The fascinating and entertaining story of the eighteenth-century beauty and bigamist, Elizabeth Chudleigh
When Elizabeth Chudleigh married the Duke of Kingston in 1769 it was the happiest and proudest moment of her life. She had put her childhood of impoverished gentility firmly behind her and reached the highest point of the social ladder. But her joy was short lived, and within a few years she would be standing in the dock in the House of Lords, charged with bigamy and facing the prospect of living out her days in exile on the continent. Yet she was much more than the caricature villain her contemporaries made her out to be. In 1743 she had been appointed maid of honour to Augusta, Princess of Wales. Taking to court life like a duck to water, her beauty, wit, vitality and generosity soon ensured her a crowd of passionate admirers, and one year later she secretly married Augustus Hervey, a naval lieutenant, shortly before he left for two years in the West Indies. Elizabeth carried on as 'Miss Chudleigh', the life and soul of court life and London society. When her marriage proved a failure, she began an affair and fell in love with the Duke of Kingston. Eventually Elizabeth denied in the ecclesiastical courts that she was married to Hervey and wed the Duke by special licence. After the Duke's death, a witness to her marriage with Hervey was discovered. Bigamy fever swept London society and, in a very public trial, Elizabeth was found guilty of the crime. But her strength of character ensured that, even when her friends deserted her, her courage and zest for life did not. Elizabeth left Britain for Europe where, true to form, she continued her adventures, charmed Catherine the Great, and lived in outrageous luxury. This is an engagingly written history of a strong, beautiful and wilful woman. Entertaining and absorbing, Elizabeth is a vivid biography of one of the eighteenth century's most colourful female characters.
After reading history at Oxford University, Claire Gervat worked briefly in the City. She then worked in magazines before moving to the Independent where she worked for several years, mainly as a subeditor. Claire has been a freelance travel writer for the past few years, contributing to many national newspapers and magazines, and has occasionally appeared on television to talk about holidays. She also writes 'The Trader', a humorous weekly column about the life of a fictional city girl, in the Independent.
.... Gervat delivers a racy, enjoyable tale in an effervescent and readable style. Filled with juicy details and new archival research from Britain and the former Soviet Union, this is truly colourful entertainment.,Gervat's research is immaculate and she shapes her story around a sympathetic grasp of the difficulties faced by the upper-class woman negotiating the rocky waters between love, the law, and public honour. Elizabeth is more than anything, however, a study of snobbery and self-deception and it is this that makes is such a grippingly good read.,Clare Gervat writes with sympathy and much good sense, backed up by sound scholarship, about a real-life woman in the round.