Book Review: The Daughters of George III

I received a copy of this book to review however all thoughts and opinions on my own. This post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you decide to click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission that goes back in to helping me keep the blog running. Thanks for your support. 

There's a new book out - The Daughters of George III, by Catherine Curzon.  

As a lover of women’s history I was very excited to read it, as it follows the secret marriages, secret children (yes, there were allegedly some) and their attempts to escape the humdrum royal life outside the palaces. I was especially drawn to this book as I think some of the women of history are forgotten - we don't hear very much of the princesses, so I was excited to find out more about them. 

From the book, it's clear that the ladies wanted to see themselves married, and the daughters seem to spend a lot of time tapping their bejewelled fingertips on gilted windows, squinting in the leafy distance for their dashing prince to come into view amid the rolling fields of eighteenth century England. 

Princess Royal, Charlotte, Wikimedia Commons

I love that the daughters’ sense of humour shows through in the letters that they sent to one another, and it’s reassuring that they confided in each other, too.  Many relied on their brother, the Regent Prince George (later to become George IV) to champion them, even defending their interests against their somewhat controlling mother. 

I was left feeling such compassion and even sadness at the situation in the royal court at this time. The children were witness to George III’s mental decline, and the effect it must have had on their relationships with him - and each other - through no fault of his own. It is clear, from the discussion in this book, and the evidence presented, that he loved them very dearly. His wife, Queen Charlotte, tried to handle the situation in difficult circumstances, and it's no wonder that the reader perhaps is left feeling that she was controlling - she was desperately trying to exercise her control over what she could. 

The princesses though. What a story. Not content with preening themselves day in and day out in their royal apartments, they had to deal with what seems like a never-ending flurry of marriage proposals, stalkers, heartbreak and death. There were forbidden love affairs, ballroom mishaps and gossip. The book details how they navigated the chaotic court of George III. It's well-written, factual and evidence based, and you'll learn a lot from it, especially if you're interested in the stories of the unsung women of history, like these ladies.

Princess Augusta, aged 13, Wikimedia Commons

And yet there was something about the book that didn't seem to grab my attention in the way other books have. I was interested in it, but it wasn't one of those books I couldn't put down, reading with one hand while stirring the Wednesday night risotto with the other. The writing style is professional, and - at times - funny. But I wonder if it could have done with a little more lingering over the setting of the scenes discussed in the book. This, for me, is a personal preference I guess but I do feel that it brings history to life. I want to imagine the beeswax scent of the candles, the wood-panelled dining room and the glint of the silver cutlery on the table while the girls are dining with their parents. 

But maybe that’s just me. I like setting the scene and feeling like I’m there. I can’t fault the book at all for its accuracy, research and facts. You’ll gain a sympathy for George III’s daughters, and an understanding of the temperament and anxieties at Court, and there are plenty of primary sources quoted, which you'll enjoy having a look through. 

These portraits of the princesses Charlotte, Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia and Amelia. They gaze out at us, through the dabs of the oil paints on the canvas. But their soft glances don't betray the lives they led: the secrets, the passion, the pain they suffered and the hope they looked forward to.

This book will open your eyes to what really went on with these demure, rosy-cheeked women. 

Thank you to Pen and Sword Publishing for the review copy of this book. You can find it in bookshops and on Amazon: The Daughters of George III

Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

You might also like: Wilder's Folly - an Eighteenth Century Love Nest 

and this post all about George I's Hot Chocolate Drinking Obsession

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