Meet biographer Catherine Ostler in conversation with renowned historian Anna Whitelock, who will be discussing Catherine’s new biography, The Duchess Countess.
‘Outrageously scandalous, soaked in sex and money, aristocracy, adventure and grandeur…Catherine Ostler, accomplished storyteller, is the perfect writer to restore the Duchess Countess to life’ Simon Sebag Montefiore
TICKETS are £20 per person, including a welcome drink on arrival and light lunch by Tristan Welch, Chef Patron of Parker’s Tavern restaurant, followed by tea and coffee. Catherine will be signing copies of her book, The Duchess Countess (Simon & Schuster, £25) in the Ballroom, both before and after lunch.
RUNNING ORDER: Beginning with drinks at 12.30 followed by introduction and conversation at 13.00, with lunch served at 13.30. Following lunch will be a relaxed Q&A over coffee, with a book signing scheduled for 14.30.
SUBJECT: When it comes to Elizabeth Chudleigh, the Duchess of Kingston, never was the adage that well-behaved women seldom make history more appropriate.
In the days when marriage was the only career a woman could have, her scandalous sexploits filled the newspapers of the day, and her trial – for bigamy – knocked the American War of Independence off the front page.
The most talked-about woman in Europe, she was not one to be cowed by public opinion: She left Britain in her phenomenally grand super-yacht, The Duchess of Kingston, which featured a ballroom and zoo, and sailed to Russia, where she befriended Catherine the Great, bought a luxury villa, and filled it with furnishings and fripperies so sumptuous they were claimed by the state and are now an essential collection at the Hermitage Museum. Not that the Duchess would have noticed – she died in her equally luxurious Paris mansion, where she had become buddies with Marie Antoinette.
Brought up in genteel poverty with no father or male relation to offer protection and advance her prospects, Elizabeth Chudleigh did what she had to do to survive and thrive – and got away with it. She may have been the model for Becky Sharpe in Vanity Fair (and thus to many of the story lines in Bridgerton) but unlike Becky she sailed the high seas of society’s tumultuous waters and did not drown.
After securing a position as Maid of Honour to Princess Augusta, flirting her way through Court and captivating a lusty King George, she married the debauched grandson of the Earl of Bristol, kept that secret, and then married the enormously rich and kind Duke of Kingston, who enabled her to become one of the most fashionable hostesses in society. When the Duke died, he left all his wealth to his wife – and her enemies came for the kill… What the Daily Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’ would make of this story is too delicious to contemplate!