Courtiers: The Secret History of Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley - review by Sarah Bradford

Sarah Bradford

From The Sidelines

Courtiers: The Secret History of Kensington Palace


Faber & Faber 334pp £20

‘The House of Hanover are like ducks’, Sir Owen Morshead, the Royal Librarian, told Harold Nicolson, authorised biographer of George V: ‘they trample their young.’ When it came to child-trampling, however, the first two Georges as depicted in this book won hands down. George I evicted his only son, George Augustus (later George II), from their mutual home, St James’s Palace, after what became known as the ‘great christening row’. Worse, he refused to allow his son’s elder children to live with their parents, whom they were only permitted to see once a week. Even before that he had committed his own wife, George Augustus’s mother, to life imprisonment in a German castle for adultery. George II in turn expelled his eldest son, Prince Frederick, and Frederick’s wife Augusta from St James’s Palace after Frederick had disgracefully bundled Augusta in the throes of labour pains from Hampton Court, where they were all living at the time, to avoid giving the king the satisfaction of witnessing the birth of his grandchild. 

From the sidelines the English courtiers, male and female, monitored the respective fortunes of the unappealing royal masters, on whom their own livelihoods and positions depended. Lucy Worsley makes it clear that the principal members of the household, Lords Chesterfield and Hervey, and Ladies Molly Lepell and Henrietta

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