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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Defence of Her Husband, 28 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Margot Asquith's Great War Diary 1914-1916: The View from Downing Street (Kindle Edition)
Read these edited diaries if you enjoy gossip, occasional wit and the acid comments of a wife trying to defend her much loved husband, loved despite his many affairs (she had many before her marriage). But take most of her criticisms of generals annd politicians with a large pinch of salt for they are for the most part misplaced and horribly biased. This is a shame because for a time Margot was literally at the heart of government. She could have left an enormously important record of events.

To understand her bitterness and caustic wit it is necessary to recall the record of Herbert, her husband, while he was Prime Minister. Margot was Herbert's second wife. He was a staunch Liberal, a compassionate and warm human being. He did well in the domestic politics field but, unfortunately, he was not cut out to run a war, particularly one like that which erupted in 1914. He lacked the dynamism, drive and ruthlessness to wage a Great War, and the senior military plus his political opponents knew it; so did Margot but she would never admit it in public.

Herbert held dear the values of Victorian Liberalism. He hated war and, therefore, conscription which his wife described as' stupid unEnglish coercion'. As the casualty lists became longer and longer he became bitter and frustrated; his only son and many friends were killed, including the Grenfell brothers.

Herbert came under fire as the possibility of a quick victory receded. His detractors, who included the Times and The Daily Mail, attacked him over his running of the war, in particular the shell crisis and the badly planned and disastrous Gallipoli venture.

As the criticisms mounted, Margot hit back with withering comments in her diaries about stupid politicians and generals. In her diaries she attacked, for example, Sir John French, Lloyd George whom she despised, Churchill, and Kitchener, the S of S for war. She had a particular hatred of Lord Curzon, the former Viceroy of India. She called him, Churchill and many other establishment figures 'curs and swine'. She demonstrates in these diaries again and again an inabilty to make objective comments about anyone whom she disliked. These were anyone who criticised her husband. Laudable but horribly biased behaviour for a leading diarist.

Margot continued to use her diaries to record what her husband had to face. Eventually, he was forced to resign. He was replaced by the dynamic Lloyd George. The diaries record what she heard, read and saw while Herbert was in Number 10. They contain some hilairious comments, examples of her acid wit and pertinent questions she put to those who criticised her husband. She held very little back. However, what is seriously lacking is a cogent analysis of political events.

Entertaining but you will learn little of long-term value.

The diaries have been very well edited.
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Location: United Kingdom

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