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King's Mistress, Queen's Servant: The Life and Times of Henrietta Howard Paperback – 3 Jul 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844138356
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844138357
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,266,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


It is the great strength of Tracy Borman's engaging new biography that, like Alison Weir and David Starkey before her, she manages to throw new light on the influence and careers of women in European courts (Stella Tillyard Sunday Times)

Tracy Borman handles her voluminous material with easy grace (Independent on Sunday)

Tracy Borman can tell a good story. Admittedly her subject is a gift....(she) handles them and their world with aplomb (Economist)

A short and zippy portrait of George II's long-suffering paramour (Tim Martin 'Christmas Biography Choice', Daily Telegraph)

Borman has certainly found an unsung and unusual heroine, what elevates her biography above the others in its genre is the author's sense of humour (TLS)

Book Description

First biography of the remarkable Henrietta Howard - royal mistress and bluestocking in the court of George II

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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amelrode VINE VOICE on 12 July 2008
Format: Paperback
Henrietta Howard (1688 - 1767), was the daughter of Sir Henry Hobart, a Norfolk landowner who was killed in a duel when Henrietta was still a child. Having become the ward of the Earl of Suffolk, she married his youngest son, Charles Howard, in 1706. The marriage was a very unhappy one as Charles was violent, a drunkard and squandering the few resources of the couple. She was able to acquire the respect to Princess Caroline of Ansbach, wife of the Electoral Prince George and future princess of Wales and Queen Consort. On the accession of George I she became a Woman of the Bedchamber and her husband was appointed to the household of the new king. Very unusual Henrietta managed to secure a legal separation, not a divorce, in 1723, but lost her only son to her husband. In June 1718 she became the Prince of Wales mistress and remained in this position for near 20 years, a position held with the approval of the Queen who tightly controlled the King and any influence on him. Being in the service of the Queen did leave Henrietta not much room for manoevre. After her husband had become quite unexpected the Earl of Suffolk and Henrietta the countess of Suffolk, in spite of being separated from him, she was appointed mistress of the robes of the Queen. However that signaled the slow end of her career at court. In 1734 she left the court, settled in her house at Twickenham, Marble Hill, married George Berkeley, younger son of the Earl of Berkeley in 1735, and lived the live of well to do countess, with a wide circle of influential friend like Alexander Pope or Horace Walpole. She was a well respected lady and a model of decorum.

Royal mistresses have always been a favorite subject for biographies or novels.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 15 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this on the strength of the other reviews and I have to say that this is one of the best-flowing biographies I have read for a while. Tracy Borman tells the interesting story of Henrietta Howard in a straightforward way - she does not pepper the page with reference numbers (the times I've read a book and come to the end abruptly, only to find that almost half the pages are actually taken up with notes!), and she also does not commit the cardinal sin of jumping around with the time lines, wandering off to cover the stories of other people, only to pop back about 20 years and you find you have literally lost the plot! Nor does she refer to people by various titles, but keeps to a consistent name. (I appreciate that the nobility can start as one thing and then become a Count or a Duke, or be Madame this, Lady that and then Princess the other ... but I have sometimes become confused and had to turn back several pages or chapters to be certain!) Therefore I read this book straight through and understood and enjoyed it.

It certainly helps if the subject has a straightforward career - but it cannot be said that Henrietta Howard led an ordinary life. Orphaned early, she was married to an absolute bounder who spent all her money and deprived her of her only son. She might have been a King's mistress but there is not much suggestion that she got anything out of it other than a secure job and living quarters...she was certainly no Anne Boleyn with an eye on the main prize.

This is an area of history that I have not previously delved into, but the court intrigue of the time is quite fascinating, even if the kings are not made of the flambouant stuff of the Tudors.

Tracy Borman deals with Henrietta sympathetically, and I will certainly be on the look out for any other biographies by her.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In her prologue Tracy Borman describes Henrietta Howard’s letters as giving “a fascinating insight into the glittering world of Georgian high society” and as telling “the story of a nation through the lens of a remarkable woman”. These are two very different things. It is hard to believe that an account of any single individual’s life could suffice to focus the life of a whole nation, and the fact that Henrietta Howard’s life was in most respects an exceptionally privileged one makes her an unlikely candidate for the role. Moreover, although the book does include some slight elements of historical scene-setting, it is overwhelmingly focused on court and aristocratic life.

Tracy Borman even occasionally lapses into the febrile tone of a society columnist who gives every appearance of regarding the lives of most of the human race as beneath her consideration, or even of mistaking a numerically tiny corner of the nation for its entirety. Thus, apropos of an elopement by a daughter of the Duke of Buckinghamshire with the son of Sir Beaumont Hotham, Borman writes that “their indiscretion had ensured that…the whole town was abuzz with the news” (p.256). The overwhelming likelihood is, of course, that very few Londoners would have even heard of either of these persons, and the rest would have been too preoccupied with the daily grind of earning a living and raising their families to care very much if they had.

Henrietta’s struggles to rescue her life from being blighted by an exceptionally boorish husband in an age when divorces were virtually unobtainable compel a reader’s sympathy.
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