A TIMESÂ BEST BOOK FOR SUMMER 2021
A TELEGRAPH BEST BOOK OF 2021
‘A scintillating story superbly told… [Ostler] packs every paragraph with eye-opening detail’ Ysenda Maxtone Graham, The Times
‘A rollicking read… [Ostler] tells Elizabeth’s story with admirable style and gusto’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
‘Fascinating. Magnificent.?Â Sensitively told’Â Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Five and The Covent Garden Ladies
‘Catherine Ostler’s superb, gripping, decadent biography brings anÂ extraordinary woman and aÂ whole world blazingly to life’Â Simon Sebag Montefiore,Â author ofÂ Catherine the Great and Potemkin
A Vogue Best Book of 2021
When the glamorousÂ Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston, Countess of Bristol, went on trial at Westminster Hall forÂ bigamyÂ in April 1776, the story drew more attention in society than theÂ American War of Independence.
AÂ clandestine, candlelit weddingÂ to the young heir to an earldom, a second marriage to a Duke, a lust for diamonds and an electrifying appearance at a masquerade ball in a diaphanous dress: no wonder the trial was a sensation. However, Elizabeth refused to submit to public humiliation and retire quietly. Rather than backing gracefully out of the limelight, she embarked on aÂ Grand TourÂ of Europe,Â being welcomed by theÂ Pope andÂ Catherine the GreatÂ among others.
As maid of honour to Augusta, Princess of Wales, Elizabeth led her life in the inner circle of the Hanoverian court and her exploits delighted and scandalised the press and the people. She made headlines, and was a constant feature in penny prints and gossip columns.Â Writers were intrigued by her. Thackeray drew on Elizabeth as inspiration for his calculating, alluring Becky Sharp. But her behaviour, often depicted as attention-seeking and manipulative, hid a more complex tale – that of Elizabeth’s fight toÂ overcome personal tragedy and loss.
Now, in thisÂ brilliantly told and evocative biography, Catherine Ostler takes a fresh look at Elizabeth’s story and seeks to understand and reappraise a woman who refused to be defined by society’s expectations of her. A woman who was by turns, brave, loving and generous but also reckless, greedy and insecure; a woman totally unwilling to accept the female status of underdog or to hand over all the power, the glory and the adventures of life to men.