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4.1 out of 5 stars8
4.1 out of 5 stars
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I found this book valuable because unlike other books I have read it makes a serious attempt to evaluate Sarah Churchill's politics.

I became interested in Sarah Churchill after reading Hibbert's 'popular' biography of the Marlboroughs, which I enjoyed immensely. However he tends to skirt the issue of Sarah's politics, partly on the not unreasonable grounds that Queen Anne burnt nearly all her letters. What Hibbert does do is paint a very charming sketch of Sarah in the years after her husband died however.

I then read Gregg's biography of Queen Anne which I think very highly of. It kicks into touch the notion that Queen Anne was a nonentity, a trap which I am not entirely sure Ms Field escapes. I am not always sure of what Ms Field thinks, she is a very bright post-modern historian who likes to do her research and present all viewpoints.

Gregg however makes it clear that Anne was very conscious of her role as a servant of England who felt that keeping a balance between the influences of the political parties was crucial. Anne was an introvert, and apparently, rather like Cromwell, had a dialogue with her creator going which once she was monarch may have sustained her rather more than her friendship with Sarah Churchill, whose influence no doubt had been vital in the years leading up to her assuming the throne because of the confidence it had given her.

It is clear that Ms Field thinks Sarah was more than a beautiful/annoying vamp who attached herself to Marlborough/Anne and stole headlines. I am sure she is right in thinking this and the virtue of this book is that it makes a sustained effort to draw out a picture of Sarah as a player, and presents a picture of her as a conviction politician, whatever else she was.

I wonder if in fact a key fact in Sarah's life was her role in securing a healthy allowance for Anne before she assumed the throne, for which Anne was very grateful, and to achieve which Sarah had to stick her neck out bigtime. When once she became monarch Anne started to distance herself from Sarah's views, Sarah kicked out.
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on 25 April 2003
The Favourite is a facinating story, compellingly told. Ms Field charts perfectly the parabola of Sarah's career, her extraordinary rise and her bond cushioned fall are set out in exquisite detail. The book vividly brings to life the nuanced, complex central figures at the heart of Queen Anne's court.
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on 19 November 2002
On the face of it you just can't see how this could fail to be riveting - in fact, it almost reads like the outline of an 80s sex & shopping bonkbuster - Sarah Jennings rises from humble origins (with a mother who was possibly a madam) to Duchess and the richest woman in Europe, via a lesbian affair with the Queen of England, marriage to the most famous and sexy soldier of the day (the one who famously pleasured her with his boots on) and a life of political graft which resulted in the nation footing the bill for Blenheim Palace. And yet... Partly, any quibble is because Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, despite Ophelia Field's valiant attempts to present her as a strong minded woman trapped in an age designed for men, does just come across as superbitch: a nagging, complaining, quarrelsome, vindictive and petty woman who treated Queen Anne appallingly, criticised everyone else for corruption while having made several million herself out of official offices, a blackmailer and an appalling mother who tyrannised, and was loathed by, most of her family. And partly I did find myself longing for Field to sometimes drop the fairminded historiography in favour of just expressing a human emotion. But there. Can't have everything. Although, to judge by this biography, Sarah did try.
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on 13 April 2005
When I first picked up this lengthy tome and saw it was the author's first book, I nearly balked. Yet the book was half price in the Blenheim Palace giftshop, the subject matter seemed fascinating, so I bought it, expecting to be disappointed. Ophelia Field's treatment of Sarah, the bright young thing (think Lady Diana Spencer) who became one of England's most powerful and rich matriarchs (she once held the reins of the Bank of England) is thorough and perceptive. The insight of the political powerplay between Sarah, Queen Anne and Sarah's rival is interesting. The only flaw is that John Churchill is seen to be somewhat of a weak character compared to Sarah, seemingly hopelessly submissive to her, which I'm not sure was the case.
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on 23 December 2013
A great read for my dissertation on Queen Anne. I would recommend for history students interested in the seventeenth century
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on 13 February 2006
This is the story of the ultimate duchess... Sarah Jennings rose through the ranks of society from butcher's daughter to become the richest woman in Britain. It's also the story of a strong and enduring love, and a fascinating examination of what it took to succeed as a forceful, intelligent woman in an age of enormous upheaval. Ophelia Field is a bright new talent on the biographical scene and I'm looking forward to reading more by her.
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on 5 January 2014
what a dull tome. Too much 'dates and names' and not enough period colour. I bought this for research, but had to hold my eyes open with matchsticks to get a quarter of the way through. Her life was a groundbreaking whirlwind of adventure, but this version of it is not.
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on 14 January 2015
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