A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III
I don't know if I can put into words how close to perfection this book is for me nor how stuffed my brain fills with everything I've learned from it. I'd rank it with Dawn of the Belle Epoque, meaning it's one of the top non-fiction histories I've ever read. Thank you so much Reflections for introducing me to it!
Janice Hadlow has that precious, as it's so lamentably rare, ability to write non-fiction that reads like a novel. It manages to be incredibly informative while also being extremely addicting. I'd sit down to read a couple pages and I'd find myself halfway through a 40+ page chapter. She also puts end notes on everything. By the end there were well over 200 separate notes and nearly all of them were primary sources - mostly letters and diaries. The reader almost feels as if they are sitting in the private rooms with these vibrant and often terribly contradictory figures of history or reading the correspondence from them. You certainly come to care for them as the hopes of youth again and again seemed to dissolve into lost chances and mistakes. For the first time, I felt I understood not only much of the Hanoverian line but the times in which Austen and her characters lived.
While the book's primary focus concerns George III and his family, the author proposes and I think certainly proves that you can't understand them without the previous rulers. She also ends the book with a look to the future reign of Victoria.
I think what most stood out to me from this book was 1) the intimate look we got at these public figures and 2) how complicated my emotions were after the last page. Hadlow makes no allowances but she does give both sides of the conflicts and issues, leaving it to the reader to - in most cases - follow her example and understand aspects of both sides.
In the end, I found human beings with all their positive and negative qualities and a family strained almost to the breaking point more than once.