BOOKS AND LOOKS: "DUCHESS" BY SUSAN HOLLOWAY SCOTT

I have been enjoying summer for multiple reasons. Of course I am ecstatic that I don’t have homework and can go to sleep and wake-up at my own desired time, but the main reason is because I can read as much as I want. I have a bookcase full of unread books, and during the summer I can give that bookcase the love and appreciation it deserves, and transfer the unread books to my “read books” bookshelf. My favorite ceremony.

Sarah Jennings, in classic late 1600s-early 1700s fashion, with her signature key, which symbolized her status at court and being able to access all rooms.

Sarah Jennings, in classic late 1600s-early 1700s fashion, with her signature key, which symbolized her status at court and being able to access all rooms.

The first book that I desperately wanted to share with you all is “Duchess” by Susan Holloway Scott. “Duchess” is a novel about Sarah Jennings, a girl who goes from being poor and stuck with her abusive mother to one of the most powerful women, actually, people, in Europe.

Since the fashion in the late 1600s was low cut dresses, woman would often times keep hankerchiefs with them to put in their shirts to cover up, especially if they were older.

Since the fashion in the late 1600s was low cut dresses, woman would often times keep hankerchiefs with them to put in their shirts to cover up, especially if they were older.

I have said this before and I will say it again, I love history, and this book speaks to the power of it. The book spans from when Sarah Jennings was thirteen into her adulthood, and gives a brilliant expose into what she had to experience as the maid of honor and best friend of Queen Anne. Too often I feel that the rich contributions of extraordinary women in history are overlooked, and Sarah Jennings is a story that deserves to be told.

Why do I feel this way? Mainly because through this book the reader is able to experience how human will determines everything. Being born in a poor family with a lot of debt in the late 1600s England, Sarah Jennings life was, by all standards, made to be infinitesimal and inconsequential. But even at the age of 13 she believed in her wit and intelligence, and became one of the maids of honor at the court of Charles II. Once she was at court she continued to strive for greatness, refusing to settle for the role as a maid of honor, which many told her would be her greatest accomplishment. She befriended the Kings daughter, Lady Anne of York, retaining their friendship (as best as she could) and rejected the propositions of men who just wanted her to be another conquest. In her late teens she married John Churchill, a skilled military strategist despite the massive debt he accrued from his father, something that would have repulsed the rich and any woman trying to receive a greater place in court, because she believed in his potential, and together they would later become the Duke and Duchess of Malborough.

John Churchill was known for being madly in love with Sarah and respecting her intelligence, often using her advice about politics.

John Churchill was known for being madly in love with Sarah and respecting her intelligence, often using her advice about politics.

The greatest part of this book to me, though, comes in the "afterword", where the author explains the rest of Sarah Jennings, or Sarah Churchill’s, life and future significance. Of course in her lifetime she gained massive success, but something she could not have predicted was that her great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson would be Sir Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister from 1940-1945 who was irreplaceable in the Allied Powers fight against the Axis Powers. Her family tree also consists of Diana, Princess of Wales, who greatly helped the image of the British monarchy.

“Duchess” heavily impacted me because it showed the power of our will. It was not luck or chance that Sarah Jennings would reach such great success, it was her determination. And that determination would not only change her life course, but the course of British history. How would WWII have ended without Sir Winston Churchill? How would the British monarchy be perceived without Princess Diana? No matter what people tell me, I know that I, and anyone else, can change the course of history because history shows that this is true. Our actions influence wars, conflicts, the success of a nation. Being a dreamer or a go-getter is not being naïve or unrealistic, but knowing the infinite power each of us possesses, and not letting anyone else stop us from using it. 


I hope you enjoyed this post, reflecting on this book was a joy for me. Comment below what you would do if you believed that anything was possible, and then, do it.

-S.D.