PRIVILEGE AND SCANDAL: THE REMARKABLE LIFE OF HARRIET SPENCER, SISTER OF GEORGIANA
The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
Rating: 4 Cups
Lady Harriet Spencer, later Countess Bessborough, was the overlooked daughter of the Earl of Spencer. While Georgiana was petted and fussed over, Harriet was sent abroad for her education, yet she retained close ties with her older sister and brother.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, became one of the most scandalous and influential women of her time. She was a political power long before women had the right to vote, but her scandalous personal life overshadowed her public one.
The Spencer sisters and their tumultuous lives in equally turbulent times were a scandal in their time. Their lives were a web of political intrigue, adultery, secret illegitimate children, and gambling, the common vices of the time, but Harriet and Georgiana were both larger than life, so their vices were magnified and preserved for posterity. Harriet was born privileged, but often ignored, in favor of her more beautiful sister. She decided to marry for companionship, which went very wrong very quickly. Her husband was possessive, domineering, and needy. Her husband wanted to be the center of attention and probably should never have married a Spencer sister. Her unhappy marriage and financial difficulties left her more and more under the influence of her sister.
This is an incredibly interesting story for anyone who reads fiction set in the Georgian and Regency era. The Duchess of Devonshire is infamous, as is Lady Harriet, who is also the mother of the equally notorious Caroline Lamb, whose affair with Lord Byron ruined her reputation and nearly ruined her husband’s political career. The author brings all of these people to life as well as their contemporaries. They become real people with good qualities as well as faults. The scandals are not overlooked, but explained more fully, and Harriet’s early life is described in detail. Harriet certainly lived in interesting times made much more interesting by her family and friends, and the author writes the story of this era through Harriet’s life story.
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