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on 28 September 2008
This is a fat book-but don't be put off. ffion's writing style is fluid and accessible: she keeps the clarity that is so often missing in biographies that cover such a wide timespan and range of characters. The tone is never judgemental and totally even handed in its treatment of (some not always likeable) people. As it takes a rather more personal and domestic view of late 19th/ early 20th century history the book makes a refreshing change from mere histories of the time. However we are never far from world events so one encounters them from the perspective of engaged bystanders rather than from the main players. It also throws the double standards of the contemporary moral and social climate into sharp relief and acts as an interesting mirror to the current political scene. In summary- an enjoyable and informative read.
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on 9 November 2010
This was a different aspect of Lloyd George's life and a very interesting one too. Knowing the area it was set in, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt about his love life but I was obviously mistaken, he was worse than I thought!!
This book was well researched and presented and I have recommended it to many of my friends. Very enjoyable.
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VINE VOICEon 1 January 2010
I thought I knew a lot about Lloyd George. The good (the introduction of Old Age Pensions), the bad (splitting the Liberal Party) and the ugly (selling honours for personal gain). I was also aware he had a mistress throughout his time in Downing Street and beyond. However, most of my knowledge was based on the political and economic issues in which he was involved. Having read Ffion Hague's superb book about Lloyd George's wife and mistress I now realise how little I knew about him.

The "Welsh wizard"was born in Manchester but spent his formative years in North Wales. A native Welsh speaker (like Hague herself) he became a solicitor and entered into politics on behalf of the Liberal Party whose nonconformist roots were solid in the Principality. He married in his mid- twenties but, in his own mind, his vows excluded those parts which he regarded as inconvenient, in particular, sexual fidelity. In fact he found it difficult to accept friendship between the sexes could exist without physical sex. It is not known how many women he dallied with but in Frances Stevenson he found someone who was reliable and discreet.

At heart there was only one person in Lloyd George's life and that was Lloyd George himself. His wife, Margaret, often depicted previously as docile, understood his weaknesses and stuck firmly to the idea that marriage was for life. Ironically, so too did Lloyd George. He had seen first hand how an extra-marital affair had brought down Parnell and had no intention of ruining his career the same way. He made it clear to Stevenson that he would never divorce and, when in the aftermath of Margaret's death, she pushed for marriage he put it off as long as possible.

The two women were quite different. Margaret, who has been rescued from undeserved historical obscurity by Hague's detailed research, felt at home in Wales but never in London. She disliked the cosmopolitan lifestyle and the artificiality of the people for whom appearance was more than substance. Her Calvinistic beliefs were fundamental to an understanding of her personality and, whatever her suspicions, she tended to see the best in people, especially in Lloyd George himself. Lloyd George, however, enjoyed the social side of being a Member of Parliament. In this respect Stevenson proved to be an excellent political hostess once he had attained high office and Margaret was in North Wales.

When Lloyd George's teenage daughter Mair died Margaret found comfort in her religious beliefs which he, as a non believer, was unable to do. Stevenson entered his life and filled the void which had been left by Mair's death. If he and Stevenson had not been lovers he could have been mistaken for a doting father. The pair started a physical relationship in 1913 and Stevenson had two abortions before giving birth to a child in 1929 whose paternity Hague confidently attributes to Thomas Tweed, with whom Frances had an affair. Ironically, Stevenson in a television broadcast many years later, blatantly denied she had a child of her own, calling Lloyd George her child. Lloyd George was no innocent. Tweed also had an affair with Stevenson's sister and most of his Cabinet colleagues had mistresses.

Lloyd George recognised he did not understand women, although, in fairness, he recognised their potential and encouraged them to make the most of it. Hague makes less reference to some of the political events than might have been expected and, in a sense, Lloyd George, the arch hypocrite, gets off lightly. She attributes his hold over Margaret and Frances to his charisma and force of personality. In fact, Frances was at heart a romantic and a social climber who became emotionally dependant on Lloyd George. "He dominated her life and she had no real freedom of her own." Margaret, on the other hand, "connected with Lloyd George in a way that Frances never did." Hague concludes they both shared "the pain and the privilege" of loving and living with Lloyd George. Ironically, Lloyd George was mortified when he found out Stevenson had been unfaithful to him and, in his final years, he was extremely jealous when she was in the company of other men. In truth, he needed them as much as they needed him.

Lloyd George cast a long shadow over British politics. He split the Liberal Party in pursuit of his own goals but, thanks to him, the principle of a State pension was established. In addition, as observers, politicians and the press, have been more vigorous in their pursuit of juicy stories, the idea that MP's are immune from temptation has long been accepted as too idealistic. Affairs and infidelity are no longer a barrier to selection. Although Hague's subjects are Margaret and Frances it is inevitable she paints a portrait of Lloyd George himself and, in so doing, adds substantially to an understanding of his personality. Behind every good man is a good woman. In Lloyd George's case he had two women. An excellent book, well researched and even handed. Five stars.
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on 2 June 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which took an interesting slant on a great man not just insofar as it looks at him through his women companions but also through the writer's own great sympathy for and native grasp of Welsh nationalism and sentiment.

