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The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace

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really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,523 ratings  ·  127 reviews
Kensington Palace is now most famous as the former home of Diana, Princess of Wales, but the palace's glory days came between 1714 and 1760, during the reigns of George I and II. In the eighteenth century, this palace was a world of skulduggery, intrigue, politicking, etiquette, wigs, and beauty spots, where fans whistled open like switchblades and unusual people were kept ...more
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Published November 25th 2014 by Brilliance Audio (first published January 1st 2010)
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Lady Wesley
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Heather Wilds' rendition of this gossipy history-lite book. There are lots of quotations in the book, and Wilds did an excellent job with a variety of voices -- from German-accented Kings to serving maids.

I like Lucy Worsley's breezy writing style; her research is decidedly un-breezy however. She is the real deal. But don't expect to hear much about diplomacy or wars; as the title implies, this isn't that kind of history.

My knowledge of 18th century European
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K.J. Charles
A domestic history of the courts of George I and II, focusing more on selected wives, mistresses, children, equerries, hangers on, painters, lightly on upper servants. It's very informative about the running of the court and 18th century palace life, loads of detail, exactly the sort of thing that brings history to life.

I didn't actually enjoy it very much though. I think it was the writing, which is reminiscent of Worsley's TV persona (a huge plus if you're a fan of her presenting style, but
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an entertaining, readable, yet well-researched look at the royal courts of George I and II of England (early to mid-18th century). Worsley picks out a handful of people and follows them throughout the book: a royal mistress who was also the queen’s lady-in-waiting; an ambitious painter who got the commission for a palace mural; a few hanger-ons who wrote extensively about their contacts with the royals; a feral child who was brought to court as a curiosity. A solid chunk of the book is ...more
Kate
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody with an interest in history.
Recommended to Kate by: Amazon
Did you see Lucy Worsley's recent 'Regency' series on BBC4? Did you, like me, find it disappointing in content and Worsley herself, as presenter, irritating in the extreme? Well, don't let that put you off buying/reading this book - because it really is very good.

It's packed with information, some of which might even be new to the more well-read history fans, and is written in an engaging, knowledgeable manner that makes the words flow and transforms the book into an easy, pleasurable read.

It
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Sherwood Smith
An enjoyable look at the lives of the first three Georges and their courtiers. Worsley gives a vivid account not only of courtiers, but those they took and interest in (like the poignant tale of Peter the Wild Boy) and those who built their palaces and painted the interiors (some great stuff about William Kent).

Two things occurred to me as I was reading this, and sometimes comparing specific incidents with letters and diaries I already have (like Mary Wortley Montagu's and Horry Walpole's): one,
...more
Tim
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I will begin this review with an admission of bias. I am an unashamed fan of Lucy Worsley. Had she been my history teacher at school my life would have taken a very definite course, probably beginning with a declaration of marriage at 16!! She has the knack of taking the story of the great and good (and not-so-good) and making it accessible. I have always liked her delivery in her documentaries and this, the first of her written works that I have read, did not disappoint.

Her examination of the
...more
Ruth
This was a fascinating, and surprisingly easy read about the life of courtiers during the reigns of George I and George II. It has just the right mix of detail, wider context and anecdote to make it quite fun. Some of the quotes of the contemporaries are hilarious - witty, bitchy and LOL funny.

