An intensely moving account of George III's doomed attempt to create a happy, harmonious family, written with astonishing emotional force from a stunning new history writer.
George III came to the throne in 1760 as a man with a mission. He wanted to be a new kind of king, one whose power was rooted in the affection and approval of his people. And he was determined to revolutionise his private life too - to show that a better man would, inevitably, make a better ruler.
Above all he was determined to break with the extraordinarily dysfunctional home lives of his Hanoverian forbears. For his family, things would be different.
And for a long time it seemed as if, against all the odds, his great family experiment was succeeding. His wife, Queen Charlotte, shared his sense of moral purpose, and together they did everything they could to raise their tribe of 13 young sons and daughters in a climate of loving attention. But as the children grew older, and their wishes and desires developed away from those of their father, it became harder to maintain the illusion of domestic harmony.
The king's episodes of madness, in which he frequently expressed his repulsion for the queen, undermined the bedrock of their marriage; his disapproving distance from the bored and purposeless princes alienated them; and his determination to keep the princesses at home, protected from the potential horrors of the continental marriage market, left them lonely, bitter and resentful at their loveless, single state.
At one level The Strangest Family is the story of how the best intentions can produce unhappy consequences. But the lives of the women in George's life - and of the princesses in particular - were shaped by a kind of undaunted emotional resilience that most modern women will recognise.
However flawed George's great family experiment may have been, in the value the princesses placed on the ideals of domestic happiness, they were truly their father's daughters.
©2014 Janice Hadlow; 2015 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
"A masterpiece. Beautifully written, impeccably researched, this heartbreaking narrative of family dysfunction and royal sacrifice is an absolute page-turner." (Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana')
"Enthralling...you know you are in the hands of a master narrator as well as a profoundly perceptive historian. And like all great historical writing, the book transcends its immediate story - gripping and moving though that is - to be a timeless reflection on the human condition." (Simon Schama)
"Colourful and brilliantly narrated...excellent both in her narrative skill and her scholarship.... Hadlow has produced a perceptive, lively and wonderfully enjoyable book." (Sunday Times)
"Fascinating...in this densely detailed yet fast-paced book, as drama follows drama, the interest never flags. Each story is a revelation.... Hadlow has an eye for graphic details and gives generous space to minor characters...she is also adept at the telling phrase and makes splendid use of the period's vivid letters, diaries and memoirs." (Guardian)
"Engrossing.... Hadlow, an accomplished storyteller, assembles a picture full of emotional colour and drama which still resonates today." (The Times)
I found the topic interesting because I do not know much about the Hanoverians and British dynasties. By focusing on their family and personal lives, I now have a clearer idea of the personality and background of the members of this family.
What a dysfunctional lot. It makes you realize how little emotional intelligence people had and how being a king or a royal made you a prisoner of your destiny more than the actor of it. You don t finish this book thinking you would like to be one of them.
Unhappiness begets unhappiness, especially for kings
The depiction of George III and his family was a bit long and repetitive but it is not the fault of the author: George III was emotionnally rigid, adverse to change and made the life of his many children a motionless misery for over 50 years. Recounting all that (and his bouts of madness) definitely makes for a long depiction of unhappiness and over-boring domestic life.
Inveterate romantic and lover of 19th Century (and earlier) European literature with an obsession for Dostoyevsky!
I'm sure this is a fascinating story. It appears to be beautifully researched but perhaps a little heavy on the groundwork as half the book is about the preceding Georges! This DOES give context which is helpful, but I really don't think it needed to be so long. I got to two thirds through and still no mention of the 'madness of King George'!
I gave up as I couldn't stand the silly little girl voices in the narration. I do hope it's re-narrated at some point as I DO believe the book itself would be excellent and I, for one, would be willing to buy another version as I think the author has done a great job.
She ruined it. She reads intelligently and very clearly which is one of the reasons I bought it as the sample was great but she will insist on reading the female voices as though they are 4 year old children. This works when the characters ARE children but when she is conveying a strong, educated and feisty woman, it just sounds daft and is utterly offputting. It actually made me scream out loud at one point as she renders their words absurd.
(Imagine a 4 year old giving pronouncements on matters of state or liberal education and add a couple of octaves to your imagining, mix in a bit of a whiny 2 year old and you'll have her narration perfectly!
My review should IN NO WAY reflect on the quality of the book itself which I think is excellent and the author has done a fantastic job with her research and narrates an intelligent, coherent timeline. Just the ridiculous narration voices that spoil it.
This is one of the best historical biographies I can recall listening to (if the life stories of about 25 people can be described as being "a" biography)
The descriptions of George III's descent into madness is, as always, a fascinating field for historical speculation, and the relationship of the Prince Regent with his wife again, as always provides some fine farce!
The isolation of the Princesses by their parents is a challenge for any historian to justify, and some of their sad letters to their brothers and putative husbands/lovers are particularly moving
I enjoyed this reading. It seems to me to be a particularly challenging task to progress the life stories of so many people in a coherent and understandable manner, a task that the author has achieved.
The story is so fascinating that I kept seeing it as a potential "bonnet-drama" on BBC on Sunday night!
Its a long "listen" but at the end I was under the impression that the lives of the sons of George and Charlotte were rather ignored at the expense of the fascinating (if ultimately dull) lives of the daughters...the fate of Mrs. Jordan would provide enough material for a book of its own!
That apart I can strongly recommend this book and this reading of it. Thanks.
I really enjoyed this book. A very engaging book and I feel I have learned so much about this dysfunctional and fascinating family! I am now disappointed I have finished it! It is a long book and I thought I could be bored in places but how wrong I was! Beautifully written and the narration is brilliant as well! Five stars all around!
I got a bit confused about which George was which in the first half of the book, we kept jumping between I, II and III. A very interesting listen and some parts quite unbelievable.
Sad but understandable given the oddities of royalty.
Lovely reading voice.
No, I prefer the family to remain in my imagination from half remembered portraits and school history books.
For those interested in British history, this is a thoughtfully constructed perspective which nuances understanding of this period popularly examined through the lense of the monarchy's engagement with parliament. The argument for the central importance of detailed examination of the royal household and its internal dynamics is persuasive. It provides us with some new ways of thinking about the transition through and the end of an era with vastly different ideas of court, kingship and family than those worked out during the long nineteenth century. Fascinating content, and well read.
What a looooong book. I would recommend it be read/ listen to in 3 or 4 chunks with something lighter in between. Having said that it is a well written and well narrated book which casts a different light onto the lives of King George iii and his rather large family. I would recommend this book but read it in smaller chunks.
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