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A Royal Affair: George III and His…
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A Royal Affair: George III and His Scandalous Siblings (2006)

by Stella Tillyard

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It doesn't sound like a promising topic does it? How the stolid George III - in the years before his porphyria and before losing America - was bothered by the reluctance of his siblings to adhere to standards of morality befitting Hanoverians. But its more interesting than it sounds - this all takes place at the dawn of broadcast media, as newspapers and pamphlets become widely read, by the elite at least, and their publishers discover for the first time the selling power of celebrity. And discover that scandalous behaviour of the royal family sell extremely well. So the scandalous behaviour of George's brothers Edward, William and Henry provided titilation for the masses and provide the first media studies cases. Not that we would consider their behaviour all that scandalous, they just married inappropriate people and were bored out of their wits from having no proper to job to do.

Its Caroline Matilde who is the star of the show. Shipped out as a teenager to marry in the interest of dynastic politics, as was the fate of Germanic princesses, she finds her self married to "mad" King Christian of Denmark - these days he seems more eccentric than "mad" and mostly just not very interested in being King - tries to do what is expected of her, but ends up (through boredom again) having a fairly open affair with the Royal doctor, supporting him in his ascent to power through manipulation of King Christian (who is basically willing to sign anything put in front of him), living a bohemian lifestyle, promoting a more open form of government, and generally enjoying herself. Of course such scandalous behaviour couldn't be permitted to continue and it all comes crashing down, with Caroline Matilde dying young. But no one could deny, she'd done it her way

To this is an interesting book and well researched with the author going to the trouble to learn Danish to read the gothic script of the Danish court in the original. There are lots of amusingly bitchy letters between courtiers quoted and humorously salacious trivia about courtesans and lords who should know better. But mainly, its about the birth of the cult of celebrity and very revealing ( )
  Opinionated | Jun 17, 2018 |
The 18th-century Hanover dynasty had more than its share of scandal, but I knew little about George III's sister Caroline Mathilde, the Queen of Denmark, prior to this book. While George III and each of his siblings who survived into adulthood are covered, Caroline Mathilde definitely steals the show - she was unhappily married to the Danish king in her teens, had an affair with her husband's doctor as her husband descended into madness, practically ruled Denmark with her lover for a brief period before a coup forced her to flee, and she spent the remainder of her days plotting a comeback before dying of scarlet fever at the age of twenty-three. A truly fascinating woman and one certainly in good company with her scandalous brothers, even if she gave King George III plenty of headaches. This is certainly both fun reading and a good way to highlight a lesser-known 18th-century figure. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Feb 11, 2017 |
Although the book is ostensibly about King George III of England and his numerous siblings, it is mostly about George and his youngest sister, Caroline Matilda. Tillyard follows their claustrophobic childhood and uneven educations, until they were separated when George took the throne and Caroline Matilda was married to the unstable King of Denmark, Christian VII. Teenaged Queen Caroline Mathilde tried to be a good queen, but her husband was going mad. She fell in love with Struensee, his idealistic doctor, and together the lovebirds ruled the King and the government. In the king's name they pushed through numerous reforms, all very good and necessary laws but very unpopular. Eventually, the king's step-mother and step-brother managed a coup, separating the queen and the doctor and ousting the humanist government. Caroline Mathilde physically struggled against her captors, but to no avail. She was locked in Kronberg slot (aka Elsinore) for months while the conspirators attempted to find proof of her adultery with Struensee. Struensee, like a dolt, confessed to everything and then, going against a lifetime of proud atheism, swore that he believed in Jesus Christ. He was brutally executed soon after. George III almost started a war to get his sister back to England, but after only a few tense months her divorce went through. The new Danish government shipped her away as quickly as they could, afraid of her influence over the king. Caroline Mathilde spent her remaining years with a large allowance from George III and no freedom. Her mail was opened, her servants chosen for her, and her visitors carefully vetted. After three years of this life, and a few desultary attempts to regain her throne, she died abruptly of scarlet fever.

