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The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries…

The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power, and… (2015)

by Natalie Livingstone

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I really enjoyed this book. It could have been a dry read but wasn't. The author gave great info and kept it flowing. ( )
  dawnlopez29 | Feb 21, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a Librarything giveaway that I really enjoyed as the book takes you from the Cliveden's origins and how each of its occupants changed or modernized it, sometimes drastically. Fire and war also played a part in the house's fortunes with the aftermath of two world wars impacting the class system with fewer people wanting to return to jobs in domestic service and a generation lost in the battles of World War I. I found the differences in temperament of Cliveden's mistresses interesting as well with Lady Astor's being the acerbic and Princess Augusta's being the most maligned. A keeper ( )
  lisa.schureman | May 26, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I can't say that I enjoyed this book very much. Maybe I was expecting something more like a novel, but to me it was a lot of facts without too much heart. I'd recommend it to people who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in the England's grand old mansions. ( )
  lorimarie | Mar 15, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Using the lives of 5 women who lived and loved in Cliveden, author Natalie Livingstone has written a fascinating and engaging book of the history of this great house. I hesitated starting it, waiting until I knew I could devote my whole brain to it, and I'm glad that I did. It's such a warm and interesting story, I'm glad I took the time to savor it. Do I wish there had been a little more talk about the women themselves, versus mostly women and the men who lived in Cliveden? Yes, but it's to be expected since women have been ignored by history in general, and since this book does have "mistress" in the title, yes, of course, it's also about the men. I'm looking forward to more of the author's work, and I'm hoping to replace my ARC with a hardcover copy soon! ( )
  LauraBrook | Dec 26, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Cliveden was once a stately home which Livingstone's husband bought in 2012 for £30 million and now runs as a hotel. Livingstone begins with Clivedon of recent memory, where Christine Keeler met John Profumo and Russian naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov. The Profumo-Keeler affair led to the downfall of a government. It is perhaps fitting that they met at Cliveden which began as a pleasure palace, the setting for an affair.

Livingstone writes about five of the women who were associated with the Berkshire residence. First is Anna Maria Brudenell who cuckolded her husband, Francis Talbot, 11th Earl of Shrewsbury with multiple lovers. Foremost among them was George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, a close friend of Charles II. Buckingham had recently purchased Cliveden with the intent of creating a "grand love nest" for his inamorata. Shrewsbury finally found his manhood and challenged Buckingham to a duel but did not survive his wounds, leaving his young widow to continue her affairs. Two years later Buckingham began construction of a stately home but by then the House of Lords had ordered Buckingham and Anna Maria to separate which would seem to make Buckingham's long-suffering wife Mary the true mistress of Cliveden but we learn almost nothing about her.

The second section deals with Elizabeth Villiers, mistress of the future William III. Next is Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales. Then comes Harriet Howard, Duchess of Sutherland, who was the granddaughter of Georgiana Cavendish, the subject of Amanda Foreman's Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Livingstone says that Harriet was depressed (she often mentioned "melancholy" in her letters) but she managed to oversee six large houses, serve as Mistress of the Robe to Queen Victoria and be a busy hostess. Perhaps she was just overworked.

Livingstone does not appear to like the American born Nancy Aster. She mentions several times how sexually repressed Nancy was, her conversion to Christian Science and her anti-Semitism. She almost seems to gloat that her Jewish family is now in charge of Cliveden. She also describes Nancy as vicious, rude and spiteful.

The last chapter returns in greater detail to the Profumo affair thus coming full circle but I had long since ceased to care about any of the ladies. As so often seems to happen, the title of the book is about women but most of the details are about the men. There is no detail too small to be excluded, from the contents of a servant's room to the Anti-Corn Law League to Gladstone's guilt over his choice of reading matter.

The Cast of Characters is listed by section while the Timeline combines everyone. Each section begins with black and white illustrations which help the reader to visualize the ladies and some of their associates. The text is well-documented with hundreds of footnotes, an extensive bibliography and index. ( )
  Taphophile13 | Nov 27, 2016 |
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"For fans of Downton Abbey comes an immersive historical epic about a lavish English manor and a dynasty of rich and powerful women who ruled the estate over three centuries of misbehavior, scandal, intrigue, and passion. Five miles from Windsor Castle, home of the royal family, sits the Cliveden estate. Overlooking the Thames, the mansion is flanked by two wings and surrounded by lavish gardens. Throughout its storied history, Cliveden has been a setting for misbehavior, intrigue, and passion--from its salacious, deadly beginnings in the seventeenth century to the 1960s Profumo Affair, the sex scandal that toppled the British government. Now, in this immersive chronicle, the manor's current mistress, Natalie Livingstone, opens the doors to this prominent house and lets the walls do the talking. Built during the reign of Charles II by the Duke of Buckingham, Cliveden attracted notoriety as a luxurious retreat in which the duke could conduct his scandalous affair with the ambitious courtesan Anna Maria, Countess of Shrewsbury. In 1668, Anna Maria's cuckolded husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, challenged Buckingham to a duel. Buckingham killed Shrewsbury and claimed Anna Maria as his prize, making her the first mistress of Cliveden. Through the centuries, other enigmatic and indomitable women would assume stewardship over the estate, including Elizabeth, Countess of Orkney and illicit lover of William III, who became one of England's wealthiest women; Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, the queen that Britain was promised and then denied; Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland, confidante of Queen Victoria and a glittering society hostess turned political activist; and the American-born Nancy Astor, the first female member of Parliament, who described herself as an 'ardent feminist' and welcomed controversy. Though their privileges were extraordinary, in Livingstone's hands, their struggles and sacrifices are universal. Cliveden weathered renovation and restoration, world conflicts and cold wars, societal shifts and technological advances. Rich in historical and architectural detail, The Mistresses of Cliveden is a tale of sex and power, and of the exceptional women who evaded, exploited, and confronted the expectations of their times; Praise for The Mistresses of Cliveden: 'An utterly fascinating and completely beguiling account of three centuries of high living, high politics, and high drama at one of Britain's most famous stately homes. A page-turner from start to finish, it's history with all the good stuff left in'--Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire; 'A wonderful voyage through the fascinating history of Cliveden--this is a brilliant book full of gripping personalities and beautiful detail'--Kate Williams, author of Ambition and Desire ..."--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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