The Pain and the Privilege

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 October, 2009, 12:00am

The Pain and the Privilege
by Ffion Hague
Harper Perennial HK$142

It's unfortunate that one of the last century's great leaders would have a book devoted not to his achievements but to the many women with whom he had affairs. So cocksure was David Lloyd George, Britain's prime minister from 1916-22, that he risked his reputation to bed a harem of women. He committed adultery with everyone from colleagues' wives to his daughter-in-law, writes Ffion Hague, but his two main loves were Margaret (his wife and consort) and Frances Stevenson (his soulmate and second wife after Margaret died). About the man they shared, Stevenson, his mistress for 30 years, wrote: 'The friendship of women was a necessity to him, and he could persuade each one of them, even the most intelligent, that she alone really understood him.' By poring through private letters and more, Hague skilfully shows the rivalry between the two women, showing each to be remarkable in different ways. Margaret became the first female Justice of the Peace in Wales and Stevenson the first female private secretary to a prime minister. The Pain and the Privilege captures poignantly the negatives and positives of the menage a trois.