History and intrigue…a review of Courtiers by Lucy Worsley.

Watch out Georgians, I know all your secrets now…that insatiable gossip     Dr Lucy Worsley told me each and every one.

Yes, I have finished reading Courtiers by Lucy Worsley, my first foray into the realms of historical…dare I call it a novel? It’s sensational and gripping enough to be compared to any novel, that’s for sure. I think the phrase ‘never a dull moment’ must have been coined to describe the Georgian courts, trust me, there is more than enough intrigue to fill the book’s three hundred odd pages.

I first purchased Courtiers on a bit of a whim having watched Worsley’s BBC Four series about the Regency period, I must own up to the fact that I was a little apprehensive that it would be able to retain my interest. My worries were in vain. I’d been concerned that I might be in for a dreary trudge through the dates, political events and royal marriages of the era, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Courtiers in no way resembles a dreary trudge, in fact it’s more of an elated skip. Worsley deftly guides her readers through the courts of George I and George II with the tender hand of one who knows them well. She maintains a good pace throughout the book, not allowing the story to stagnate and never spending too long on any one character. She uses plenty of sources, but never falls into the trap of lengthy quotes from other historians or historical sources.  This is by no means heavy reading.

What I really admire about this book is its aim to portray so many aspects of the courts. You might be forgiven for expecting the book to solely focus on the royal family and their lives at Kensington Palace and St James’s Palace, and while they certainly figure as major characters in Worsley’s story, they are by no means the exclusive focus. I really enjoyed the thrill of reading about the other players in  the Georgian courts; from mistresses to poets…from architects to a feral ‘wild boy’ adopted by George I…there is a wide spectrum of characters to fascinate any reader.

Buxom AND brainy, Queen Caroline.

Worsley writes, ‘The more I learnt about their lives, the more convinced I became that the whole sumptuous and luxurious cocoon of court life was in many ways a prison’. Indeed, Courtiers is a rather sobering lesson for anybody apt to sigh ‘I wish I lived in the Georgian times’. Even for those at the very pinnacle of upper class society, the Georgian era was not without its trials and often considerable horrors. Respected doctors might at any moment remove your bowels, you had to give birth in a room full of people, you even had to get dressed every day in front of a crowd of paying spectators…and that’s just if you happen to be the Queen; there were plenty of other horrors suffered within the Georgian courts and none of them even remotely enviable.

In previous reviews I’ve hesitated to recommend some of the books I’ve read, not so with Courtiers. I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Although, I will concede that it probably isn’t for everyone, I doubt very much that my brother, for example, would be quite so enthralled. If you like history, if you’re interested in royalty, if you’d like to know more about the day-to-day lives of people at the Georgian court then this book is for you. If you’re fed up of history being presented as a long line of dates and events, then you will probably find Lucy Worsley as captivating as I have; however, if you’re an ardent and exclusive sci-fi fan, then Courtiers might not be your cup of tea.

As for me, what next? I think it’s time I return to my ever-growing pile of library books and stop abusing my Amazon account. The only book that’s been there since the very beginning, way back in March when I began this blog, is Jamaica Inn – I think it’s about time it got an airing.

I move on to Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.

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Filed under 21st century, Books, Lucy Worsley, Non-fiction

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