In this book Roy Hattersley examines the lives and careers of the Dukes of Devonshire and their interaction with the major political events of their times. He argues convincingly that successive generations of the dynasty have shared the same fundamental characteristics: acquisitiveness, particularly for land; enormous wealth combined with a contempt for financial prudence; a passion for building; a sense of public duty deriving largely from a notion that they are above narrow interests; an immense sense of personal and dynastic grandeur; and, above all, a political adroitness, combined with sheer luck, that enabled them to survive (almost) unscathed the turmoil of Tudor and Stuart periods, the Commonwealth, and the Restoration, as well as the equally treacherous intrigues of later periods.
One of the many pleasures of the book derives from Hattersley’s ability to illuminate historical events with insights drawn from his own lengthy experience of public life. Whilst by no means of equal interest throughout (how could it be otherwise?), the book can be confidently recommended to those who wish to increase their appreciation of British history over the last 750 years through an exploration of one of its most powerful and enduring noble families.