Ophelia Field’s biography of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough is engrossing. Sarah, herself, is a modern woman in regards to her notions of power, position, and wifely duties, but she didn’t do much. Reading about the Duchess of Devonshire, I was riveted by her bad behavior, learning about Emma Hamilton was interesting for her manipulation and bedroom antics. Sarah was sort of boring. The two most interesting points about her (in no order of importance) was her semi-homosexual relationship with Queen Anne (Sarah never admits that she had any homosexual relationship with the Queen, which is understandable considering the time, but her letters are laden with love-laced language, and Queen Anne was lesbian, as evidenced by other female relationships she had throughout her life, though none were as passionate or devoted as the one she had with Sarah.), and the construction of Blenheim Palace, which stands as a testament to John Churchill’s power and Sarah’s ego. The rest of Sarah’s life was spent writing her memoirs (a questionable activity for a woman in the 18th century), funding Parliament when the occasion arose, arguing with her family, and living in exile after she offended the Queen.
Field takes these points, among others, and breathes life into them. She adequately provides contextual information that creates a world around Sarah, and the effect is that I know all I could ever want to know about Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.
If you liked this, you might also like:
Amanda Foreman's Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire - Georgiana was a contemporary of Sarah's and lived her life in a different way than Sarah. Georgiana was a gambler, a philanderer, a spendthrift, and helped campaign for her husband's seat in Parliament, a very unladylike thing to do. Her story is interesting, and Foreman's biography is excellent.
Venetia Murray's An Elegant Madness - a lively, interesting history of High Society in Regency England. This history is set slightly after the period in which Sarah lived, but this is still an interesting insight into 18th century England.