One of my "guilty pleasures" is reading gossipy "royalty" biographies, dealing in the sorrows and tribulations of the exceedingly privileged. This isOne of my "guilty pleasures" is reading gossipy "royalty" biographies, dealing in the sorrows and tribulations of the exceedingly privileged. This is a good example of that genre, written with the subject's co-operation, and, not surprisingly, sympathetic to her perspective. ...more
Charming, affable, and short - not in any sense a full memoir of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, but rather sketches from his interesting and varied lifeCharming, affable, and short - not in any sense a full memoir of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, but rather sketches from his interesting and varied life (1920-2004).
The Dukes of Devonshire - Cavendish family - should not be considered in the same class as the "Downton Abbey" people - they are a few levels above that. Definitely "silver spoon" category. But the Cavendishes of the 20th century made a series of very interesting marriages, so the 11th Duke has a wide variety of diverse and unexpected relations to write about.
He himself married Deborah "Debo" Mitford, the youngest and best-adjusted of the Mitford girls. Sadly, in the book he doesn't really address what it was like to have married into such a well-publicized, talented, and often quarrelsome family. "Debo" wrote a number of memoirs from her own perspective, but it would have been interesting to hear from her husband Andrew's point of view.
On the positive side, he does write short vignettes about most of his own relatives. Enjoyment in this book is helped by a mastery of twentieth century British genealogy - or, lacking that, ready access to Wikipedia. His mother was a Cecil, a daughter of the 4th Marquess of Salisbury, and sister to famous biographer and literary maven Lord David Cecil.
One of his paternal aunts, Lady Dorothy Cavendish, was the unhappy wife of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Moreover, his paternal uncle Lord Charles Cavendish married Fred Astaire's sister and dance partner Adele.
Andrew's older brother "Billy" Hartington married Kathleen Kennedy, the oldest daughter of US Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, and sister of political siblings John, Bobby, and Ted.
And his sister, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, became the "long-term companion" of Britain's Poet Laureate John Betjeman.
The 11th Duke's gentle humor is one of the best things about his book. There are frequent "one-line" asides that epitomize classic British understatement or irony. I frequently laughed out loud at his wry observations. For example, of his time during World War II at Sandhurst, Britain's prestigious officer training college, Devonshire writes: "Though the PT [physical training] and drill sessions were not my idea of fun, much of the other work was interesting. We were taught military strategy and tactics, which involved exercises riding bicycles through the Surrey countryside and finishing up at a pub."...more
Fascinating biography which provides a social history of the early 18th century English aristocracy, a privileged elite who lived fast, partied hard,Fascinating biography which provides a social history of the early 18th century English aristocracy, a privileged elite who lived fast, partied hard, and died young.
The Lady Diana Spencer of the 18th century was raised by her grandmother, the larger-than-life figure of Sarah Churchill, 1st Duchess of Marlborough, friend and advisor of Queen Anne, and wife of the victor of the battle of Blenheim. Massey's book is necessarily as much a biographical study of Duchess Sarah as it is of Lady Diana, and I think it is all the much better for it. ...more
Good enough for what it is - a biography written in 1970 when Douglas-Home was not only still alive but also just beginning his second term as ForeignGood enough for what it is - a biography written in 1970 when Douglas-Home was not only still alive but also just beginning his second term as Foreign Secretary. Kenneth Young was a partisan journalist - an editor of the Yorkshire Post who did not bother to hide his Tory sympathies. This isn't one of those magisterial Prime Ministerial biographies where the author has access to private or public papers of importance. If you are looking for a "balanced" and "historical" account of Douglas-Home and his career, this isn't it. But in Young's favor it is certainly true that he had a penchant for good effective writing - he knows how to "turn a phrase."...more
George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie, was Governor General of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1820, and Governor General of British North American from 1George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie, was Governor General of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1820, and Governor General of British North American from 1821 to 1828. He was a patron and sponsor of some of the first European artists who celebrated the glorious Canadian environment.
Abundant, lavish illustrations more than compensate for a rather dry text. ...more
I can't believe I'm awarding only two stars to a book written by Ian Kershaw, who is a great historian of Nazi Germany, an excellent researcher and wrI can't believe I'm awarding only two stars to a book written by Ian Kershaw, who is a great historian of Nazi Germany, an excellent researcher and writer. But this book too often illustrates the cliché of "beating a dead horse." There's really no reason for a 350 page book about a minor British political figure of the early 1930s who by general agreement had only a very minimal impact upon his colleagues.
About half of the book is made up of Kershaw's interpretation of the general causes and consequences of British appeasement in the 1930s, but by no means was Lord Londonderry in the "mainstream" of appeasement, and it hardly seems appropriate to treat such an important subject as a secondary focus. That is to say, if Kershaw really wanted to deal with appeasement as the MAIN subject of the book, he should have concerned himself with MacDonald, Baldwin, Chamberlain, and Halifax as his primary subjects, not as figures on the fringes of his concern with Lord Londonderry.
Moreover, Kershaw proposes that Lord Londonderry be considered as representative of a broader trend, "The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy." Really, though, David Cannadine deals with that subject in a much more convincing (and nuanced) fashion. And Kershaw doesn't explain why Londonderry should be regarded as any more representative of the aristocracy than other figures such as Lord Salisbury - or Winston Churchill, who after all would never allow people to forget that he was the grandson of a Duke.