Published by Henry Holt & Co. on November 18, 2014
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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.
Such a wonderfully written and thoroughly explored family dynasty. This is one of my new favorite Royal Biographies. A Royal Experiment is as compelling and absorbing as a novel.
Most of us who dabble in Historical reading and Historical films might have a faint idea about who King George III is. Or maybe he sounds familiar from school days spent in American History class learning about the American Revolution. Those who live outside of America and studied European History or pursued History outside of high-school will be more familiar with him. Before reading A Royal Experiment, the only things I ” knew” about King George III were from the 1994 film The Madness of King George. (It’s a fun movie, and if you have Amazon Prime you can watch it for FREE here.) Looking back at the film after having read A Royal Experiment, it now seems like an unsympathetic caricature of King George III. Janice Hadlow does an exquisite job of exploring George the monarch and George the man in her Historical Biography, and shows how George III set out right from the start to rule England differently than his predecessors, King George I & II. A Royal Experiement kept me utterly captivated through 700+ pages of the Hanoverian dynasty and George the III’s life and rule.
Hadlow’s writing is refreshing and has a historical pop-culture edge to it that will make this book appealing to the King George scholar as well as the King George laymen. Some might say Hadlow’s writing is a paradox. A Royal Experiment reads with the historical vigor and detail of a text-book while being a wildly entertaining page turner. The historical world building and context of what was going on in and around England leading up to and during George III’s reign is captured in wonderful detail.
If Britain in 1760, was a volatile and sometimes intimidating place, it was also an increasingly wealthy one. Almost every visitor commented on the general air of comfortable prosperity that manifested itself in the clean and well-appointed private houses, the luxurious inns and, above all, in the quality of the roads […] From the moment of their arrival, travellers to Britain were struck by the sheer busyness of the place. They were astonished by the air of perpetual activity, not just the roads, but in the teeming streets; in the ports dominated by the masts of tightly packed ships; on the new canal systems, thronged with burdened barges; in the parks and pleasure gardens, where rich and poor mingled in huge numbers in pursuit of a good time.
I also enjoyed the insight into Queen Caroline’s character, George’s wife. Hadlow leaves no detail to the imagination, and she laid bare the kind of relationship George had with all of his family members and confidantes. The life and times of King George III reads like the best kind of fiction. Drama, romance, politics, gossip, betrayal, passion, and despair. A Royal Experiment would do well to be made into a BBC series. I had NEVER been interested in the House of Hanover until this book, and now I am completely fascinated with this period of British History. I was sad for A Royal Experiment to end, and I cannot wait to read the next book Janice Hadlow writes.
Here’s the trailer for The Madness of King George if you’re interested, but I wholly recommend reading Janice Hadlow’s A Royal Experiment for a more accurate and more entertaining window into King George’s life.