Review: The Duchess Countess: The Woman Who Scandalized Eighteenth-Century London by Catherine Ostler

☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

As maid of honor to the Princess of Wales, Elizabeth Chudleigh enjoyed a luxurious life in the inner circle of the Hanoverian court. With her extraordinary style and engaging wit, she both delighted and scandalized the press and public. She would later even inspire William Thackeray when he was writing his classic Vanity Fair, providing the inspiration for the alluring social climber Becky Sharp. But Elizabeth’s real story is more complex and surprising than anything out of fiction.

A clandestine, candlelit wedding to the young heir to an earldom, a second marriage to a duke, a lust for diamonds, and an electrifying appearance at a masquerade ball in a gossamer dress—it’s no wonder that Elizabeth’s eventual trial was a sensation. Charged with bigamy, an accusation she vehemently fought against, Elizabeth refused to submit to public humiliation and retire quietly.

The Duchess Countess is perfect for fans of BridgertonWomen of Means, and The Crown.



My Thoughts:

Not surprisingly, I had not previously heard of Elizabeth Chudleigh.  This infamous character lived a surprising life filled with drama.  From her childhood to her eventual exile in Russia, I was fascinated with her story.

Unlike most women in history, the Duchess-Countess’ life is well documented, and author Ostler’s research of her topic is obvious in the telling of Chudleigh’s story.  While my eyes glazed over at the reading of the vast and detailed family lineage at the start of the book, overall, this real-life story is filled with great drama and suspense.  I was unable to put the book down!

I found the “somethings never change” scenarios of the media using Chudleigh as a way to sell papers and the politicos using her as a diversion from news of America’s war for independence frustrating. Yes, in hindsight, Chudleigh made some errors in judgement, but most were made from the desperation of a woman’s inability to make own assets and make a life for herself.

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