Catherine Layton

The Life and Times of Mary, Dowager Duchess of Sutherland

Cambridge Scholars Press 2018

New Books in BiographyNew Books in British StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network April 26, 2018 Mark Klobas

As the thrice-married widow of one of the richest dukes in Victorian Britain, Mary Mitchell lived a life often at variance with the expectations...

As the thrice-married widow of one of the richest dukes in Victorian Britain, Mary Mitchell lived a life often at variance with the expectations of propriety for her time. In The Life and Times of Mary, Dowager Duchess of Sutherland (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2018), Catherine Layton goes beyond the headlines from her time to understand who Mary was and the world in which she lived. The daughter of an Oxford academic, Mary grew up in the interconnected world of the English elite. While her first marriage to an army captain proved unhappy, through it she encountered George Levenson-Gower, the fabulously wealthy third duke of Sutherland, a friend of the Prince of Wales who, like the future king, engaged in a series of extramarital affairs. Soon after her husband’s death in a shooting incident Mary became the duke’s mistress, marrying him within months of the duchess’s death in 1887. The duke’s own death in 1892 sparked a high-profile legal case that even led to Mary’s imprisonment for a brief period, yet the eventual settlement left her fabulously wealthy. Though married a third time to a Conservative politician, as Layton reveals, Mary’s subsequent separation from him before her death in 1912 and her final request to be buried next to the duke serve as conclusive evidence of where her heart ultimately lay.

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