The Duke and Duchess of Beaufort survived the tumultuous and uncertain decades that followed the English civil war by creating a remarkable political partnership. Together, they worked to restore their family's estates and political power base as well as their home, Badminton House in Gloucestershire. They also sought to tame political and religious passions and to bring order and stability to Restoration society, a goal that was shared by many members of the landed classes. This fascinating book uses their story to illuminate the profound cultural changes that took place after 1660. It also brings to life Henry Somerset (1629-1715) and Mary Capel Somerset (1630-1715), two complex and unique individuals.
Henry, third marquis of Worcester and first duke of Beaufort, was a powerful regional magnate and an active member of Charles II's Privy Council. Beaufort: The Duke and his Duchess, 1675-1715 recounts his activities in public life in England and Wales and shows the Duke rebuilding his war-ravaged estates, contesting with his local rivals, and corresponding tirelessly with his wife. Mary, meanwhile, distinguished herself in the newly emerging science of botany, growing and propagating an astonishing variety of exotic plants and finding personal salvation in the natural world. Offering both an intimate portrait of a seventeenth-century marriage and an unusual view of the early days of Enlightenment science and rationalism, this book will captivate a wide range of readers.
"Historians have written plenty of biographies of great men of the seventeenth century, but none depict a married couple on equal terms in the vivid way McClain does."
– David Underdown, Yale University
"McClain presents the Duke and Duchess as flesh and blood individuals. One can't help but become engrossed in their lives."
– Mark A. Kishlansky, Harvard University
"Well produced [...] it will bring pleasure to those keen to deepen their understanding of the society and politics of Restoration England."
– Anthony Fletcher, History
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Molly McClain is assistant professor in the department of history at the University of San Diego.