I'm one of those people who wanders what it was actually like at Court. The dresses look fabulous in portraits, but what were they like to wear? Answer: Incredibly uncomfortable. Did they wear them all the
...more
Freda Lightfoot
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is non-fiction which reads like a racy novel. I loved it. We learn all about the scandal, the intrigue, politicking and affairs not only of George II and Queen Caroline of Ansbach, but the waiting women, various mistresses, a wild boy, a rather sad equerry whom Caroline took pity on, and an overly ambitious painter, among others. A lively band indeed. It is an absolutely delicious slice of Georgian life. We learn the identities of the characters painted on the Kensington Palace Grand ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
New Georgian history, by a keeper of the Royal Palaces, and with new insight into the Hanoverians by studying the palaces they built or remodeled to see how the court functioned in the physical spaces--as well as included the social climbing courtiers, German hangers-on, the Polish dwarf jester, the Turkish Muslim valets, the pet feral child, assorted French spies and all the flunkies from rat-catchers to wig-washers to translators who made an 18th century bureaucracy function. I do love my ...more
Rebecca Radnor
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, british-uk
10 hours of nothing but court gossip, who slept with whom, nasty divorces (before people could get divorced), and people using sex and intrigue to get access to the king. That said, I prefer this sort of history to the boring old fashioned battles and politics focus. The Reader is very good and is skillful at different accents.
Wealhtheow
Oct 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: megan
Worsley tracks the people and art that populated the courts of George I and II of England. She has a very easy to read style, but cites well and was able to draw upon a good number of first-person sources. That said, there were three things I distinctly disliked about this book.

One, Worsley has a completely unearned appreciation for George II and his wife Caroline. Both of them seem to have been thoroughly unpleasant in several arenas, not least their treatment of their immediate family. The
...more
George Guven
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An absolute riot from start to finish. Full of salacious court gossip and scandal, this reads like a juicy novel but is in fact an enlightening glance into court life in the early Georgian era. Of particular interest is the exposition of the unknown courtiers that grand histories often forget: Peter the Wild Boy, the vivacious Molly Lepell and so on. But in exposing these shrouded figures, Worsley sheds greater light on the big players of history-the kings and the queens, the princes and ...more
Lauren Albert
Dec 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-british
As ever, when I read about the world of courtiers, I wonder why anyone ever fought to be part of that world. How unpleasant it all was. Worsley made it clear that different people were there for different reasons--escaping an abusive husband, seeking power, seeking wealth. It was, to use a cliche, "where the action was."

Worsley does a very good job of making the reader understand what it was like, and not just for the royals but for the people around them high and low. It is very
...more
Katie
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Courtiers was a wonderful non-fiction book about Courtiers in the early Georgian Courts (George I & II). Sixteen of the courtiers shown in William Kent's Grand Staircase painting are brought back to life in vivid detail. It's almost like they are still alive and their plotting, cattiness and insults are as stinging then as they are now. Worsley's writing style is easy to read and overall, the book reads more like fiction than non-fiction.
Emily
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I love gaining insight into a century of British history I’m a little murky on, but slowly coming to love! Lucy Worsley once again writes an entertaining, insightful, and readable history. This time revolving around the first two Georgian kings and their courtiers! I wanted to read this book anyways but I decided to read it now to prepare for an assignment in my Public History course where I am going to write a YA historical fiction (just a chapter) centered on court life during the Georgian ...more
Carly Bogan
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best historical books I've read. Not as dry as others on British history and very interesting
Jane
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll start with a confession: I loathe and despise the British royal family. What a bunch of no-hopers! First there's the queen, who gets my vote for biggest dog in the manger ever. Her poor son will never sit on the throne if she can help it. The result? He's an emasculated dweeb with a thing for Mommy figures. Then there's Phillip, who opens his mouth and drops the most astoundingly offensive remarks on a regular basis. "Go home soon," he said to some British students in China, "or you'll ...more
Larissa
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, read-2015
History from the cheap seats. Very enjoyable walk thru the back stairs doors of Georgian England and most especially Kensington palace. What a strange, hard and detailed existence they lived. Would have enjoyed this even more as an audio book.
Kelcey
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I did read this and I remember being surprised by how good it was for nonfiction. It was compelling and read almost like a novel! A great way to get a dose of history!
Kara
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-history
Interesting book about George I and George II and their times. My main criticism is that Worsley is overly flattering to the Georges. George I was a stone cold murderer, he gave his wife a life-long prison sentence for adultery, a crime he repeatedly committed himself and he had her lover murdered. He then never allowed his son (someday to be George II) to ever see his mother again. He also separated his son from his own children causing heartbreak all around and ensuring familial dysfunction ...more
Emerald Dodge
I really wanted to like this book, since I enjoy Worsley's work as a presenter in so many history documentaries, but I couldn't get over her rambling, unguided approach to her subjects in this volume, and several times I thought it needed to be better edited. In one instance, she neglected to explain how to pronounce an unusual surname, only waiting until after multiple chapters (and countless mentions) to notify the reader. She would often leave the reader hanging on an idea, character, or ...more
Katie
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
A fascinating look into the courts of King George I and King George II, covering 1714-1760. It's a period of history that I always found got skimmed over in school so I barely knew anything about it. The focus was on what it was like to live at court during that time, for both the royal family and nobility, as well as the servants. By the end of it I felt like I really knew the people involved and felt much more personally invested in their lives than I normally do when reading a nonfiction ...more
Sara G
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a charming and easy to read book about the courtiers in Kensington Palace during the reigns of King George I and II. It starts out discussing paintings on that palace's Grand Staircase, and it turns out that they all represented real people in the court. The book covers their lives, both at court and away from the court, and uses mainly primary source material to glean information about these courtiers.

