The Duke of Wellington loved the company of women; that can hardly be disputed. He especially enjoyed the company of women who were not his wife and had several mistresses during his lifetime. Prominent society ladies such as Harriet Arbuthnot and Frances Wedderburn-Webster are remembered now almost solely because of their connection to the Duke, one of Britain’s first real ‘celebrities’.
As you can probably tell from previous posts on this blog, I have a tremendous interest *cough*obsession*cough* in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. My bookshelves are packed full of biographies, studies of his campaigns and historical fiction set in the period in which he changed the face of Europe forever.
However, March is Women’s History Month and so this week I’ve been reading about his wife instead, in a fascinating biography by Professor Kate Williams. It made an interesting follower to last week’s biography of Marie Antoinette; containing as it did so many contrasts, similarities and parallels.
March is women’s history month and will be the theme for the rest of my book reviews for this month; a great excuse to get through some fascinating biographies!
Though it wasn’t actually planned, it feels wholly appropriate that I have finished reading Emmeline Pankhurst’s autobiographical account of the suffrage movement today, as thousands of women have marched in UK cities to commemorate the centenary of finally being awarded the vote. I am certain she would have approved of these parades!
Millicent Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Emily Wilding Davison… these are names all synonymous with the battle for women’s suffrage. The name of Lady Constance Lytton is perhaps less well known to the general public, but she was just as committed to the cause and suffered just as much in fight to win the vote as her more famous comrades.
This biography by Lyndsey Jenkins does a marvellous job of explaining how a titled lady and the daughter of a former Viceroy of India came to be incarcerated in Holloway Prison and staged one of the most famous hunger strikes of the suffragette campaign. It chronicles her childhood and early life, her domestic concerns, her difficult relationship with her mother as well as her remarkable career as a suffragette.
As I’ve spent the month rereading Jane Austen’s published works, it also seemed appropriate that I should get through the most recent of her many biographies: Jane Austen at Home by the queen of TV historians, Lucy Worsley.
The Napoleonic period is one of the most fascinating in history. It was a time when truly ‘great’ characters changed the face of Europe forever: when a British, Spanish and Portuguese force under a (nominally) Irish general in the name of the German king of Britain fought a French, Polish and German force under the command of a low-born Coriscan who through the merit of his own genius had been proclaimed Emperor of the French. In addition to being a an absolute knot of nationalities and political finagling, it laid the foundations of our modern world.
I’ve been accruing books of every variety about this period since I was in my early teens and as my love of the period shows no sign of diminishing, I thought I would collate my top recommendations for Napoleonic reads for anyone looking to learn more about the period. Continue reading “The Napoleonic Wars: My Reading Recs”
This one took me a while; standing at over 800 pages of meticulously researched biography, it’s not the sort of thing you can just pick for a little light reading. Requiring full alertness to be properly enjoyed, I had to keep putting it down when work became mentally draining. As such, it took me months to work through, but my goodness, it was worth it!