For some years now I’ve been trying to work my way somewhat chronologically through English history, but a new mania for all things Georgian plus Lucy Worsley had me eagerly jumping ahead (I’m coming back for you, Charlie II, don’t worry).
Inspired by the King’s Grand Staircase at Kensington Palace, commissioned by George I and featuring portraits of the servants of the Royal household, Courtiers is a brilliantly gossipy look at the reigns of Georges I and II and the different figures that peopled their courts.
We meet the painter of the famous staircase, Ladies of the Bedchamber, equerries, many mistresses and even a ‘wild boy’ who’d been found in a German forest and shipped over to entertain the court of George I. And through them we also, obviously, get to meet the monarchs too – and you couldn’t hope for a more dysfunctional family to gossip about. Starting with George I thinking his son, George II, was a dissolute wretch and George II impatient to get on the throne himself, the situation soon escalated from bad to worse when George I basically kidnapped George II’s children and banned their parents from seeing them.
George II’s wife, Princess (and then Queen) Caroline also looms very large and comes off really well – Lucy Worsley clearly adores her and I must admit that some of this rubbed off during reading. The little details that Worsley shares along the way were also really eye-opening – being a courtier sounds glamorous until you realise that even bodily necessities (like needing a wee while the King is speaking) mustn’t inconvenience the Royals and so if you have to pee all over yourself where you stand (because sitting isn’t allowed), so be it.
Pretty much all I knew about the Georges until now had been gleaned from this song, so it was nice to put some flesh on the bones of the Sad One and the Bad One, and doing it in the company of Lucy Worsley made for a very pleasant day.