Ophelia Field

Speaker: Ophelia Field

Topic: The Favourite: Sarah Churchill and the Court of Queen Anne

Venue: Ondaatje Lecture Theatre, Radcliffe Centre

Time: 15:30-16:30 Saturday 27 April

Talk Summary:

In the first of the Festival’s two talks devoted to the court of Queen Anne, Ophelia Field discusses The Favourite, her critically acclaimed biography of Queen Anne’s sometime ‘favourite’, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, which includes the history that lies behind the Oscar-winning 2018 movie of the same name, starring Olivia Colman as Queen Anne and Rachel Weisz as Sarah Churchill.
Her brilliant account reveals one of the most powerful, influential and fascinating women of her times. Famously described by Dr Johnson as a ‘good hater’, Sarah Churchill was a woman of prodigious energy and ambition: she was instrumental in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, became a major broker of political influence, and supervised the building of one of the greatest palaces of her own or any age: Blenheim, in Oxfordshire. She was an intimate, and then a blackmailer, of Queen Anne, accusing her of keeping lesbian favourites – including Sarah’s own cousin, Abigail Masham. Ophelia Field brings Sarah Churchill’s own voice – passionate, intelligent, and compelling – back to life.

Note: Anne Somerset examines the other half of this partnership, Queen Anne, in her own talk for the Buckingham History Festival, on Sunday 28 April at 15:30.

Ophelia Field is one of Britain’s leading experts on the reign of Queen Anne, and her critically acclaimed life of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, The Favourite, was first published in 2002 and has recently been republished. A related book, The Kit-Cat Club: Friends who Imagined a Nation – a study of the astonishingly talented group of virtuosi and intellects, first convened in the 1690s, which included the architect John Vanbrugh, the playwright William Congreve and the future Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole – was published in 2008 and named by The Financial Times as one of its ‘History Books of the Year’.

Raised in Australia and educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and at the London School of Economics, Ophelia Field has pursued a parallel career for more than two decades as a policy analyst and consultant for a wide range of refugee and human-rights organisations. These include the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Human Rights Watch, the UNHCR, English PEN and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. She has taught at the University of London’s Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, and currently teaches on the University of Buckingham’s London-based MA in Biography. Her latest research projects include a subject from the early seventeenth century.