Friday, February 25, 2022

The Duchess Countess by Catherine Ostler




April 1776—the world watched as the American Revolution reached a boiling point. But in London, all eyes watched the courtroom, not the colonies, as the trial of one of the most scandalous women in royal history began.

Elizabeth Chudleigh, popularly known as the Duchess-Countess, was a glamorous, cunning woman whose wealth and power came wrapped up in impropriety.
As maid of honor to Augusta, Princess of Wales, Elizabeth led her life in the inner circle of the Hanoverian court and her exploits delighted and scandalized the press and the people. She made headlines, illustrations and gossip columns. Writers were intrigued by her—Thackeray drew on Elizabeth as inspiration for his calculating, alluring Becky Sharp.
But her behavior, often depicted as attention-seeking and manipulative, hid a more complex tale as Elizabeth fought to overcome personal tragedy and loss.
After denying a secret marriage to one man then marrying another, Chudleigh was put on trial for bigamy in front of an audience of royals, elites, and politicians.
The story of the Duchess-Countess, surprisingly untold considering her infamy at the time, now serves as a window into gender and power in the Georgian Era.



Terrifically entertaining: if you liked Bridgerton, you’ll love this.” – The Week “Book of the Week” (UK)

“A rollicking read. [Ostler] tells Elizabeth’s story with admirable style and gusto, and clearly finds her heroine irresistible” – The Sunday Times (UK)

“This is a scintillating story superbly told … [Ostler] has a remarkable ability to demonstrate her deep knowledge of the period without being boring or a show-off. She packs every paragraph with eye-opening detail, making you feel as though you’re living in the 18th century, but never veers from the central story of a woman trying to hold herself together in that vicious society while the men did as they pleased.”

“In this sparkling galivant through the 18th century … Ostler has her finger firmly on the pulse of the Georgian aristocracy and has bracingly revived its extravagance and absurdity. …. The book also does an excellent job of shining a light on issues with thought-provoking modern relevance, highlighting the troubling power of the press and the glaring double standards that ground women to a halt while barely slowing down their brothers.”

“The book’s spritely, wry tone is a pleasure to read throughout. In the early chapters, it felt cinematic almost to a fault: a quantity of costume and other visual detail that would make a historical adviser redundant on any screen adaptation. By the end, however, I was fantasy-casting the surely inevitable adaptation and in awe of Catherine Ostler’s thoughtful portraiture, both of Elizabeth Chudleigh and her century.”– TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT (UK)



The Woman Who Scandalized Eighteenth Century London is the riveting biography of Elizabeth Chudleigh, providing a deeper understanding of her tumultuous life within the context of her era. 


Ostler vividly chronicles Chudleigh’s upbringing, through her marriages and beyond her trial.

The story reveals a startling framework for much of our present culture: the narrow line women tread between power and scandal, the double standards of sexuality, and the glare of the public spotlight.

Catherine Ostler takes a fresh look at Elizabeth’s story and seeks to understand the complexities of the notorious courtier—a woman who was by turns, brave, loving and generous but also reckless, greedy and insecure, and who put her own survival first at all costs.


Perfect for fans of The Duchess and Women of Means, this long overdue and evocative biography reappraises Elizabeth’s remarkable story, and out of the past comes an incredibly modern woman who defied society’s expectations of her.

Some details of Elizabeth Chudleigh’s life that Ostler can discuss in an interview include:

--The details of Chudleigh’s two weddings, which ultimately led to her trial.

--How Chudleigh accumulated her wealth and power using any means necessary.

--The sexist double standards of the Georgian Era that bring context to the trial and Chudleigh’s own actions.

--Why her trial was so newsworthy, to the point of drawing more attention than the American Revolution, which was happening simultaneously.

--Characters in classic literature who were inspired by Elizabeth Chudleigh.

--How her story is representative of gender and power structures of the time, and how many of the inequalities and double standards she faced persist today.




Catherine Ostler is a Contributing Editor at the Daily Mail, having been Editor-in-Chief at the Tatler and ES magazine, as well as Editor of The Times Weekend.

She has also written for a wide range of other publications, including the Financial Times, Vogue and Newsweek.

She read English at Oxford University, specializing in eighteenth-century literature.

THE DUCHESS COUNTESS published in the UK in March 2021 to critical acclaim. Ostler resides in London, England.


1 comment:

  1. She sounds fun.

    Enjoy if you read this book.

    Thanks for stopping.