This biography explores the adventurous life of the stylish and scandalous Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston—a woman whose infamous bigamy trial was bigger news in British society than the American War of Independence—and provides a clear-eyed look into the Georgian Era.
[A] skillful and highly entertaining biography ... While it’s intriguing to speculate on modern interpretations of Chudleigh’s behavior, the real strength of the book is the author’s painstaking effort to corral all the facts in recounting a life that even her contemporaries found wildly improbable ... The last years of Chudleigh’s life...are colorful but less interesting than the account of the trial, which Ostler carries off masterfully. Bridgerton fans take note: For sheer incident and drama, Chudleigh’s story rivals any episode of the popular Regency-era Netflix series. And it’s all true.
This is a scintillating story superbly told by Catherine Ostler ... She 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 ... Many extraordinary and touching details.
[An] empathetic perspective, combined with rigorous scholarship, to reveal Chudleigh in her full glory, with the last dozen years of her life in Russia, Estonia and France being perhaps the most fascinating ... Catherine Ostler diagnoses much of Chudleigh’s behaviour as 'borderline personality disorder', which is a plausible but unnecessary attribution, likely to date more quickly than the rest of this excellent book ... Ostler never lets her trial scenes become one-sided. We are rooting for Chudleigh, yet she is no innocent ... Ostler has undertaken impressive international archival research and always follows the money meticulously. The desperate, ordinary people hurt by aristocrats living on credit never get the space they deserve in such biographies, but at least the omission accurately conveys the myopia of those pre-revolutionary elites ... The book’s spritely, wry tone is a pleasure to read throughout. In the early chapters, it felt cinematic almost to a fault ... 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.