By Rod Green
There can't be many people who have never heard of Nelson Mandela. His has become a household name, a name respected by everyone everywhere, from grandmothers to schoolchildren. Not so many people would recognise his other names, and he is a man who has been known by many names throughout his life. Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela came from what most people would regard as a poor background, yet his family were aristocrats among the Xhosa people of the Transkei in South Africa. From the time he was a boy he was destined, as his father before him had been, to become an advisor at the court of the Xhosa king, but no one could have predicted that young Rolihlahla would one day become an outlaw known as 'The Black Pimpernel' or a statesman of international standing - President Mandela.This is a fully illustrated life story of Nelson Mandela with a unique collection of photographs from throughout his life.
By Jane Robinson
The 'Greatest Black Briton in History' triumphed over the Crimea and Victorian England. "The Times" called her a heroine, Florence Nightingale called her a brothel-keeping quack, and Queen Victoria's nephew called her, simply, 'Mammy' - Mary Seacole was one of the most eccentric and charismatic women of her era. Born at her mother's hotel in Jamaica in 1805, she became an independent 'doctress' combining the herbal remedies of her African ancestry with sound surgical techniques. On the outbreak of the Crimean War, she arrived in London desperate to join Florence Nightingale at the Front, but the authorities refused to see her. Being black, nearly 50, rather stout, and gloriously loud in every way, she was obviously unsuitable. Undaunted, Mary travelled to Balaklava under her own steam to build the 'British Hotel', just behind the lines. It was an outrageous venture, and a huge success - she became known and loved by everyone from the rank and file to the royal family. For more than a century after her death this remarkable woman was all but forgotten. This, the first full-length biography of a Victorian celebrity recently voted the greatest black Briton in history, brings Mary Seacole centre stage at last.
Madame de Stael
By Maria Fairweather
The influence of the salons of Paris on the thought and culture of the eighteenth century would be difficult to overstate. They were both intellectual powerhouses and also assemblies where the latest and most extreme fashion was displayed. 'Young gallants...wearing silk waistcoats embroidered with Chinese pagodas, making love to ladies reclining negligently against the cushions...or accepting small cups of chocolate from the hands of Negro pages', thus Harold Nicolson describes the drawings of the time in his book "The Age of Reason". These meeting places for the vanguard of society were presided over by a succession of brilliantly clever women, the salonieres, and the most brilliant and clever of all of them was Madame de Stael. Although she died at the age of 51 she filled her life to the brim, and enjoyed a hugely influential role among the great names of the day. Born Germaine Necker, in Paris on 22 April 1766, her father was a powerful banker and her mother a Swiss pastor's daughter who never got over her good fortune in marrying a rich man. In 1786 Germaine was married to a secretary in the Swedish embassy called de Stael, but although she thought him 'a perfect gentleman' she also found him dull and clumsy. She began to take lovers - the Vicomte de Narbonne and possibly Talleyrand - and then Benjamin Constant, in whom she at last met her intellectual equal. In 1806 her novel "Delphine" was published. It was an instant success and praised by Goethe and Byron, among others. Her salon thronged with glittering visitors including The Tsar, Talleyrand,and Wellington. Maria Fairweather gives an entrancing account of this vanished world, so merciless to outsiders, but for those of the inner circle incomparably glamorous and exciting.
By James Munson
The affair of George IV and Maria Fitzherbert is notorious. A young Catholic widow became the secret wife of the heir to the throne because she had refused to become his mistress.Munson reveals a genuine love story between the spoilt, egocentric prince and the older woman who brought peace and order to his life of restlessness and excess; resulting in a marriage that defied English law and broke all the rules of monarchy. Two themes dominate - the love of a kind-hearted woman for a charming but faithless prince, and the perilous state of the monarchy.