Jane Ridley rss

American teenagers in the 1940s: part of the Silent Generation — so called for conforming to the norm and focusing on careers rather than activism

It isn’t cool to be adult now: the twenties are the new teens

2 May 2015
The Prime of Life: A History of Modern Adulthood Steven Mintz

The Belknap Press, pp.409, £22.95, ISBN: 9780674047679

We live in an age of generational turmoil. Baby-boom parents are accused of clinging on to jobs and houses which they should be freeing up for their children. Twentysomethings who… Read more

Margot dressed as an oriental snake charmer for a fancy dress ball at Devonshire House in 1897

Move over Downton: Margot and the Asquiths’ marital soap opera

29 November 2014
Margot at War: Love and Betrayal in Downing Street Anne de Courcy

Weidenfeld, pp.376, £20, ISBN: 9780297869832

You might be forgiven for thinking that there is no need for yet another book about Margot Asquith. Her War Diary was published only a few months ago: surely we… Read more

Scenes from a long life. Left to right: the vulnerable young queen, in thrall to Prince Albert; overcoming her demons with the help of John Brown — depicted in a popular souvenir cut-out; and the matriarch as Empress of India

Idle, depressed, weird – and wonderful: what Queen Victoria was really like after Albert

6 September 2014
Victoria: A Life A.N. Wilson

Atlantic Books, pp.642, £25, ISBN: 9781848879560

Do we really need a thumping new life of Queen Victoria? She seems to be one of our most familiar figures, the subject of countless books; but the surprising fact… Read more

Edward VII, portrayed in the French press hurrying across the Channel to the delights of Paris

The Paris of Napoleon III was one big brothel – which is why the future Edward VII loved it

7 June 2014
Dirty Bertie Stephen Clarke

Century, pp.386, £20, ISBN: 9781780890340

Stephen Clarke lives in Paris and writes book with titles such as 1,000 Years of Annoying the French. Dirty Bertie is a book in the same line — a comic… Read more

Queen Victoria writes letters at a table piled with despatch boxes Photo: Getty

Queen Victoria with the naughty bits put back

15 March 2014
Censoring Queen Victoria: How Two Gentlemen Edited a Queen and Created an Icon Yvonne M. Ward

One World, pp.208, £16.99, ISBN: 9781780743639

Queen Victoria was the inventor of official royal biography. It was she who commissioned the monumental five-volume life of Prince Albert, a controversial and revealing work. She wrote most of… Read more

Coloured photograph of Princess Louise dating from the early 1880s by the society photographer Alexander Bassano

What was the secret of Queen Victoria's rebel daughter?

11 January 2014
The Mystery of Princess Louise Lucinda Hawksley

Chatto, pp.374, £25, ISBN: 9780701183493

Princess Louise (1848–1939), Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, was the prettiest and liveliest of the five princesses, and the only one who broke out of the royal bubble. Artistically talented, she… Read more


The food of love

4 January 2014
Love Duet and Other Curious Stories About Music Christopher Ondaatje

Rare Books & Berry, pp.217, £19.95, ISBN: 9780956386755

The Albek Duo are two astonishingly beautiful and talented Venetian musicians, Fiona and Ambra, who are identical twins. Hearing the sisters perform inspired Christopher Ondaatje to create this book. He… Read more

A fearless horsewoman: Christabel Russell and her son Geoffrey  with the West Kent hounds at Otford 
for the Christmas meet, 1928

Can virgins have babies?

9 November 2013
The Virgin’s Baby: The Battle of the Ampthill Succession Bevis Hillier

Hopcyn Press, pp.282, £25, ISBN: 9780939297760

Mrs Christabel Russell, the heroine of Bevis Hillier’s sparkling book, was a very modern young woman. She had short blonde hair which she wore in two large curls on the… Read more

Cat fight: tension mounts between the Great Powers in 1905 as Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the French foreign minister, Théophile Delcassé, squabble over Morocco

What caused the first world war?

12 October 2013
The War that Ended Peace:How Europe Abandoned Peace for the First World War Margaret MacMillan

Profile Books, pp.656, £25, ISBN: 9781846682728

The centenary of August 1914 is still almost a year away, but the tsunami of first-world-war books has already begun. The government tells us that 1914 must be commemorated, not… Read more

Marie Duplessis

The Girl Who Loved Camellias, by Julie Kavanagh - review

17 August 2013
The Girl who Loved Camellias Julie Kavanagh

Knopf, pp.288, £19.99, ISBN: 9780307270795

Verdi’s La Traviata is the story of a courtesan who is redeemed when she gives up the man she loves in order to preserve his family honour, and then dies… Read more

A triumph of strategy: Lord Grey (left) checks the King 
during the Reform 
Bill controversy (from Doyle’s Political Sketches, 1832)

