review: The Third George
by Jean Plaidy
Fifth in the eleven book Georgian Saga, The Third George covers the intermediary life of England’s King George III—after his liaisons with Hannah Lightfoot and Sarah Lennox, just before his marriage to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and ending with his first serious mental episode, which required the Prince of Wales to take over as Regent.
During much of the first portion of the book George is ruled by his mother and her lover, Lord Bute. Young and desirous of becoming a good king, George is tossed between his ministers for years, from the Great Commoner, William Pitt to Lord North, to Pitt the Younger and Charles James Fox.
Charlotte was kept out of affairs of state and constantly pregnant, resulting in 15 royal children (with only two dying young). While George was content with Charlotte, the other women he had dallied with haunted his mind, as well as women of the court whom he desired (though never strayed). His greatest wish was to demonstrate to his people the manner in which they should all strive to live—family oriented with no scandals. In this his family members constantly disappointed him. His brothers and eldest sons continually had affairs resulting in embarrassing gossip and monetary settlements (much to the public’s delight).
The loss of the American colonies was not greatly detailed, but through the eyes of the King, was explained succinctly enough to understand the politics surrounding the issues that caused the American Revolutionary War. Partially responsible for George’s mental breakdown, I had imagined it would be a greater part of the book, but there were many problems that added to his eventual insanity: the strain of striving to live perfectly morally, competing political leaders bickering constantly, the antics of the Prince of Wales and the loss of two of his children.
Surprised by the depiction of Queen Charlotte, I found her one of the most endearing characters—from what I’ve previously read she was just the dull, boring Georgian Queen, keeping her many daughters locked up and sons on a string. But here we see an intelligent woman whom George foolishly kept out of state affairs. Had he taken her advice instead of self-promoting ministers, many of the problems of his reign may have been avoided.
My favorite Jean Plaidy series is the Georgian Saga, perhaps because it’s not an overly written era—the royals were not as exciting as others, but there were plenty of political maneuverings, salacious scandals and developments of the Prince of Wales’s philandering ways for comic relief. Inserted witticisms of Horace Walpole give the otherwise humorless facts a little spice for those less inclined to enjoy Plaidy’s factual writing style.