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Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  14,386 Ratings  ·  1,079 Reviews

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

Paperback, 456 pages
Published January 16th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 1998)
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Petra X
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Heidi The Hippie Reader
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, was a complicated lady. She was politically active, a progressive thinker, had an atrocious gambling habit that kept her perpetually in debt and suffered from an unfortunate, sometimes unhappy, marriage.

Did I mention she lived in the late 1700 and early 1800s?

"There was enough popular participation to make politics as big a national obsession as sport, if not bigger. The emergence of national newspapers turned politicians into celebrities." pg 18 ebook.

And o
Do you recognise this person?

A shy English teenager, she blossomed after she was catapulted to fame by marrying an older, wealthier man. Although she had been born into a rich and influential family, her husband came from an even more prestigious family. After her marriage, she became universally adored; a trendsetting fashion icon, who turned heads whenever she entered a room. Everything she did, said and wore became news.

Yet her confident public persona hid a multitude of personal troubles. He
This was a book, that I would like to have loved, but ultimately, it did not cut the mustard, pass the port, or lead in the quadrille.

The bac story to Foreman's research is fantastic - she was studying 18th century British politics and was taught that the involvement of women like the Duchess of Devonshire was basically just eye candy for the voters, but she found out that Georgiana for the Whigs and later the Duchess of Gordon for Pitt the younger were important political figures because women
Navidad Thelamour
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the 5 reads I managed to gobble down in my last semester of grad school (in between internships at Hachette and dissertation writing!!) Loved this read! Non-fiction isn't typically my go-to drug of choice, but when it's done well, I really latch onto it. This one definitely was "well done" and delved into aspects of her life before the fame and in her later life that the commercial movie (which I also loved) never touched on. A good choice of read for sure!
Nov 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jun 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
A fantastic, in depth look at a classy lady. I enjoyed this a lot. A great book!
Jan 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
May 03, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This biography is truly a gem. I enjoyed every word, from the first page, to the last.
This is a Biography of the notorious Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire, chatelaine of Chatsworth and 5 other amazing properties. This book was used to inspire the movie, The Duchess Thanks to dear Marlene here is a fascinating blog post about the movie and the wedding of Lady Georgiana Spencer (yes those Spencers) to the Duke. http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.... [This blog is Absolutely Fascinating and once you start reading you will be sucked in]

 SaЯRah Muhammad

Georgiana was a trendsetter extraordinaire of her day. She freely experimented with fashion, regularly made all the gossip columns and gambled away more than one fortune, sums of money staggering even by today's standards. What I found particularly impressive about her was her grasp of and influence upon political matters. She actively campaigned for candidates, something previously unheard of for a woman in the 18th century.
You'll need a baseball score card to keep track of the romantic entangl
Jamie Collins
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
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I am still new to the world of historical biographies, but I am very glad that I didn't wait to read this one. Did I only read it after watching the movie twice? Yes. Did I only own it because it has Keira Knightley on the cover? Yes. Did I only decide to read it now because I'm going to Chatsworth next month and felt like it was now-or-never? Yes indeed.

Yes, all of those things are true, but I'm happy to report that Georgiana Cavendish now stands on her own in my mind as the fascinating and se
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Susanna
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

Joana Starnes
An excellent book. I'd rate it as 5 stars, if only something happened when I click on the stars!
It was the first book that had begun to answer my numerous questions about daily life in pre-Austen England (although the daily life of the Duchess of Devonshire is hardly indicative of everybody elses). Remarcably documented, beautifully written and very informative, it's by far in my current top 10!
Jan 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Dana Loo
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Biografia accuratissima dalla quale emerge prepotentemente la personalità di una donna ricca di paradossi e contraddizioni: madre amorevole, regina dei salotti inglesi, grande stratega e attivista politica, icona di stile, scrittrice, appassionata di mineralogia e chimica, amica e confidente di grandi figure storiche: Maria Antonietta, la Duchessa di Polignac, il Principe Reggente...
Viene però ricordata principalmente per lo scandaloso, ma nemmeno poi tanto, ménage a trois che si instaurò tra le
Jul 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
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.
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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 about Amanda Foreman

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“I feel I've done some things in life too late and others too early” 22 likes
“Biographers are notorious for falling in love with their subjects. It is the literary equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome,” 0 likes
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