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The Elder Sons of George III (Hardback)

Kings, Princes, and a Grand Old Duke

British History P&S History Social History Georgian Era 19th Century Royal History

By Catherine Curzon
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781473872479
Published: 30th November 2020


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For nearly 60 years, King George III reigned over a tumultuous kingdom. His health and realm were in turmoil, whilst family life held challenges of its own. From the corpulent Prinny and the Grand Old Duke of York, to a king who battled the Lords and the disciplinarian Duke of Kent, this is the story of the elder sons of George III.

Born over the course of half a decade of upheaval, George, Frederick, William, and Edward defined an era. Their scandals intrigued the nation and their efforts to build lives away from the shadow of their impossibly pious parents led them down diverse paths. Whether devoting their lives to the military or to pleasure, every moment was captured in the full glare of the spotlight.

The sons of George III were prepared from infancy to take their place on the world’s stage, but as the king’s health failed and the country lurched from one drama to the next, they found that duty was easier said than done. With scandalous romances, illegal marriages, rumours of corruption and even the odd kidnapping plot, their lives were as breathless as they were dramatic. In The Elder Sons of George III: Kings, Princes, and a Grand Old Duke, travel from Great Britain to America and on to Hanover in the company of princes who were sometimes scandalous, sometimes sensational, but never, ever dull.

George III was the longest reigning king in British history. Given this fact and that he and his wife Charlotte produced no less than fifteen children, it's difficult to see how he could have done more to ensure the survival of the monarchy and the House of Hanover.
Despite this, the final years of his sixty year reign which ended with his death in 1820 were clouded not just by his own insanity but by a succession crisis. Some of it was bad luck. Some of his children and grandchildren died before reaching adulthood. But his remaining offspring, prone to adulterous liaisons, overeating and drinking, fighting duals and other bad habits, were also genuinely terrible at the primary Royal function: producing heirs and spares themselves.
This is the story of his four oldest sons, all born in the 1760s and thus all in their fifties by the closing years of their father's long reign.
The first, George, was a fat waste of space who became Prince Regent and then George IV between 1820 and 1830. His own daughter, Princess Charlotte died in 1817. Then came Frederick, the Grand Old Duke of York of nursery rhyme fame. He predeceased his older brother after a long military career blighted by scandal. 'Old melon head' William, Duke of Clarence was next. Never expected to be king, he was put into the navy as a child but became King William IV between 1830 and 1837. His head was indeed an odd shape. A bystander once threw a rock at it but he was protected by some padding he'd added to make his hat fit on his oddly shaped cranium.
Finally, Edward, also something of a disappointment. He died in 1820, shortly before his father. Yet it was he who in his final year would become father to the baby girl who would famously rule the empire for the last sixty years of the century and whose great great granddaughter sits on the throne today.
These are just the highlights. Catherine Curzon tells the story so much better in this thorough and very readable volume.

NetGalley, Chris Hallam

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Although I’ve just recently studied the history of the UK up to and stopping with Victoria via the excellent series by Peter Ackroyd, I cannot say I knew the period and royal personnel described in this book exceedingly well. Therefore, I was quite excited to be granted a free copy—for a non-historian, reading history books is always about learning new things, after all. I wasn’t disappointed by the trip, either. Catherine Curzon’s writing style is light, informative, and entertaining. She paints the different persons and the times in vivid colours, often with a little wink shining through the turns of her phrases, always sympathetic, even when talking about some less savoury characters. I’ve learned a lot of historical facts about George III and his wife Charlotte as well as their four eldest sons George (future King George IV), Frederick (the Grand Old Duke), William (future King William IV), and Edward. Very interesting indeed, the biographies are woven together to form a coherent narrative, sprinkled with anecdotes and character studies. The style is never pedantic, and the author always tries to remain non-judgmental, never really taking sides. A book I can recommend without a moment’s hesitation for those interested in that tumultuous period (Independence of the USA, French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, etc.).

NetGalley, Dieter Moitzi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Having read another of Catherine's books, about George's daughter's, I kind of knew what I'd be getting, but this book far exceeded expectations. Perhaps it is just because the sons lead more colourful lives than their sisters, but this was much more interesting and gripping, and I had enjoyed the other book. I found i couldn't put this book down and, as due to the male line being the one to inherit, wanted to follow the line of ascension to learn more about those who did ascend, and those who just came close. I would heartedly recommend this book, not just to those who have a love of history as I do, but also others who just want to read the ridiculous stories of what these men got up to.

NetGalley, Saffron Melnyk

About Catherine Curzon

CATHERINE CURZON is a historian of Georgian royalty. Her work has been featured on the official website of BBC History Magazine, and in publications such as All About HistoryWho Do You Think You Are?, and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has spoken at venues including Kenwood House, Wellington College, the Royal Pavilion, the National Maritime Museum and Dr Johnson’s House. Her first play, Being Mr Wickham, premiered to sell-out audiences in 2019. 

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, can be found cheering on the mighty Terriers. 

She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill. 

Visit her glorious Georgian bubble at www.madamegilflurt.com

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