Ophelia Field’s 2002 (revised in 2018) biography of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough is a fascinating insight into the eighteenth-century elite. The biography focuses on the intensity of the relationship between Sarah and Queen Anne, with the two having grown up together in and around the court of Charles II. Sarah was later given two of the highest positions of the early modern court when Anne ascended the throne in 1702: Keeper of the Privy Purse and Groom of the Stool. These positions are just two roles discussed by Field, a focus of her biography being the positions, hierarchies, and structures at play in Anne’s court. Another predominant theme is the writer’s voice. Like in much discussion of queenship, Churchill’s agency and self-fashioning is both emphasised and questioned throughout. Moreover, Field also analyses the use of the spoken word, exploring slander, gossip, and scandal. The depth of Field’s research provides ample background to Sarah’s story, especially for those who enjoyed Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2018 film of the same title. Field explores shared desire, passion and love as suggested by existing historical sources including correspondence between the two women. This part of Sarah’s life, and indeed Anne’s, had not yet been explicitly researched and discussed by scholars, who had previously focused on Churchill’s political ambition and patronage. In all, Field demonstrates that Sarah wielded great power, painting a portrait of an ambitious, intelligent, and passionate woman.Continue reading “Book Review: The Favourite, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough by Ophelia Field”
By Lucy Coatman
Cover Image: Empress Elizabeth at Corfu by Friedrich August von Kaulbach, after 1898, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Friedrich_August_von_Kaulbach_-_Sisi_auf_Korfu.jpgContinue reading “Mater Dolorosa: Elisabeth in the Aftermath of Mayerling”
All images unless otherwise indicated were photographed at the British Library by Johanna Strong.
Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, form one of the most popularly famous – or rather, infamous – female partnerships of the early modern European world. While most historians of early modern England could provide more detailed accounts of Elizabeth and Mary’s relationship, most outside academic circles remember only that it was on Elizabeth’s orders that Mary faced her fate, ascending to the scaffold on 8 February 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle. The British Library’s ‘Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens’ exhibition is the first to examine the personal and political relationship between Elizabeth and Mary and is a timely addition to the sphere of public history. Bringing together portraiture and visual components, contemporary documents, and expert historical interpretations, this exhibition provides an intimate look at the rival queens who shared an isle.Continue reading “Exhibition Review: ‘Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens’ at the British Library”
By Lucy Coatman
Cover Image: Crown Princess Stéphanie, mid-1890s, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St%C3%A9phanie,_Crown_Princess_of_Austria-Hungary.jpg