Book Review: The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue in an English Stately Home The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue in an English Stately Home by Natalie Livingstone

The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue in an English Stately HomeThe Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue in an English Stately Home by Natalie Livingstone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Mistresses of Clivenden starts out with the story of a real mistress, Anna Maria, the Countess of Shrewsbury, who was beloved of the Duke of Buckingham. He built the house with the purpose of them living together and enjoying the pleasures of the flesh. Due to the public censure of their scandalous and even murderous (he killed her husband in a duel) relationship, they were not able to actually be together and live happily at the estate. Another famous mistress was Elizabeth, Countess of Orkney, who was the paramour of William of Orange, despite her famous squint. She and her husband, the Earl, upgraded the house and hosted royalty. The next owner was just the mistress of Clivenden, as she loved her husband - Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, the wife of the Prince of Wales. Together, they turned Clivenden into an alternate court, away from the stuffiness of the palace, with entertainments and a lower standard of protocol. Next was Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland, who was known as a beauty. Sadly, Harriet was plagued with depression, and saw the estate burned while she was chatelaine. She oversaw the rebuilding, using some of the most famous architects and builders of the day. She was also known as Queen Victoria's dear friend. The final mistress of Clivenden is Nancy Astor, the Virginia-born wife of Waldorf Astor. A spirited woman of courage, she became the first female elected to the House of Commons. Some time is also spent on the Profumo Affair, a scandal that rocked the British Government, and involved Clivenden.

The book is rather uneven in its treatment of the different ladies. Too much time is spent on Nasty Nancy, probably because of the vast amount of information available about her versus the more ancient occupants. For all their wealth, none of the ladies seemed to be particularly happy. One hopes the current owner, also the author of this book, has a better outcome.

 

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