By examining the lives of aristocratic women during the first forty years of Victoria's reign, this book proposes a reading of aristocratic political society which does not rest on a notion of ‘separate spheres’, and in which women played an active part. It tries to show that aristocratic women were actively engaged in the pursuits of their families — whether on their estates, in local institutions, in national politics, or at the court. Politics, whether national or local, was the motivating force of aristocratic society. Unlike other Victorian institutions, a working aristocracy required women as well as men to function fully, and not simply in the hereditary dimension. This chapter suggests that it is more constructive to regard aristocratic women as an integral part of an aristocratic culture in which they had important roles which were the consequence of their membership of the aristocracy.
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