Monday, November 7, 2016

The Georgian Court with my guest, Catherine Curzon!

My guest today is royal historian Catherine Curzon, who speaks to all matters 18th century at A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life. Her posts have appeared in BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austens Regency World. She has performed at venues including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, Lichfield Guildhall and Dr. Johnson's House. Catherine holds a Masters degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

Life in the Georgian Court is her newest release and in connection with its entry into the world of books, Catherine shares with us a story of the 18th century European royal marriage market.  

Be sure and leave a comment as Catherine is giving away a copy of the ebook.

The Widow of Spain  by Catherine Curzon

This is the story of a wedding but it is far from a love story. With a bride ill-suited for married life, a groom who had little interest in the woman who shared his bed and a court ruled by discipline and protocol, it is a cautionary tale of the European royal marriage market.

From the safety of the 21st century, we can look back on the long 18th with a sense of satisfaction, of a place where things are better and, when one learns that this tale features a bride of just eleven years old, it might well be a shock to the modern system. 

Louise Élisabeth dOrléans
She was Louise Élisabeth dOrléans, the daughter of the Regent of France, Philippe II, and Françoise Marie de Bourbon, and when she was plucked from her home and married to a boy of just thirteen, her childhood came to a shuddering, final halt. Utterly unprepared for the fate that awaited her, Louise Élisabeth was thrust into the spotlight by political maneuverings far beyond her control.

Mademoiselle de Montpensier, as Louise was known, lived a secluded early life with the Benedictine sisters at Saint Paul. As the fourth of six daughters, Louise saw little of her parents, yet had they foreseen the fate that awaited her, no doubt the disinterested duke and duchess would have committed a little more to her education. Instead she was left to her own devices and barely taught how to behave in private, let alone in the unforgiving shark pool of the European court. 

The result was a bad tempered, badly behaved young lady who cared for nothing and no one. Her manners were not so much lacking as non-existent and she was never intended to end up at the strict Spanish court yet when the War of the Quadruple Alliance broke out, all that mattered was the family name.

Needing to cement alliances at all costs to ensure they were not swept away by the war, Philip V of Spain and Philippe II of France negotiated a fragile peace, at the core of which lay a number of marriages between the Spanish and French courts.

Louis I of Spain
Central to the marriages was that of Louise and Louis I, future ruler of Spain, and when the bride was shuttled off to her new kingdom, she took with her a cool four million livres worth of dowry. Bewildered and a little lost, Louise was handed over to the Spanish on the Île des Faisans and from there travelled on to Lerma where her new family awaited, little suspecting the unhappy and ill-tempered young bride who was about to land at court.

The wedding ceremony on 20 January 1722 was followed by an enormous celebration and, finally, the ceremonial bedding as the newlyweds were followed to their bedchamber by the entire court. As the courtiers watched, the young couple settled in bed together and the curtains were ceremoniously drawn, signaling an end to the celebration and the forthcoming consummation of the new royal marriage.

In fact, Louis left the bedroom almost as soon as the courtiers retired and the new Princess of Asturias found that she was far from welcome in her adopted homeland. In the austere Spanish court her earthy manners and lack of education were the subject of derision and with Louis seeking his pleasures elsewhere, Louise found herself friendless and alone.

The final straw came when she refused to attend a ball given in her honor by her stepmother-in-law, at which point Louise became utterly unwanted at the Spanish court.

Although Louis succeeded to the throne in January 1724, upon his fathers abdication, his reign was a short one and he succumbed to smallpox in August of that same year. Widowed and isolated at just 14, the court took one look at Louise Élisabeth and decided that she was the last person they wanted hanging around. Understandably, when it was suggested that the widow might prefer to return to France she put up no resistance.

It was an unhappy end to a disastrous match and one that should have served as a salutary
lesson for just how badly arranged unions could go.

Of course, it did no such thing…

As the glittering Hanoverian court gives birth to the British Georgian era, a golden age of royalty dawns in Europe. Houses rise and fall, births, marriages and scandals change the course of history and in France, revolution stalks the land.

Peep behind the shutters of the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave their name to the era, the House of Hanover.

Behind the pomp and ceremony were men and women born into worlds of immense privilege, yet beneath the powdered wigs and robes of state were real people living lives of romance, tragedy, intrigue and eccentricity. Take a journey into the private lives of very public figures and learn of arranged marriages that turned to love or hate and scandals that rocked polite society.

Here the former wife of a king spends three decades in lonely captivity, Prinny makes scandalous eyes at the toast of the London stage and Marie Antoinette begins her last, terrible journey through Paris as her son sits alone in a forgotten prison cell.

Life in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for granted.
The book is available on Amazon US and UK

Keep up with Catherine on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!


  1. The idea that a girl of eleven was expected to manage such a fate is unfathomable in our modern life. I don't believe education or culture could have changed the result of this disastrous union. ~Karen Over-Gal

    1. So true, Karen! Much was expected of royal heirs and the girls were often indulged and, hence, spoiled.

    2. Sadly, this isn't an unusual story!

    3. The reign of King Luis I of Spain is also known as "The Lightning Reign" because he was on the Spanish throne for only eight months.

      His was one of the shortest reigns of any sovereign anywhere.

      The people of Spain were mortified at the rumored indiscretions of Queen Luisa Isabel which, of course, were embellished in the telling.

      Taverns in town and country buzzed with tales of Luisa Isabel's misconduct, and the pious Roman Catholic senyoras fanned themselves as they were scandalized by stories of Luisa Isabel's mortal sins, while at the same time shooing their unmarried daughters away from hearing such hideous accounts!

      These same senyoras, after listening to such filthy gossip, went to their parish churches to light candles for their dead King, praying their rosaries and expressing as much lamentation for His Majesty's short life and reign as they could. The most dramatic sorrows were sobs and screams of anguish, which served to prove how deeply they loved the late King, whom they never even had seen.

    4. Thank you for that wonderful coda to the tale!

    5. Roberto, you have won Catherine's ebook! Congratulations. As you did not leave an email, she is going to try and reach you via Facebook. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Did she have the merry widowhood she deserved?

    1. Her life was a quiet one after her return, and she died aged just 32!

  3. Now I really want to know what happened when Louise returned to France! Did she ever remarry? Get a Happy Ever After with husband number two? Or did she cause even more havoc?!
    What an interesting article, thanks for sharing. I'm definitely adding this book to my TBR pile!

    1. She was very quietly shuffled off to live a life of respectable widowhood; she never did remarry, and was just 32 when she died.

  4. And the winner of Catherine's ebook is Roberto González! Congratulations and thanks to all who commented.