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  #1  
Old 07-25-2008, 11:03 AM
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August 2008 "Marlborough House Set"

Here is the schedule for the discussions and chat about the August 2008 Book Club book (Marlborough House Set by Anita Leslie). If you wish to take part in the discussion during July, you should have read (or be reading) the chapters specified in the thread title. We have divided the book into sections for weekly discussion, and there will be an hour of facilitated discussion at the beginning of each new period. However, the thread will be open for general discussion at all times. Please note that discussion of later chapters than those specified in the thread title is not permitted, and posts containing such spoilers will be deleted.

Sunday 10 August: Thread opens for discussion of chapters 1-8 at 4 pm (US East Coast time). Facilitated discussion of chapters 1-8 (4-5 pm East Coast time, 9-10 pm British Summer Time).

Sunday 17 August: Facilitated discussion of chapters 1-16, with emphasis on the new chapters, chapters 9-16 (4-5 pm East Coast time, 9-10 pm British Summer Time).

Sunday 24 August: Facilitated discussion of chapters 1-21 with emphasis on the new chapters, chapters 17-21 (4-5 pm East Coast time, 9-10 pm British Summer Time).

Sunday 31 August: Facilitated discussion of chapters 1-29 with emphasis on the new chapters, chapters 22-29 (4-5 pm East Coast time, 9-10 pm British Summer Time).

Live chat in the Book Club chat room to talk over the book (starting in the morning and running for the rest of the day).

Monday 1 September onward: Thread is available for anyone to post about the topic, regardless of whether they've read the book. This is the time for recommendations and discussion of other books and wider-ranging discussion of the book topic in general.
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:43 PM
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Oh crap! I just started the book!
See?? This is what happens when you don't read the guidelines!!
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Old 08-01-2008, 08:12 PM
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You've got time to read the first eight chapters by Sunday week, surely, Russo? The first facilitated discussion is the 10th, not the 3rd.
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Old 08-01-2008, 08:25 PM
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I read rather quickly. I should have it down. But geez louise! I only have myself to blame for not looking at the rules! Boy do I feel like one of those high school nightmares, you know where you are looking for your papers and books and trying to get into your locker and the bell rings and. . .
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Old 08-01-2008, 08:45 PM
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Don't worry. I've read it, but now I need to reread it again!
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Old 08-01-2008, 11:28 PM
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Yep, me too...
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Old 08-04-2008, 07:32 AM
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Smile Marlborough House

I've got to hurry up too! I am reading Elizabeth 1 by Alison Weir as well so it's going to be hard...I really like Anita Leslie's style, however.
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Old 08-10-2008, 02:48 AM
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I've finished the chapters so I'm ready to start! I'm interested in the strange Edwardian morals (or lack of them!) of the MHS.
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Old 08-10-2008, 11:08 AM
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Questions for the first 8 Chapters:


1. Does Anita Leslie's emphasis on her own family (Jennie Churchill, Leonie Leslie) help or hinder the book in your opinion?

2. Most of the members of the Marlborough House Set were high-ranking aristocrats. Why were they considered different from Queen Victoria's circle of friends?

3. In Victorian England there was a greater divide between royalty and commoners than during much of the 20th century. Was the Prince of Wales's circle of friends instrumental in narrowing that divide?

4. Prince Edward's educational regime was highly unsuited to him. Given the description in the book of life at public (i.e., private) school in that era, would he have benefitted from being sent away to school?

5. If the Prince of Wales had been given more responsibilities by Queen Victoria when he was a young man, do you think his private life might have been different?

