds mark. Couldn’t finish this one. I found my mind wandering, chunks of narration just not sinking in, and even nodding off from time to time. It just isn’t grabbing my attention or engaging me. For me, the book gets bogged down in the minutiae, frequently diverging into lengthy tangents describing in excruciating detail aspects of society and politics that seemed to have only a tenuous connection with Georgiana herself. All in all I found it very dry going. Also, i
...more
Meleece
This was a very interesting book because I enjoyed reading it but I did not enjoy the subject matter. My expectations were that I was going to read an inspiring account of an amazing woman who made the best of the unfair situation of her marriage to a tyrant and the lack of rights as a woman in society. What I found instead was a really pathetic character. This woman basically gambled away her husband's estate,of millions and millions of dollars in today's standard of currency, not just once but ...more
Jen Richer
Having seen the movie before reading, I was expecting the same seedy love affair between the unhappily wed but wildly popular Georgiana Spencer, great aunt to the late Princess Diana and Whig Party up-and-comer Charles Gray. As in her real life, the affair was hardly a chapter’s worth of material

What started as a dissertation for her graduate studies for the author, quickly developed into an 18 –month, 450 page study on not only the life of Lady G, but an historical briefing on women, power, pol
...more
Colette
I got bored and frustrated in the middle with all the hysterical insecurity and massive gambling debts, late-night partying leading to infertility or miscarriages, but by the end, particularly after the Duchess replaced drinking, drugs, and gambling with chemistry and mineralogy, I really liked the book. Certainly well-written and meticulously researched, it left me musing once again on the constrictive lives of intelligent, articulate, dynamic women in extremely misogynist, patriarchal times.
MAP
I strongly recommend reading this right after coming off of a novel about a serial killer that murders people by breaking their bones. That makes his biography of -- as my friend Claire put it -- "really bad people doing bad things to each other" seem really not so terrible.

That said, it's a well researched biography with some very interesting facts thrown in.

There are only a couple issues I had with it: one -- Georgiana is known for her devotion to her children and an involvement with them that
...more
Adriana
Sep 01, 2008 Adriana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who can take large amounts of information
Recommended to Adriana by: Lillian
This is proving to be a very fascinating read! Very political, very sexual (not in a broad sense but with underlying tones.) It appears that Princess Diana's great aunt, seven times removed, set precedent for her niece on eccentricities. Although I loved Diana, she was a bit of an oddball. However, I do find that I am falling in love with Georgiana, as well. A free spirit, a romantic and a brave lady. CAn't wait to finish it! Stay tuned!

Okay, so I have about fifty pages to go and cannot seem to
...more
Trish
Amanda Foreman's biography of Geogiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was an excellent read. Thorough research, clear language, and Foreman's ability to place Georgiana's story within the social and political context of the period makes this one of the strongest biographies I have ever read.

As for the readers who think that Foreman's book is too focused on the politics of the era, I think they need to re-read the biography and understand the role that politics played in Georgiana's life. Politics defin
...more
Courtney
I found this at a used bookstore a month or so ago, and have barely made it past the "notes on the politics of the time" in the preface. But I went to a movie yesterday and saw a preview for a movie called "The Duchess" staring Keira Knightly, so I need to read it before the movie jades me!!
I studied 18th century British portraiture and political cartoons in depth when I studied abroad my junior year of college, so I expect to find this really interesting.

------------
Update: finished!

Wow, Forema
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Laura
I wouldn't have sought out this book if I hadn't seen the movie "Duchess" on a recent transAtlantic flight. I remember, vaguely, hearing about the book when it was first released in 1998, when much was made of the similarities between Princess Diana and her ancestor, the subject of this book, Georgiana Spencer. This notion of their similarities was reason for me NOT to read the book---hadn't we already had way too much of the Spencer family in recent years, without going back a couple of centuri ...more
Kate Millin
I had not realised how much influence Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire had over Whig politics in the late 18th and early 19th century (she lived from 1757 to 1806). As the author says at the end the current ways in which history is written completely bypasses those women like G and what they did. Another interesting historical note about what we know now is the fact that the original source material has been altered or thrown away by family or others who did not approve of what was portrayed ...more
Laura
Just arrived from USA through BM.

This is biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire who was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales.



Amanda Foreman's research work brings to life this famous historical and aristocratic character.



By marrying William Cavendish in 1774, she became a famous figure due to her political and fashion ambitions. The book has plenty of Georgiana's correspondence, pictures and newspapers of that time giving engraving details of her life.



