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.
Beginning with the ill-fated match of George I and Sophia Dorothea, the stage was set for the Hanoverian royals: rifts between husband and wife, and father and son, were the standard family dynamic. But in this engrossing and thorough portrait, BBC executive Hadlow reveals George III as a young man who wanted change one who believed being a good king started with being a good person, a good husband, and a good father and he set out to pursue a moral family life. He got off to a relatively good start, according to Hadlow, arranging a fulfilling marriage with Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, moving the family to a more private residence, and being actively involved in the informal raising of 15 children. Hadlow reveals the difficulties of living a private life in the public sphere and how, despite George III's good intentions, the tension of succession, political difficulties (including the American war of independence and conflict with the French), and a fall into fits of madness dominated royal family relations. Hadlow provides a critical, yet compassionate and intimate account of George III's trials and tribulations in undertaking to create the ideal family.