Pub: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Oh dear,’ said Evelyn Waugh of his society friends, ‘these great ladies.’ In this book of pen portraits the reader is introduced to obscure ladies who were society stars in their day. From the Churchills to the Mitfords, British and European Royals, to international playboys and film stars, these ladies knew everyone. And everyone knew them, for better or worse. Margaret, Duchess of Argyll: Famous for her naughty polaroids, and whose divorce from her Duke saw 88 men named as her lovers. Mariga Guinness: A bewitching German princess with a harrowing childhood, who fought to preserve Irish buildings and became an icon in the process. Sylvia Ashley: A girl from the wrong side of the tracks who married two lords, two Hollywood stars, and a Russian prince. Joan Wyndham: A bohemian aristocrat who shunned a debutante existence to live a life of debauchery in Chelsea. Enid Lindeman: An Australian wine heiress who married four rich and titled men, and buried them all. Venetia Montagu: A society girl who moved at the centre of H.H. Asquith’s wartime government. Irene Curzon: A ‘poor little rich girl’ who dared to break the rules. Jean Massereene: A dazzling viscountess whose association with Sir Edward Carson almost ruined her reputation. A true eccentric, fashion icon, and champion of the spiritualist movement.
These Great Ladies is a superbly written Historical account of the lives of some amazing women.
Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, headstrong with a strained relationship with her mother is fascinating to read. She was forced to write with her right hand despite being left-handed and her confidence was constantly shaken by a mother who didn’t seem to much like her. Margaret had an abortion when she was young after getting pregnant by David Niven bu this was a friendship that would hold till his death. Her travels, her loves and her awful marriage to the Duke are just a few of what was a eventful and interesting life.
Mariga Guinness. Born with an infection Mariga was not expected to live very long. Mariga was my favourite of all the ladies that written about. Again well travelled and her ‘romantic notion of war she met and married her husband Desmond. His family were the rich and powerful Guinness dynasty, It was marrying Desmond that I think Mariga finally found herself. Her glamorous friends and rather bohemian lifestyle of the 50’s and 60’s were fun to read. her life was always a struggle, but she held herself high and I rather fell in love with her.
Slyvia Ashley known as the serial bride is also a girl with a strong personality. With her mother having the same maiden as me I did feel drawn to her. Born on Aprils Fools Day in 1904, and born with a very large gap between her teeth, she was a risque ‘lady’ and even posed in her underwear. She married the son of the 9th Earl of Shaftsbury, and they were dubbed by the press as th Earl and the Girl. Slyvia was not accepted by the Earls family and even moreso when she found she couldn’t have children. She eventually left her husband and went to live with the actor Douglas Fairbanks.
All of the women in These Great Ladies are strong, feisty and beautiful. It is a novel that is very well researched and nobody writes historical non fiction quite like Lyndsy Spence.
It is like one glorious history lesson with soundbites of scandal and personal tragedy as well as funny anecdotes.
My love of Spence’s novels has grown with each of her books that I have read and I highly recommend reading them.
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