She is sympathetic to, but not uncritical of, all 3 main protagonists and I found her work on Lloyd George's youth - particularly the sectarian nature of the various "chapels" fascinating. It is the outcome of an impressive piece of research yet manages to remain readable and accessible.

Question left hanging - why in the present age do we so heavily condemn private sexual "shenanigans" as in some way damning the public actions of the man (it is usually a man!)when Lloyd George is a paradigm of a man with a dubious - if the masses had known about it at the time - private life whose ability to lead & inspire cannot be in doubt. Perhaps we deny ourselves great leaders by expecting too high a standard of moral integrity in their private lives.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 August 2009
A serialisation of this book on Radio 4 caught my attention. A storyline intriguing enough to succeed as a novel was made all the more interesting through being based on real events - another case of truth being stranger than fiction. How could Lloyd George maintain the active political and moral support of his wife and his mistress when they were both fully aware of the situation even if choosing to delude themselves up to a point? Ffion Hague interprets in a compelling style the complex motivations and emotions involved. The way in which these two women played complementary roles to meet Lloyd George's needs made me wonder how consciously he chose these two particular people for longterm relationships in an apparent sea of casual promiscuity.

The interplay of the key characters was set in the context of major developments such as the decline of the Liberal Party, the weakening of the power of the Anglican Establishment over Wales, the horror of the First World War and the profound social changes following from it. It was fascinating to realise or to speculate on just how much the wheel keeps turning - insider share dealing, "cash for honours", the distorting power of the press - when it chose to reveal scandals- reminded me strongly of recent events. The nature of power, and the charismatic influence which some can exert over others was also explored -there were parallels between the excessses of Lloyd George and Clinton, who tarnished noble political ideals, hard work and real steps to make people's lives better with sordid events in their private lives.

I never had any illusions about Lloyd George's morality, so did not downgrade the book out of disgust over his self-centred lechery. Although Ffion Hague may have been a little too charitable about his motives e.g. glossing over what some would regard as egotistical conflicts with Asquith which served to destroy the Liberals faster (although the rise of the Labour Party would probably have done it anyway) and downplaying his evident nepotism and cronyism (again, everyone else was probably at it as well), she succeeds in painting all the characters in a sympathetic light. They seemed like real people, with strengths and flaws.

There was irony in spades e.g. in Lloyd George's jealousy of his mistress Frances Stephenson's own affair with Tweed, in the way she tried to deceive him as he deceived his own wife, in the fact that her child (who may have been Lloyd George's or Tweed's ) may not have given her the pleasure she craved, since the deception in which she ensnared herself made it impossible for her to be entirely straight with the girl, to the detriment of their relationship.

This was a fascinating and thought-provoking book leaving one to ponder at length on the nature of human relationships - not to mention a renewed interest in learning more about the rich history of the early C20. Countless snippets of information interested me such as Lloyd George's denunciation of the Boer War, because as a put-upon Welshman he could empathise with the independent-minded Boers. As a young man, what would he have said about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

My only minor criticism is a slight lack of editing. I spotted a mistake in a date, a few non-sequiturs, and sometimes became confused by the author's tendency to dodge back and forth in time. The frequent references to the notes sent by his admiring womenfolk every time they heard Lloyd George speak in the Commons became too repetitious.

But these are small points, and I would rate this as a major achievement and one of the better biographies I have read.
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on 3 September 2010
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. It was excellent - so well written and informative! I hope she writes another book soon - Well done!
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on 26 July 2010
This was a carefully researched, well-written, impartial work which incorporated fresh information about a number of its subjects, as well as an interview with Jennifer Longford, the woman who is believed by some to be Lloyd George's illegitimate child.

Although, naturally, there are references to the statesman's career and to his beliefs, it doesn't get bogged down in political detail, focusing instead on the his relationships with the key women in his life.

This is not a hagiography, so readers looking for an adoring tribute to the man who was the working class's great champion are going to be disappointed; for example, he misled his wife about his fidelity and he chased the young farm workers in his employ when he was well into his sixties. These seedier, unedifying elements are not glossed over. This is an unbiased, factual account and all the better for it.
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on 23 February 2014
If you like gossip this is the book for you. Received in near perfect condition and good for the price.
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on 19 August 2014
So easy to read for such a lengthy tome. The complicated love life & politics combine in David Lloyd George's life & make a facinating read. Especially poignant as we commemorate the passing of a hundred years since the beginning of the First World War.
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on 12 March 2014
I have always been interested in the life of Lloyd Georg,being from Wales..It is interesting to see how much influence these women had on his life.It is very well researched and written,absorbing reading.
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