Caroline's brothers, Edward, William and Henry, lead useless lives. Edward died young. William married a woman rather older, whose thwarted ambition made him miserable. Henry and his wife were rackety and seemingly happy, but certainly nothing but a drain on the treasury. And their oldest living brother, George III, was a priggish, rule-bound man who seems to have had little political insight and even less empathy. I didn't like any of the siblings, although I did pity them. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Very well written and not at all dry and academic, an important point in popular history writing. The sections about Caroline Mathilde and Denmark could possibly have made an entirely separate book as her story takes up a vast portion of the middle of this book. Although the book kept me engaged throughout, the author appears to become less coherent in the last quarter, almost as if she had not taken the same time or care when writing the last section. ( )
  pcollins | Jul 27, 2014 |
George III comes across as a middle-class citizen in this book, which echoes history's take on him. His siblings were anything but normal, which caused the family-oriented George some major headaches. Who knows, perhaps it contributed to his later madness. If he lived today, the press would tear him apart for his family hiccups. In fact, George comes across as a decent man who preferred the average Brit over his Germanic-speaking parents and cousins. This is well-written and keeps the reader involved with George and his history.

Book Season = Summer ( )
  Gold_Gato | Sep 16, 2013 |
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To Nick Cavanagh and Claire L'Enfant, a doctor and his queen
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I have no other hope, I repeat it again, but in your friendship for me, and am persuaded that with the principles you have you will never abandon so near a relation, and one who is so sincerely attached to you, as is your most affectionate sister, Caroline M. (Introduction)
Death came suddenly for Prince Frederick, ambushing him as he recovered from a temporary sickness, grabbing him by the throat, squeezing his life away.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140006371X, Hardcover)

The acclaimed author of Aristocrats returns with a major new book that reveals the story of a regal family plagued by scandal and notoriety and trapped by duty, desire, and the protocols of royalty.
History remembers King George III of England as the mad monarch who lost America. But as a young man, this poignant figure set aside his own passions in favor of a temperate life as guardian to both his siblings and his country. He would soon learn that his prudently cultivated harmony would be challenged by the impetuous natures of his sisters and brothers, and by a changing world in which the very instituation of monarchy was under fire.

At the heart of Stella Tillyard’s intimate and vivid account is King George’s sister Caroline Mathilde. Married against her will at fifteen to the ailing king of Denmark, she broke all the rules by embarking on an affair with a radical young court doctor. Their rash experiment in free living ended in imprisonment, death, and exile and almost led their two countries to war. Around this tragedy are woven the stories of King George’s scandalous brothers, who squandered their time and titles partying and indulging in disastrous relationships that the gossip-hungry press was all too delighted to report.

Historians have always been puzzled by George’s refusal to give up on America, which forced his government to drag out the Revolutionary War long after it was effectively lost. Tillyard suggests that the king, seeing the colonists as part of his family, sought to control them in the same way he had attempted to rule his younger siblings.

In this brilliantly interpretive biography, Stella Tillyard conjures up a Georgian world of dynastic marriages, headstrong royals, and radical new ideas. A compelling story of private passions and public disgrace, rebellion and exile, A Royal Affair brings to life the dramatic events that served as a curtain-raiser to the revolutions that convulsed two continents.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The story of a regal family plagued by scandal and notoriety and trapped by duty, desire, and the protocols of royalty. History remembers King George III of England as the mad monarch who lost America. But as a young man, this poignant figure set aside his own passions in favor of a temperate life as guardian to both his siblings and his country. He would soon learn that his prudently cultivated harmony would be challenged by the impetuous natures of his sisters and brothers. Historians have always been puzzled by George's refusal to give up on America, which forced his government to drag out the Revolutionary War long after it was effectively lost. Biographer Tillyard suggests that the king, seeing the colonists as part of his family, sought to control them in the same way he had attempted to rule his younger siblings.--From publisher description.… (more)

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