I haven't se

...more
Kellie
This was a tough one to get through. The book was too long. I think it was more about politics than Georgiana. I think the author should have had a more narrow scope. Is this a book about Georgiana? Or, is it a book about England’s political scene during her life time? One or the other please. There is definitely interesting history in this book. And Georgiana’s life is worth reading about. I just think the author could have done a better job. Georgiana lived from 1757 to 1806. She lived thru th ...more
William
This book gets one extra star for being well researched and written, and quite readable. This is from its baseline of as-few-stars-as-possible, which it gets for being about the British royal family (or close enough thereto). No one should ever have to care or read anything about the British royal family or anything related to them. In fact, I don't even care enough to fini
Caroline
I don't know why it's taken me so long to read this. I live not far from Chatsworth, I've met the current Duke once or twice at work events, I was even in the film The Duchess (only as an extra, and the scene was cut in the end, alas). I suppose it's partly because Georgian history has never been an era I've been especially interested in, but after reading Lady Worsley's Whim, in which Georgiana is mentioned a few times, I was in the mood for more.

I knew a bit about Georgiana, of course - mainly
...more
Bellish
I like me a good historical biography, and my mother has plenty to lend me, but this isn't a period I am usually interested in. However, this is the story of an extremely interesting life, written in a fluent style which almost comes across as fiction at times.

I may be buying into a genre here, but I still find that biographies written particularly by women, and often about women, are far more interesting to me than those written by men.
Meredith
As a historian, I very much appreciate the amount of research and the talent it took to write this book, which began as Amanda Foreman's PhD dissertation at Oxford. While Foreman tries to convince the reader of Georgiana's special spark, as it is, as well as her innovation and uniqueness in her time (the late Georgian period in London), I couldn't quite buy it. Again, perhaps it is the academic in me, trained to look through the argument to the facts of the issues. I didn't find Georgiana to be ...more
·Karen·
Born on June 7th 1757, the eldest child of John, 1st Earl Spencer, Georgiana married Britain’s most eligible bachelor, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire on her seventeenth birthday. In her fascinating biography, Amanda Foreman postulates the theory that Georgiana was in love with the idea of being in love, that she assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that William was like her father: outwardly reserved due to shyness, but with depths of sensitivity and warmth once you got to know him. But ...more
Holyn
I originally read about the existence of this book in an article in Vogue magazine, shortly before the movie The Duchess was released. This biography provided the basis for the screen play for the movie. I found the movie to be 'eh' but this book provides a multi-layered and well researched account of Georgina's life. Unlike some biographies Foreman gives us the good, the bad, the ugly, and the redemptive aspects of G's life. That being said - there is a lot of information to wade through and I ...more
Christy
I must admit that I only read this after watching the movie twice, being fascinated by the Duchess's story. Georgiana was one of the most significant figures of her time, influencing fashion, society, and politics. The Duchess was an intimate friend of Marie Antoinette and Prince Regent, and helped to bridge the gap between political factions in parliament. She designed dresses, she lent her support to elections, she was mobbed by fans and every move she made was closely followed by the newspape ...more
Jenn Tat
Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire was a powerful public figure in the late 18th century best described as a woman of paradoxes. “She was an acknowledged beauty yet unwanted by her husband [who preferred the company of her best friend], a popular leader of British high society who saw through its hypocrisy… a generous contributor to charitable causes who nevertheless stole from her friends [with her incorrigible gambling and debts], a writer who never published under her own name, a devoted mo ...more
Freda Lightfoot
Lady Georgiana Spencer was the icon of her age, adored by the public and largely ignored by her husband. William Cavendish the 5th Duke of Devonshire insisted that his mistress, Elizabeth Foster, known as Bess, come to live with them in what became a ménage á trois. She first came to his attention as the best friend of his wife. Surprisingly, the women’s friendship continued, despite Bess being exceedingly manipulative and jealous of Georgiana, disliked by her mother, Lady Spencer, and later by ...more
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Duchess of Devonshire 5 57 Dec 01, 2012 03:18PM  
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Amanda Foreman is the author of the award-winning best seller, "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire", and A World on Fire: A Epic History of Two Nations Divided. She lives in New York with her husband and five children.

She is the daughter of Carl Foreman, the Oscar-winning screen writer of many film classics including, The Bridge on the River Kwai, High Noon, and The Guns of Navarone.

She was born in
...more
More about Amanda Foreman...
A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War Georgiana's World Madame de Pompadour What Might Have Been: Imaginary History from Twelve Leading Historians Ann Veronica

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