Book Review: A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair:  George III And His Scandalous Siblings, by Stella Tillyard

George III was about as successful a father to his own breed of scandalous children as he was a surrogate father to his siblings and a symbolic father to the American colonists, all of whom ended up rebelling against his attempts to rule.  The author does not draw the obvious conclusions that one might think from this fact, which helps make this book a little less enjoyable and insightful than it would otherwise be.  As someone with a strong interest in the history of the late 18th century, this book does provide a look at some Hanoverians that I would otherwise not know much about and for that information the book deserves praise.  Taking advantage of the ability to research in in Denmark, the author has done a good job at putting together a story that would otherwise be difficult to tell in an accessible middlebrow format because none of the individual threads of this book is enough for an entire book but together they provide evidence that George III was certainly the most restrained and proper of his immediate family, and also demonstrates how his decency and restraint earned him a great deal of sympathy from the English people in the face of his own personal madness and the revolutionary madness of his times.

This particular book is about 300 pages and it covers in generally chronological fashion the scandalous lives and behavior of George III’s siblings.  In seven chapters the author covers the period from when the Prince of Wales Frederick Louis died in 1751 (1), to the general lack of sorrow with his parents, to the period after the American Revolution when George III eventually recognized the independence of the US and was able to deal suavely with future president John Adams.  Between those two points the author manages to discuss the efforts of Augusta and her siblings to obtain money and freedom (2) and also deals with the affair between Queen Caroline Mathilde and her doctor while her Danish royal husband dealt with periodic episodes of mania (3).  After that the author discusses the affairs of the Duke of Cumberland, one of which ended him in legal trouble (4), as well as the fate in exile of the divorced Caroline Mathilde after her lover was brutally executed after a coup (5). The author also discusses the efforts by an English adventurer to restore Caroline to the throne of Denmark before her early death from Scarlet Fever (6) as well as the misadventures of a woman secretly married to Prince William from the Walpole family (7).

It appears that at least some of the intention of the author in writing this book was to induce the reader to feel compassion for George III for all the stress his family put him through.  Yet speaking from at least some experience I have seen in my own life that younger siblings often resent the sort of moral example that an older sibling tries to urge on them.  It worked no better for him than it has for most restrained and proper elder siblings.  Indeed, the fact that George III thought he could exercise authority over his siblings does help demonstrate why it is that he was such a failure when it came to dealing with egalitarian Americans who resented his efforts as much as his actual family did.  Indeed, that itself is a subject that the author would have been wise to reflect on, how it is that respect for equality is a requirement for healthy relationships in either families or families of nations, and that its absence can lead to a great deal of rebellion and hostility, whatever power someone else has.  We may not always appreciate others trying to turn their official and unofficial power into bullying and oppression, and the results of such attempts are unlikely to be pleasant for anyone involved.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Love & Marriage and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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