Talks

A Moral Threesome: Florence Nightingale and the Herberts
by Dr Ruscombe Foster

Date: Tuesday 8 December 2020

One of Britain’s greatest heroines owed much to a now largely forgotten glamourous couple: the Herberts of Wilton House.   

A Moral Threesome: Florence Nightingale and the Herberts

Two centuries after her birth, Florence Nightingale’s iconic lamp remains undimmed. Whilst her biographers acknowledge the name of Sidney Herbert along her road to fame, the latter’s reputation has fallen into relative obscurity, that of his wife even more so. The result has been both to distort and over-simplify history: the Herberts were vital to her mission, both before, during, and after the Crimean War. The equation is a simple one: no Herberts, no Nightingale.      

Russ Foster, currently an independent scholar, is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of 3 books and numerous articles on subjects ranging from Alfred the Great to Margaret Thatcher. As a teacher he spent 20 years as Head of History at Embley Park, former home of the Nightingale family. Most recently he has worked at Wilton House, home to the Herbert earls of Pembroke. In 2019 he published the first major biography of Sidney Herbert. As such he is uniquely placed to assess Nightingale, Herbert (and the usually overlooked Mrs Herbert!) in the bicentenary year of Nightingale’s birth. 

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