6. What do you think of the "open" attitude towards extramarital affairs that clearly play a role in this book, versus the more closed attitudes of society before and after this period?
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Old 08-10-2008, 03:57 PM
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Personally I think that Ms Leslie was too focused on her families relationship or lack thereof with the royal family. She regularly interjects anecdotes about her family that, at least for me, are one of the main issues with the flow and timing of the book. They are interjected in the wrong places for me, and it upsets the story line. As I go farther in the book, I hope that this becomes less frequent, but for now, I can't say that I am thoroughly enjoying the book. I love to read, but I am finding this book a bit difficult to muddle through, not only for the above reason, but also because Ms Leslie tends to jump from subject to subject, describing some in significant detail, while glossing over others.
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Old 08-10-2008, 04:04 PM
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I also find the Edwardian attitude to morals interesting to say the least. What was seen as inappropriate paled in comparison to what was done in private. It was completely unheard of for a lady to show even the glimpse of an ankle in public, but for the members of the Marlborough house set the morals were considerably relaxed in relation to the rest of society, at least as far as we know it. In a way it is a bit refreshing, given that every marriage was an arranged marriage, and once the "wifely" duties were performed, she was not expected to live her life in complete servitude and misery after already enduring a marriage that she had not chosen, but was instead allowed at least a measure of romantic and sexual freedom. Not that I personally condone that, but then again, I was allowed to choose my own husband and marry for love, rather tahn dynastic or political reasons.
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Old 08-10-2008, 05:04 PM
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This hypocritical attitude that it was acceptable to do some of these rather questionable things but it wasn't acceptable to be found out seems to have been a rather new attribute in the Victorian era. I can't see Queen Victoria's "wicked uncles" being too terribly bothered about presenting a virtuous facade while bed-hopping and running up massive debts. But the social penalties for public embarrassment among members of the Marlborough House Set were pretty appalling. Had the Prince of Wales not been who he was, I have a feeling he'd have been a social outcast by the time he was 40.

I also wonder if this moral double standard was peculiar to the Prince's friends or if it was the way things were done throughout the upper classes where marriage was basically a business transaction and divorce was a passport to complete social ostracism. In some ways it was really a very brutal system, and I was getting a feeling of brittleness from the book - as though they were all treading on eggshells and were afraid to put a foot wrong and bring down the whole edifice.

Given the Queen Mother's attitude about the Duke of Windsor - that having mistresses was fine as long as he was discreet about it - it seems as though this hypocritical attitude survived the Edwardian era by some decades. It seems to have been a combination of relaxed morals during World War II and the less deferential society starting in the 1960s which finally put paid to some of these ideas.
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Old 08-10-2008, 06:29 PM
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Oh crap! I missed the live discussion! I don't know why I thought it was 4 PST and not EST!
I actually like the anecdotes of Miss Leslie's family stories being interjected into the story. IMO, I think she compares her family and how they operated to Prince Edward and his set.
It's a little "funny" (both haha and odd) that they had rules:
One couldn't have a mistress that hadn't been married, virginal girls were OFF LIMITS.
One could NOT get caught or flaunt it in the face of their spouse. Though some most certainly did.
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Old 08-10-2008, 07:39 PM
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I found it interesting that these rules seemed to be set up for the benefit of the men - they wanted their wives to be virgins and to be sure that their eldest son was their own, but they still wanted to have other women - and yet women seemed to be happy to go along with it and to enforce the rules especially where their daughters were concerned. The whole system seemed to be set up to exploit women, but the women were some of the fiercest defenders.

I also found the personal anecdotes interesting, since Anita Leslie had heard some of this stuff first-hand from her grandmother; however, I think it gave a disproportionate emphasis to somewhat peripheral members of the set. I was rather surprised that the set included some very senior aristocrats like the Duchess of Devonshire and the Londonderrys; I'd always had the impression that the great landed families were more likely to move in Queen Victoria's set and that the Marlborough House Set comprised lower-level aristocrats, younger sons, and leaders of commerce and banking.

It'd be nice if Sam was here so he could tell us how Rosa Lewis fit into this environment!
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Old 08-10-2008, 07:50 PM
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Didn't the court follow who buttered their bread the best? So to speak. I would imagine that there were many that followed QV to curry favor, but I'm sure there were those who knew Edward would be king (though I"m sure they never expected Victoria to live as long as she did!) and were busy ingratiating themselves with him, his set and his rules. .
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Old 08-10-2008, 08:39 PM
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I wasn't going to read the book but y'all have got me interested. About marriages being business transactions, I pretty much thought they were. Wasn't this the era of women having to have dowries? I think the exchange of money between families pretty much sets the tone of the marriage and it wasn't only Edward's set that required dowries.