Perilous Question, by Antonia Fraser— review

11 May 2013
Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832 Antonia Fraser

Weidenfeld, pp.318, £20

There are times when a major drama in the House of Commons really does change the course of British history. The period 1974–79, dramatised in the play This House, was… Read more

Holland House by John Wykeham Archer

'Holland House: A History of London’s Most Celebrated Salon', by Linda Kelly – review

6 April 2013
Holland House: A History of London’s Most Celebrated Salon Linda Kelly

I.B. Tauris, pp.259, £25, ISBN: 9781780764498

Holland House, which was bombed in 1940, was a large, rambling Jacobean mansion off Kensington High Street. In 1800 it was still in the country, surrounded by leafy woods and… Read more

‘Dark Desires’, 20th century, Gino D’Achille

Secrets and ties

2 February 2013
Family Secrets Deborah Cohen

Viking, pp.372, £20, ISBN: 9780670917662

It is a truth universally acknowledged that secrets are toxic and break up families. Today we look back smugly on the bad old days of the stiff upper lip when… Read more

Edward Oxford’s assassination attempt on Constitution Hill, 10 June 1840, by Ebenezer Landells

Taking a pop at the Queen

12 January 2013
Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem and the Modernisation of the Monarchy Paul Thomas Murphy

Head of Zeus, pp.669, £25, ISBN: 9781781851272

On 10 June 1840 an 18-year-old out-of-work Londoner named Edward Oxford cocked his pistol and fired two shots at Queen Victoria as she made her daily carriage drive with Prince… Read more

No stone left unturned

6 October 2012
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London Judith Flanders

Atlantic Books, pp.520, £25, ISBN: 9781848877955

Dickens, the inspiration and source for this book, was addicted to walking the London streets at night. A man who felt uneasy in the countryside without a pavement beneath his… Read more


The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton, by Diane Atkinson

25 August 2012
The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton Diane Atkinson

Preface, pp.486, 20, ISBN: 978 1 84809 301 0

Caroline Norton seems an unlikely pioneer of women’s rights. Born in 1808, the granddaughter of the playwright Sheridan, she was a black-eyed beauty, a sharp-tongued socialite with a gift for… Read more


Another night to remember

4 August 2012
The Day Parliament Burned Down Caroline Shenton

OUP, pp.316, 18.99, ISBN: 9780199646708

At 6 o’clock on the evening of 16 October 1834 the old House of Lords burst into flames. By 3 a.m. most of the Palace of Westminster was a burned-out… Read more


Crusader on the attack

31 December 2011
John Bright: Statesman, Orator, Agitator Bill Cash

I.B. Tauris, pp.328, 25

Why have we forgotten John Bright? In his day he was a massive political celebrity. He could command audiences of 150,000, delivering thrilling impromptu speeches night after night. Perhaps, as… Read more


The woman in black

3 December 2011
Magnificent Obsession Helen Rappaport

Hutchinson, pp.336, 20

Albert: A Life Jules Stewart

I.B. Tauris, pp.288, 19.99

The history of the royal family is punctuated by dramatic, premature deaths which plunge the monarchy into crisis. The most disastrous of these — historically more significant by far than… Read more

The call of the wild

27 August 2011
The Last Colonial Christopher Ondaatje

Thames & Hudson, pp.256, 19.95

Christopher Ondaatje is best known as a member of the great and the good and a generous patron of the arts, notably the National Portrait Gallery. The pieces collected in… Read more


The gay Lambeth way

9 July 2011
As Good as God, As Clever as the Devil: The Impossible Life of Mary Benson Rodney Bolt

Atlantic, pp.362, 22

Archbishop Edward Benson was the ideal of a Victorian churchman. Stern and unbending, he was a brilliant Cambridge scholar and a dreamily beautiful youth. Older men fell over themselves to… Read more

Jennie, Clemmie and Goosie too

23 April 2011
The Churchills Mary S. Lovell

Little Brown, pp.640, 25

‘There never was a Churchill, from John of Marlborough down,’ wrote Gladstone, ‘that had either principles or morals.’ With the shining exception of Winston and his brother Jack, Churchill men… Read more

Mastering the k-word

11 December 2010
The King's Speech Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

Quercus, pp.242

The film The King’s Speech, which is due to appear in the UK in January, tells the story of George VI’s struggle to overcome his stammer. The film The King’s… Read more


Girls from the golden West

14 August 2010
Sisters of Fortune: Marianne, Bess, Louisa and Emily Caton Jehanne Wake

Chatto, pp.394, 25

Who was the first American to marry an English duke? Most students of the peerage would say it was Consuelo Yzagna who married the eldest son of the Duke of… Read more


Secrets and silences

30 June 2010
Hancox: A House and A Family Charlotte Moore

Viking, pp.484, 20

Charlotte Moore’s family have lived at Hancox on the Sussex Weald for well over a century. Charlotte Moore’s family have lived at Hancox on the Sussex Weald for well over… Read more