For our book club read last June, we chose Amanda Foreman’s Duchess, the biography of Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire. 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, politics, economics, and society in late 18th century Europe. To be honest – this should be required reading for anyone studying the time period. What I loved was the overarching thesis of the biography – women may not have had the vote, but given the status and opportunity, many had power – real power and in some cases political influence. For Georgiana – she affected public opinion and the vote.
Reading like an historical novel, this was a refreshing account more about the women who changed the Whig party than the aforementioned English tabloid scandal. An account of an inspiring, head-strong woman, forced into an unloving marriage, and given everything, but in reality, had nothing.
For the discussion we had lunch at Dino in Cleveland Park. I was at an Italian restaurant – of course I ordered pasta. Even the spaghetti was delicious. And for us orphans transplants in DC – it was the next best thing to spending Father’s day with our Dads.