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Lady of the House (Paperback)

Elite 19th Century Women and their Role in the English Country House

P&S History > British History P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Charlotte Furness
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 32 b/w
ISBN: 9781526702746
Published: 3rd July 2018
Last Released: 1st February 2023



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This book tells the true stories of three genteel women who were born, raised, lived and died within the world of England’s Country Houses. This is not the story of ‘seen and not heard’ women, these are incredible women who endured tremendous tragedy and worked alongside their husbands to create a legacy that we are still benefitting from today.

Harriet Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville was the second born child of the infamous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire who married her aunt’s lover, raised his illegitimate children and reigned supreme as Ambassadress over the Parisian elite.

Lady Mary Isham lived at Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire with her family where, despite great tragedy, she was responsible for developing a house and estate whilst her husband remained ‘the silent Baronet’.

Elizabeth Manners, Duchess of Rutland hailed from Castle Howard and used her upbringing to design and build a Castle and gardens at Belvoir suitable for a Duke and Duchess that inspired a generation of country house interiors.

These women were expected simply to produce children, to be active members of society, to give handsomely to charity and to look the part. What these three remarkable women did instead is develop vast estates, oversee architectural changes, succeed in business, take a keen role in politics as well as successfully managing all the expectations of an aristocratic lady.

It was really good, I really enjoyed it! If you like social or women's history you'll enjoy this.

Watch the full video review here

Lil's Vintage World

I completely recommend this book if you are at all interested in the time period, women’s history or the lives of the lives of less famous people! I rate this book 5/5 stars!

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Dainty Beth

The Author's note suggests Furness cares deeply about her research. This alone engenders compassion and that is exactly how this book has been presented, compassionately. Focussing on the expectations of the lady of the house and her own expectations, it highlights what is often overlooked.

This book is quite unique in its subject matter. A great addition to anyone's bookshelf but probably more for the inquisitive reader looking for facts for research.

For the Love of Books

If you’ve always been interested in the impact that women can have on the renovations of a country estate, or just want to find out a bit more about the lives of nineteenth century upper-class women, then I’d recommend this book as a great starting point.

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The Creative Historian

There’s enough in this book to dip in and out of whilst you enjoy a cup of tea and you don’t need to strictly adhere to the chapters. Rather, I was encouraged to pick and choose interesting excerpts relating to all manner of interests. When a book has been well-researched, there’s truly a joy in reading it and constantly returning to it for more.

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She Noted, Chloe Prince

Furness explores the lives of three women who changed the houses they found themselves mistresses of from old fashioned or run-down to modern country houses, employing the most prestigious architects and builders of their day. It’s an interesting volume for those interested in the development of the 19th century country house, and the place of the lady of the house in it’s development.

I enjoyed the biographies of the women as well; they are not what you expect from 19th century genteel women. They aren’t retiring, social butterflies, producing heirs and spares and doing nothing useful.

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Rosemarie Cawkwell, Blogger

As featured in 'reading corner'

BRITAIN, January 2018

About Charlotte Furness

Charlotte Furness was born and raised in Huddersfield West Yorkshire.
After completing a BA in English, and an MA in Country House Studies at the University of Leicester, she started a career in heritage, working for English Heritage, Lamport Hall, Harewood House, Temple Newsam House, Renishaw Hall and more.
She now works as a full-time writer and heritage historian, exploring women’s history and the history of the country house.

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