Field, Ophelia

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FIELD, Ophelia


Born in Australia; immigrated to England. Education: Attended Christ Church, Oxford, and the London School of Economics.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Policy analyst, writer. Human Rights Watch, London, England, policy analyst; Sunday Telegraph, London, books consultant.


The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2002, published as Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough: The Queen's Favourite, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Also author of policy reports for Human Rights Watch and contributor to periodicals, including the Sunday Telegraph.


Ophelia Field's first book is an extensive biography published in the United States as Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough: The Queen's Favourite. Sarah Churchill, who lived from 1660 to 1744 and is an ancestor of the late Princess Diana, was vilified in the popular press and by such literary figures as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift as being a "cranky old lady." She was born in humble beginnings as Sarah Jennings, but while a servant in the court of Charles II she became very close to Princess Anne and was possibly even her lover, according to Field. She later married John Churchill, who would become the Duke of Marlborough and one of the greatest generals of the eighteenth century. The couple were the seed of the Churchill-Spencer dynasties. Sarah Churchill had considerable influence over both her husband and Queen Anne, and she became the richest and most powerful Englishwomen since Queen Elizabeth I. Sarah, a Whig, attempted to influence the queen's Tory leanings, and she employed what some felt were devious means to advance her goals and increase her fortune.

When Anne replaced Sarah with a new companion, Abigail Masham, Sarah threatened to expose the queen's lesbianism with letters they had exchanged. Times Literary Supplement reviewer Carola Hicks noted that Field "points out that the allegations of Queen Anne's lesbianism were meant to taint her with the associated but even worse crime of Roman Catholicism, and therefore unfitness to rule." Eventually, both Sarah and her husband were banished from court, and Sarah turned to writing her memoirs as self-vindication.

Reviewing The Favourite in the London Independent, Stephen Coote pointed out that Churchill, for all her ambition, manipulations, rages, and vulnerability, "was always a celebrity and often a scapegoat, because she was determined to show what influence a woman could wield over public affairs. She is a marvelous subject for a biography, and Ophelia Field's book, capacious and beautifully detailed, does her full justice, discarding cliched judgements and bringing to light new evidence. It is the first work by a writer who is a master of her craft."



Booklist, June 1, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough: The Queen's Favourite, p. 1734.

English Historical Review, September, 2003, Edward Gregg, review of The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, p. 1059.

Guardian (Manchester, England), June 22, 2002, Kathryn Hughes, review of The Favourite.

Independent (London, England), June 27, 2002, Stephen Coote, review of The Favourite.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, p. 727.

Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2003, review of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, p. 56.

Times Literary Supplement, July 19, 2002, Carola Hicks, review of The Favourite, p. 11.*