Thursday, December 15, 2016
Review: Catherine Curzon’s LIFE IN THE GEORGIAN COURT – Vignettes of Europe’s Royal Families in the 18th Century
In the author’s words, “This is a collection of stories from the courts of Europe that feature… action, romance, scandal, intrigue and… gore.” The stories are vignettes, glimpses into Europe’s royalty, arranged by birth/youth, marriage, scandal and death (although scandal and death permeate every section). The title could well have been “Glimpses of Europe’s Royalty in the 18th Century”.
I might have wanted more as these vignettes skim the surface, but I suppose if the whole of the stories were told, the book would be three times as long. The author has obviously done a huge amount of research and there are many, many names to absorb, but it will give you a feel for the depravity, cruelty and often dismal life of many, most often the women.
One conclusion I drew at the end was how cruel the monarchs were, even to their own families: George I beat and cheated on his wife (the Georgians are famous for the latter, George III being an exception), and when his wife thought to be free, she was deprived of her children and imprisoned for decades to die alone. When the monarchs felt threatened by another possible heir to the throne, they managed to dispense with their rivals, sometimes in gruesome fashion, sometimes imprisoning them for life (Ivan VI comes to mind). But the way the French mob treated the young Prince Louis, son of King Louis and Marie Antoinette, was appalling. His parents, of course, were beheaded, but young Louis, only a child, was beaten, treated like a dog and left to die alone in filth and sickness.
One has to wonder how any monarchy has survived, especially the one in England. And, given Hanover’s extensive intrusion into the royal gene pool, it is no wonder Princess Diana called her in-laws “the Germans”.
If you are looking for a well-written survey of the abysmal 18th century history of the royal families, this might be a good place to start. At least it will tell you if you want to read more.