The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of A Royal Affair, by Stella Tillyard

Here in the U.S., we tend to think of George III as the king who dug in his heels at the time of the Revolutionary War. And yet it turns out that he was the steadiest member of his sometimes manic, sometimes tragic family. The subtitle of Stella Tillyard’s excellent book says it all: George III and His Scandalous Siblings.

Most prominent in the book, and presenting the most complex story, was the youngest sister, Caroline Mathilde. At a time when princesses were bartered for political gain, Caroline was married off to King Christian VII of Denmark, who comes across as autistic. He had some sort of problem, and wanted to be left alone, which allowed unscrupulous sorts to manipulate him. Caroline and her lover, the king’s physician Johann Struensee, were probably not as bad as those who followed. Indeed, it seemed at times as if Christian liked being with them, because they catered to some of his whims and otherwise left him alone, while also taking on some of the kingly tasks he found odious (which appeared to be all of them). And after Caroline and Johann were charged with the crime of cuckolding Christian, he seemed bereft. 

By the way, I suspect Tillyard would have liked to have done an entire book on Caroline, but there might not have been enough material, or her publisher might have told her to write more broadly. Regardless, Caroline’s story is compelling and sad, but the account of how the neglected young woman gained power is intriguing.

There were other siblings, of course. A cranky older sister, also married off for the good of the country, lived a long and probably unhappy life in some little nation that was eventually absorbed by Germany. The charismatic brother who was best suited to be king died young, and a couple of other brothers couldn’t keep their pants up, thereby providing ample material to the scandal-mongers of the day.

Tillyard writes extremely well and is an excellent storyteller, even though she hops around a tad more than I like. That’s a quibble; I strongly recommend this book.

As for animals, there’s nothing here to put off even the most squeamish animal lover. So I am declaring this book SAFE for animal lovers.

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August 28, 2009 - Posted by | Book Reviews, history | , , , , ,

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