Lady Georgiana Spencer is an important figure in political history. She was born in 1757 and died in 1806. She married, at the age of 17, and became Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire. She had an influential role in many key, political events, and in the shaping of the early Whig Party. Georgiana saw the French Revolution through the eyes of an English aristocrat, and as a friend of Marie Antoinette.
Amanda Foreman wrote “Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire”, Modern Library Press, 2001. And, in 2008, a movie was made based closely on that book, though, with the movie focusing on one aspect and time period from the full biography. Amanda Foreman was a consultant on the movie. Though the movie was critiqued for saying so in some advertising, Georgiana is, in fact, the great-great-great-great aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales. And, the lives and work of these two women have eerie similarities.
I admire Georgiana because she was clever at politics, an adoring mother and family member, and a woman who became famous and influential, despite her personal struggles. Because of the detail in Amanda Foreman’s book, a reading of it offers many lessons on how to be a successful (and a not successful) politician. Amanda Foreman wrote of Georgiana:
Georgiana should be credited with being one of the first to refine political messages for mass communication. She was an image-maker who understood the necessity for public relations, and she became adept at the manipulation of political symbols and the dissemination of party propaganda. The two-party system was still developing in the late eighteenth century and factions, with their problems of discipline and dependence upon personality, predominated. Despite this, Georgiana was successful in helping to foster a sense of collective membership among the Foxite Whigs; and she made Devonshire House the focal point for meetings during critical times, such as the Westminster election and the Regency crisis [When King George lll became ill, and parliament had to decide whether or not and how to begin a Regency.] She was simultaneously a public figurehead for the Whigs and an effective politician within the party. The faction leaders obeyed her summonses, and sought her advice, employed her to negotiate, and relied on her to maintain the morale of supporters.
The Whig Party which Georgiana nurtured was conservative by today’s standards, but did include concepts of freedom such as opposition to absolute rule by the monarch. The opposing party was the Tories. Wikipedia states: “In general terms, the Whig tendency supported the great aristocratic families and non-Anglicans (the ‘dissenters,’ such as Presbyterians), while the Tories supported the Church of England and the gentry.”
Near the end of Amanda Foreman’s book, is her summary praise of Georgiana and her contributions:
Her history is as much a part of the history of men and the wider world as it is of the woman’s community. She is remarkable for being a successful politician whose actions brought about national events; for attaining great prominence in spite of the fact she was a woman in a society which favoured men; and for achieving success while enduring great personal suffering in her search for self fulfillment.
Would be honored to have your comments on the life of Georgiana. (Also, why are so many people excited about her story today?) (If your comment does not post right away, I will click through asap. Thanks, Kimberly 12/31/2011) (Look! Lots of new visitors again. I think they showed The Duchess movie on TV in Wales! Dec 2012/Jan 2013))