Does the book go into their style of living? I'm a bit of a gourmet freak and a lot of the historical discussions on fine dining regard the Edwardian period as the pinnacle of the artform with Edward and Alexandra as the arbiters of taste.

Edward changed the dining habits of the upperclass; giving lavish dinners of multiple courses and was the first to wear a dinner jacket, scandalizing Alexandra but giving all the men a sigh of relief. Dinnertimes were pushed back requiring a smaller meal at about 5 which began the custom of the English tea. Servants were instructed to have a 'light snack' around and available to their royal guests at all times.

The result of all this overeating was the necessity of taking the cures at a spa resort where the overindulgent would go on a strict regime only to return to their old ways when they got back home. A long lavish dinner party at late hours with a dining parter that was not your husband (it was considered ill-mannered to seat husband and wife together) seemed to me the ideal setting to allow a cladestine romance to bud.

Outside of the world of royal followers, Edward still holds immense interest for groups that are interested in lifestyle. Whatever his personal peccadillos were, he and his age are studied as the pinnacles of fine living.
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Old 08-11-2008, 01:06 PM
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I was struck by the last line in, I think, chapter 5 (or was it 6?) where they said it didn't matter what was the truth,just how society perceived it. That was a precursor to many, many situations to come. It was okay to have an affair, you just couldn't disrupt the family or society. This brings to mind poor Violet Trefusis and her affair with Vita Sackville-West. Violet wanted a life with Vita and Vita and her husband knew that was going to disrupt the family so they shut her out. . Consider also the hapless Duke of Windsor, have an affair with your mistress but you don't marry her.
I think some of these Edwardian strictures are still alive and well today!!
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Old 08-11-2008, 01:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ysbel View Post
I wasn't going to read the book but y'all have got me interested. About marriages being business transactions, I pretty much thought they were. Wasn't this the era of women having to have dowries? I think the exchange of money between families pretty much sets the tone of the marriage and it wasn't only Edward's set that required dowries.

Does the book go into their style of living? I'm a bit of a gourmet freak and a lot of the historical discussions on fine dining regard the Edwardian period as the pinnacle of the artform with Edward and Alexandra as the arbiters of taste.
Not to any great extent. Parties and banquets are described to a point, but the book is mostly about people and relationships. Mind you, it's a while since I read most of it so I could be forgetting some stuff from later in the book. I really liked the fact that it put the senior royals into the context of the society they were part of.
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Old 08-11-2008, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Russophile View Post
I was struck by the last line in, I think, chapter 5 (or was it 6?) where they said it didn't matter what was the truth,just how society perceived it. That was a precursor to many, many situations to come. It was okay to have an affair, you just couldn't disrupt the family or society. This brings to mind poor Violet Trefusis and her affair with Vita Sackville-West. Violet wanted a life with Vita and Vita and her husband knew that was going to disrupt the family so they shut her out. . Consider also the hapless Duke of Windsor, have an affair with your mistress but you don't marry her.
I think some of these Edwardian strictures are still alive and well today!!
I think it's somewhat less so, especially over the last quarter century. Not that the tabloid press would let the royals get away with glossing over anything these days, so even if they wanted to I don't think they'd be able to. There's also much more of a feeling that the royals serve the nation and are paid for by the taxpayer so people have a right to know what's going on with them.

Some of the same social strictures do seem to be alive and (in a manner of speaking) well, though, especially the shunning of people who let the side down by going public with their problems. I remember reading about how Prince Philip conspicuously "cut" Diana at Ascot after some of her steamier revelations hit the newspapers.
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Old 08-11-2008, 07:29 PM
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But it is interesting that they employed "rules".
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