This book guides us through a century of aristocratic scandals, covering both stories that are well-known today and others that have faded from public memory, discussing adultery, murder, and even incest.
I read an awful lot of historical romance, and many Regency romances use the plot device of social ruin being carried around town by scandal sheets. Having read this book though, I am rather astonished that these fictional scandals managed to shock anyone at all, considering what the aristocracy was really getting up too!
The author recounts about twenty-five stories, with a few additional vignettes here and there, about a plethora of rich people behaving badly. Some figures discussed, such as Caroline Lamb and Emma Hamilton, are well-known to me, but Curzon added enough new details that I still found myself interested. The majority of the stories I had never heard of, which shocked me considering how strange and sensational some of them were.
The author recounts each story with enough detail to get a clear picture of the rather tangled social connections of everyone involved and explanations of what made these scandals so beyond the pale during the time period. However, I did wish we got a better understanding of how they were viewed by society at large, particularly in those cases which made their way to the public stage via the legal system – we get some catty remarks by other aristocrats and the occasional quote from a newspaper, but not much about consequences for those beyond the central figures.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.