Jonathan Keates

The Madman’s Maidens

Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III


John Murray 496pp £25 order from our bookshop

THE HANOVERIANS HAVE had a bad press. First it was Leigh Hunt, braving a prison sentence with his notorious Examiner obituary which damned the late George IV as a bloated voluptuary. Then came Macaulay’s furious tirade in ‘The Life and Writings of Madame D’Arblay’, presenting poor Fanny Burney as a martyr to the whims and crotchets of heartless Queen Charlotte and her German entourage. From these it was the shortest of steps to Thackeray’s magisterial trashing of the entire dynasty in his lecture series ‘The Four Georges’, designed to induce moralising shudders in his Victorian audience with its lurid how-different-from-us glimpses of a ghastly, dysfunctional tribe of tyrants, harpies and buffoons. To the faults exposed with such wilful inaccuracy by the author of Vanity Fair, twentieth-century England’s experience in two world wars added the crime of being German. Locking up your wife and rejecting your first-born son was undoubtedly caddish, and being a johnny-foreigner was dodgy enough in itself; but coming from the land which gave us the Kaiser and the Führer apparently signalled irredeemable damnation.

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