For a history buff, I know very little about Georgian Britain. I have seen a few TV shows and films but that’s about it. So, in a effort to stretch my brain cells a bit, and increase my knowledge, I picked up a copy of Queens of Georgian Britain by Catherine Curzon, which had the added bonus of being about women embroiled in politics and fighting to gain meaningful power – another favourite subject of mine.
I find it fascinating to see how women were treated and how they were seen if they behaved in any way which saw them stepping outside the norm; it always makes me feel very lucky to be living when I am (though, given recent events, maybe attitudes to women haven’t changed as much as I had thought?).
Fascinating is also a word I could use to describe each of the women featured in this book, though the title is slightly misleading as one of those included was not, in fact, a Georgian queen but, rather, the mother of a future Georgian king. This is Sophia Dorothea of Celle, a woman who was treated very badly by her husband (who would become George I) and ended up living a lonely, sad, life with her potential stifled.
Whilst not a Georgian queen, what made her story so interesting is that many of the actions of her husband and his family, had a chain reaction on the lives of his sons and grandsons and the way Britain was ruled for over a century as bad blood led to more bad blood and each generation railed against the behaviours and attitudes of the previous one. It was a tumultuous time, one with political intrigue and public disgust (at times) with the monarchy.
Whilst much of this can be laid at the feet of the Georges’ who were kings (four, one after the other), their wives played into the chaos too – or what felt like chaos to me. All were married because of perceived political gain and not all of them even seemed to like their husbands. All fought at times, often tooth and nail, with their husbands and played games behind the scenes where they could to try and exert influence. Add to this their having to put up with mistresses and mother-in-laws who aimed to get in their way.
Reflecting the times we live in, the press had a field day with all this and – one of the things I found most interesting – was how all this played out in the public domain, right down to court cases that bared the monarchy’s dirty laundry for all to see. In fact, I would like to have been told more of this. At times, Curzon does go into detail, but mostly – for me – it felt like it was barely touched on. Whilst the stories of the women were fascinating, I feel like I am missing some of the context for their actions.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the book very much looks at the queens as people – it’s just a personal preference. And it didn’t take away from me enjoying the book, which I did – in part, because it was written in a lovely, conversational style, which drew me in from the first pages. I really felt that Curzon was talking to me, which I liked. And I liked the book too – a lot.
About the book…
Once upon a time there were four kings called George who, thanks to a quirk of fate, ruled Great Britain for over a century. Hailing from Germany, these occasionally mad, bad and infamous sovereigns presided over a land in turmoil. Yet what of the remarkable women who were crowned alongside them?
From the forgotten princess locked in a tower to an illustrious regent, a devoted consort and a notorious party girl, the queens of Georgian Britain lived lives of scandal, romance and turbulent drama. Whether dipping into politics or carousing on the shores of Italy, Caroline of Ansbach, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Caroline of Brunswick refused to fade into the background.
Queens of Georgian Britain offers a chance to step back in time and meet the women who ruled alongside the Georgian monarchs, not forgetting Sophia Dorothea of Celle, the passionate princess who never made it as far as the throne. From lonely childhoods to glittering palaces, via family feuds, smallpox, strapping soldiers and plenty of scheming, these are the queens who shaped an era.
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books
Published: 30th October, 2017
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Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.