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Life in the Georgian Court: The Long 18th Century

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Catherine Curzon's first Georgian oeuvre is to die for: births, loves, lives and deaths aplenty at the Georgian court and beyond. This is my second time reading this mighty tome. The reason I went back to this book is the collection of snippets on Marie Antoinette and her family. I had just finished bingeing the new series about her....I went back, found the chapters... and decided to re-read the entire book. Link to book here.

This volume is dedicated to royal incidents and accidents in the 18th century, it includes other royal courts of Europe, including Austria, Holy Roman Empire, Denmark, Sweden and Russia. Sometimes we forget that Catherine the Great lived at the same time as our George III and that Marie Antoinette was the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, the Holy Roman Empress. The Royal houses of Europe were very much connected, not just by blood, but also by politics. I’d love a book like this to come out about the Stuart and Tudor eras as well - mainly to catch up on Peter the Great getting drunk with William III of England and Elizabeth I rejecting a marriage proposal from Ivan the Terrible.

This book is a collection of events in 'from cradle to grave' kind of order, but think of it as a Love Actually collage of historical events.

The mini chapters on George II and his consort Caroline of Ansbach - which included their love story and how they died - are very heartbreaking, and definitely help us know more about those lesser famous Georges.

Rundale Palace, connected to Anna of Russia
Rundale Palace in Latvia, built by Anna of Russia

My favourite parts of the book are about those characters who had visited or had lived in more than one country and were associated with more than one royal court throughout their lives. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Louis XVIII (the nasty brother from the recent Marie Antoinette (2022) series) was holding court in Russia (although it was Russian Empire, the palace itself is and was situated in modern day Latvia) - in Jelgava Palace, which, if I'm not mistaken, I went to several time on a school trip as a child.

The author named another fancy location for when Louis came to England - Hartwell House, which is roughly 40 miles from where I am needless to say, this Versailles-born chap who lived in Georgian times had travelled far and wide. I love stories like that. Hartwell House went on the to-visit list, of course.


Another surprise in this book was the Fortress of Dünamünde, where Ivan VI of Russia was once kept. I was curious to find out that it's located in my hometown and I paid it a visit last year (what's left of it today). Thank you so much, Catherine, for these wee gems. I shall visit Jelgava Palace next time I'm in Riga, for sure.

N.B. As far I know, not much is left of the Dünamünde Fortress today that Ivan would have been familiar with; however, it was still quite eerie to be on the same grounds.

Dunamunde Fortress
Dünamünde Fortress, where Ivan VI was once kept

All in all, it's a great collection of Georgian stories, and I would definitely recommend it for the lovers of history and period drama, particularly those of The Madness of King George (1994), The Young Victoria (2008),The Favourite (2018), Marie Antoinette (2022), Bridgerton (2020 -), The Great (2020 -), and of course, the upcoming Queen Charlotte: a Bridgerton Story (2023).

Rundale Palace in Latvia, built by Anna of Russia
Rundale Palace in Latvia, built by Anna of Russia


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