Izabela the Valiant

Adam Zamoyski


We send all orders via Royal Mail: within the UK, choose from 1st Class, 2nd Class or Special Delivery; for the rest of the world, International Standard or International Tracked. Delivery and packaging charges are calculated automatically at the checkout.

To collect orders in person from the Bookshop, choose Click and Collect at the checkout.

HarperCollins Publishers
20 June 2024
ISBN: 9780008521684
208 pages

From the publisher

Trawling through a vast family archive and arcane sources in half a dozen languages, Adam Zamoyski has revealed the dramatic life of his great-great-great grandmother, an uneducated, vulnerable girl cast into a man’s world.

Her aristocratic position enmeshed her in high politics and close encounters with Frederick the Great, Benjamin Franklin, Rousseau, Joseph II, Marie-Antoinette and Tsar Alexander I, and earned her the enmity of Catherine the Great. She lived through revolution and no less than five wars, in which her cherished homes were devastated, her possessions looted and her children scattered. Caught up in tempestuous love affairs which led her to nervous breakdown and the brink of suicide, exploited by her lovers, she remained undaunted and liberated herself through education. And, unusually for her time, she became a caring mother devoted to her children.

She learned much by travelling extensively around Europe at a time of political and ideological change, and her observations, particularly on Georgian Britain, are remarkable. She gradually won the admiration of learned men and intellectual honours. She pioneered schooling for children of the poor and developed her own educational methods. Fascinated by the power of objects to kindle memories and arouse emotions, she was an avid collector of anything with a sensuous association and built two unique museums to act as teaching aids.

This is a story of triumph over adversity and betrayal. It was not achieved by her looks: ‘I have never been beautiful, but I have sometimes been pretty,’ she wrote. It was achieved by force of character and resilience.