The Countess from Kirribilli

Reviewed By  Grasshopper2       July 19, 2021


Author  Joyce Morgan

Distributor:      Allen & Unwin
ISBN:                 9781760875176
Publisher:         Allen & Unwin
Release Date:   July 2021  


Mary Beauchamp began life in the 1860’s in Sydney. Born to a well to do merchant and his wife, Mary (known then as May) spent her first few years in the colony before her father led the family back to England. It was here that Mary gained an education, became very proficient at playing the piano and later was presented at court to Queen Victoria.

While in England Mary was introduced to a German Count who was immediately smitten with her and proposed. Mary accepted his offer. They were married and moved to Germany with children born each year for the first three years. This was enough for the young woman who began retreating to the wonderful garden that surrounded their home. It was here she began writing a book called “Elizabeth’s Garden.” which so successful that it had many reprints in the first year. Written with Intelligence, humour and an acerbic wit, the book was widely read. Everyone wanted to know who the author was but her husband wanted her to remain anonymous.

During the next period, Mary mixed with many famous writers such as H.G Wells, E.M Forster and Bertrand Russell. Upon her husband’s death she had five children and as the main money earner needed to continue to write. The literacy circles of London embraced the author as she continued her writing.

Joyce Morgan has used many primary sources from journals to diaries and letters to create The Countess of Kirribilli. She presents a detailed and fascinating look at Mary’s life, and how she handled its many changes. Her personality comes across strongly and she is shown as being strong and feisty. Equally fascinating is the social history which surrounded Mary and her family. From the Women’s Movement to the World Wars, we see the impact on the lives of the people. The author has created a spellbinding tale of a little-known Australian author.