A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs by Sarah Murden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life Of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is a biography of an unsung heroine who I found fascinating.
Charlotte (as she preferred to be called) was born in Wales in the 1760s, was educated in France, but her main story begins in the 1770s. Her family were living in Lambeth where she fell in love with a young man called David Ochterlony. He remained in her heart for the rest of her life, but once he left England, bound for India, she never saw him again. He was to become General Sir David Ochterlony, conqueror of Nepal, and general of the East India Company Army.
The authors have pieced together a great amount of detail from Charlotte’s life. In her late teenage years, she was to suffer at the hands of a manipulating rapist, a terrible ordeal, but one which may have fashioned her reserve later in life.
A keen royalist and a lover of France, Charlotte was later caught up in the French Revolution during the years 1792-5. Imprisoned in France, during the ‘Reign Of Terror’, Charlotte went on the write about her ordeal in a book which she had published. In England, she also became involved in writing political propaganda pamphlets, using her observations in France as evidence and arguments in her work.
Told from an era where women were given little voice or significance, Charlotte’s life achievements interested me greatly. She single-handedly initiated the 50th year Jubilee celebrations for King George III, by writing letters to all the significant towns, relying on competitive and jealous tendencies of town officials to snowball her idea into fruition. In other areas she did her best to become a female politician, by constantly writing to members of parliament with bold suggestions. One example was her views against an idea which the French had tried, to stabilise food prices. Charlotte had seen, first hand, how the system collapsed in France and, when the British suggested a similar price-cap on corn, she wrote to a prominent member of parliament with her opinions.
Her contacts and information gained in France led her to approach John Reeves in 1809 who formed the administration office of the first British Secret Service. Charlotte suggested she travel to France and act as a spy, reporting back information on life post the French Reformation.
I enjoyed this book, it was an interesting snapshot of a period of history which I know little about. Few women could have lived such an independent life as Charlotte managed. She was an author, playwright, ‘female politician’, spy and inciter of propaganda, often risking her life and her health in support of her beliefs.
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Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs lived an incredible life, one which proved that fact is often much stranger than fiction. As a young woman she endured a tortured existence at the hands of a male tormentor, but emerged from that to reinvent herself as a playwright and author; a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government and later singlehandedly organising George III s Jubilee celebrations. Trapped in France during the revolutionary years of 1792-95, she published an anonymous account of her adventures. However, was everything as it seemed? The extraordinary Mrs Biggs lived life on her own terms in an age when it was a man’s world, using politicians as her mouthpiece in the Houses of Parliament and corresponding with the greatest men of the day. Throughout it all though, she held on to the ideal of her one youthful true love, a man who abandoned her to her fate and spent his entire adult life in India. Who was this amazing lady? In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, we delve into her life to reveal her accomplishments and lay bare Mrs Biggs continued re-invention of herself. This is the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.
Authors Sarah Murden and Joanne Mayor. We would describe ourselves very much as ‘history detectives’ we don’t simply repeat information that is widely known but try to ensure that in each post there is at least one snippet of information that is not already in the public domain – it could be a record of a birth, marriage or death or an illegitimate child we have found; an unknown, but fascinating story from an old newspaper. We never really know until we begin our research where it will lead and the diversity of our posts confirms this.
We try to remain true to our blog title ‘All Things Georgian‘, nothing is out-of-bounds and hopefully, our posts will provide readers with a sample of what life was life during that period, warts and all.
If we research someone or something and find nothing of any significance, then for us, it is highly unlikely to become a blog post, so we set ourselves quite a challenge. We have found that it is very easy to take facts presented as always being accurate rather than checking them out to be sure. Having checked them out we have often found that they lead you on a very different and unexpected journey.
As well as writing this blog and hosting our ‘sister’ blog – The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman, we have published 2 books, both commissioned by our publisher, Pen and Sword Books and available from Pen and Sword Books or from all leading bookshops, our third book is due for publication at the end of November 2017.
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