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[NF] A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III by Janice Hadlow

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Location: Brooklyn, NY

[NF] A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III by Janice Hadlow

Postby fljustice » Mon November 17th, 2014, 4:52 pm

From the Goodreads description:

"George III...was the first of Britain’s three Hanoverian kings to be born in England, the first to identify as native of the nation he ruled....Pained by his childhood amid his cruel and feuding family, George came to the throne aspiring to be a new kind of king—a force for moral good. And to be that new kind of king, he had to be a new kind of man....George fervently pursued a radical domestic dream: he would have a faithful marriage and raise loving, educated, and resilient children.

The struggle of King George—along with his wife, Queen Charlotte, and their 15 children—to pursue a passion for family will surprise history buffs and delight a broad swath of biography readers and royal watchers."

My review:

I finally slogged my way through 600+ pages of tiny type. When I was two pages from the end, my sight was so blurry, I could barely read. Another good reason for eReaders and their adjustable type! Beyond the physical discomfort, I found the book's content and writing very good. The author took on a monumental topic, the marriage and family relationships of King George III (of mad king fame). Using that as her theme and framework, Hadlow provides an in depth look at an 18th C upper class family, who just happens to be royal.

To put the kings' deliberate choice to build a monogamous marriage and provide a loving and sheltered atmosphere for his children, Hadlow goes back two generations to George I and takes us forward through George III's children's marriages and affairs to his granddaughter Victoria's ascension to the throne--over 130 years of history. This book is meticulously researched. It seems all the main characters were prolific letter writers and their friends and servants observant diarists. The text is littered with quotes from primary sources.

As an American reader who knows George III as primarily the mad king who lost the American colonies, this was a fascinating and sympathetic story, punctuated by tragedy, family drama, illness, and love--both requited and clandestine. I was particularly interested in the author's take on Queen Charlotte and her six daughters who formed the core of the King's domestic circle (he sent his seven sons, who survived to adulthood, off to various careers in the military and education very early in their lives). The Queen was a very intelligent, educated, literate woman who raised her children according to the most modern theories of the day, surrounding her daughters with equally intelligent and literate women as governesses and ladies-in-waiting. Which makes their various fates even more tragic as George cut off nearly all their avenues for independent expression (primarily marriage and children) in order to keep them close. Only one of his daughters had a living child and that one was illegitimate, born in secret and unacknowledged by the mother or anyone else in the royal family (unlike the many illegitimate offspring of her brothers).

Altogether, I found this book a satisfying biography of an important family--well written and researched. Highly recommended.

Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher through an early reader program. This review reflects my honest opinions.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website
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