In December 1774, Benjamin Franklin met Caroline Howe, the sister of British Admiral Richard and General William Howe, in a London drawing room for "half a dozen Games of Chess." As Julie Flavell reveals, the games concealed a matter of the utmost diplomatic urgency, a last-ditch attempt to forestall the outbreak of war. Aware that the Howes, both the men and the women, have seemed impenetrable to historians, Flavell investigated the letters of Caroline Howe, which have been overlooked for centuries. The Howe Dynasty interweaves stories of North American military campaigns--including the Battles of Bunker Hill and Long Island--with parlor-room intrigues back in England, creating a narrative that brings alive the influence of these extraordinary women in both peacetime and war.
Spanning almost a century of the Georgian era, The Howe Dynasty presents a richly detailed and lively saga of one of its most distinguished families. Challenging and insightful, it reflects impressive scholarship, grounded in exhaustive archival research on both sides of the Atlantic. An especially valuable source is the correspondence that Caroline Howe maintained over more than 50 years of friendship with Lady Georgiana Spencer, mother of the celebrated leader of fashion, Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. The Howe Dynasty shows how women whose supreme function in life was to produce male heirs could nonetheless find a voice through informal 'networking,' establishing crucial contacts in the drawing room or on the hunting field that could be mobilized to secure favors and control opinion.
... vivid and compelling ... Flavell offers many examples of how Caroline, the de facto leader of 10 siblings after first-born brother Scrope died in childhood, exerted her influence ... It is affecting to read of Caroline’s preoccupation with how the winds were blowing, so desperate was she to receive word of her beloved siblings in America ... Combining military analysis with an effective use of heretofore ignored sources, [Flavell] brings together the domestic sphere and the military sphere to form an original and more complete picture of a fascinating family.
... the Howe story is more compelling than the stupid redcoats caricature that has persisted for more than two centuries, as Julie Flavell demonstrates ... vibrant ... By widening her lens to include various Howe women — usually considered bit players, if not nonentities, in military histories — Flavell illuminates not only Britain at war, but also the larger world of 18th-century Georgian culture that provides war’s backdrop. She tells her story well, with thorough documentation, providing context and insight into how Britain blundered so badly, and then recovered from those blunders ... The Howes have long been opaque and even inscrutable. Flavell’s scholarship and deft storytelling add nuance, sympathy and granularity to the family portrait.