A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III
The Times Best Books of the Year • The Sunday Times Best Books of the Year
The New Statesman Book of the Year selection by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
BBC History Magazine Book of the Year selection by Helen Rappaport
"A masterpiece . . . . [T]his heartbreaking narrative of family dysfunction and royal sacrifice is an absolute page-turner." ―Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
"[A] fascinating, story-filled account . . . . Each story is a revelation." ―Jenny Uglow, The Guardian
The surprising, deliciously dramatic, and ultimately heartbreaking story of King George III's radical pursuit of happiness in his private life with Queen Charlotte and their 15 children
In the U.S., Britain's George III, the protagonist of A Royal Experiment, is known as the king from whom Americans won their independence and as "the mad king," but in Janice Hadlow's groundbreaking and entertaining new biography, he is another character altogether―compelling and relatable.
He 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. But this was far from the only difference between him and his predecessors. Neither of the previous Georges was faithful to his wife, nor to his mistresses. Both hated their own sons. And, overall, their children were angry, jealous, and disaffected schemers, whose palace shenanigans kick off Hadlow's juicy narrative and also made their lives unhappy ones.
Pained by his childhood amid this 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. Against his irresistibly awful family background―of brutal royal intrigue, infidelity, and betrayal―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.
continual confinement, or rather, my solitary life weighs heavy on my soul.’43 As time passed, her feelings were unchanged. ‘I can confirm that my solitary life is still increasing,’ she reported in December 1776. ‘We have very few resources when it comes to amusements,’ she noted in April 1777. ‘I hope your weather is better than ours,’ she added two months later, ‘and your amusements more varied than here.’44 Charlotte’s life was hardly devoid of activity, but the obligations that crowded her
the king ‘crept upstairs to the queen’. He was now so well, Willis declared, that ‘there was no objection to his sleeping above stairs in the queen’s apartment’.90 Charlotte never told anyone what took place when the king joined her in the privacy of her rooms – she confessed to Willis that the king ‘had sworn never to forgive her if she relates anything that passes in the night’ – but whatever happened, it was clearly too much for her to bear. Three days later, acting on her mother’s wishes,
Princess Elizabeth wrote to Thomas Willis asking him and his brothers to return and take the king under their care again. Willis did not need to be invited twice; but he sought to legitimise his actions by appealing to Addington. The first minister refused to accept responsibility for the king’s possible detention, and referred Willis back to the queen. It was a measure of Charlotte’s desperation that she, usually so cautious and tentative in pursuing any course not sanctioned by her husband, was
real state of things,’ wrote the Duke of Kent to Henry Halford, who was treating Sophia, ‘but where there is a natural want of warmth, it is difficult in the extreme to make a proper impression.’70 Isolating herself at Windsor also removed Sophia from scenes even more distressing than the familiar manifestations of her mother’s disapproval. In the world beyond her rooms, the presence of her son, born in 1800 as a result of the affair with General Garth, was becoming harder and harder to ignore.
instantly what this terse and grubby communication signified. It was sent by a German servant of his elderly grandfather, George II; using ‘a private mark agreed between them’, it informed the young man that the old king was dying, and that he should prepare to inherit the crown.1 To avoid raising alarm, George warned his entourage to say nothing about what had passed, and began to gallop back to Kew. Before he reached home, a second messenger approached him, bearing a letter from his aunt