The women of these courts were remarkable. Queen Caroline was brilliant and pretty
...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Three and a half stars for a goodish read that was drawn out a bit too long. It takes her several chapters (that's right, chapters) to tell about George II's last day of life, as she keeps interrupting herself and going off down rabbit trails, only to come back to that last fateful day...which somehow started the night before, with an unnecessary account of his last meal. Interruption, rabbit trail...two or three chapters later she goes back to "the fateful day" only now it's the morning he ...more
Sebastian Fortino
The Wonderful Ms. Worsely is as entertaining on the page as she is on the screen. This book is an easy way for Americans to grasp how & why & what happened when those Hanoverians came from what is now modern Germany to accept the British Crown. Worsley--acting like an art history detective--follows the first Georgians from the portraits on the King's Staircase at Kensington Palace. Not only do we learn about the principal actors, but the nobles and gentlewomen who served their sovereign ...more
Miriam
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had an interesting approach to history. Lucy Worsley used the courtiers depicted in the King's Staircase in Kensington Palace to tell the stroy of the first two Georgian kings. The paintings contains a wide selection of courtiers, from the highest-ranking in the land down to milliners and the court pet, Peter the Wild Boy.
By taking this approach, Worsley avoids focusing only on the royals, and instead gives a more rounded, more complete picture of Georgian life at court. It is also
...more
Paul
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An engaging, well-informed account of the intimate life within the courts of George I and George II of England, with many fascinating and unexpected details. Although at this period (early 18th century) power was shifting from the palace to parliament, the king still had a lot of political power, and so people who wanted to get things done sought access to him. Those closest to the king, therefore, such as his personal servants and mistresses, were important brokers of power. The author lifts a ...more
Dawn
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough and well-researched account of the courts of George I and George II. Both courts were marred by bitter disputes - George I and George II fell out and then George II fell out with his son Frederick - and doomed romances. The only ones who came out of the courts relatively unscathed are the ones who quit being a courtier while they were ahead. Or rather quit when they knew their power was on the wane.

Overall, Courtiers shows that office politics existed long before the office did.
Hannah
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author does a great job relaying the witty and humorous descriptions of the court. Her dry sense of humor shines through the writing. Easily accessible to the lay reader, funny, and quite interesting.
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I was born in Reading (not great, but it could have been Slough), studied Ancient and Modern History at New College, Oxford, and I've got a PhD in art history from the University of Sussex.

My first job after leaving college was at a crazy but wonderful historic house called Milton Manor in Oxfordshire. Here I would give guided tours, occasionally feed the llamas, and look for important pieces of
...more