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Courtiers by Lucy Worsely

March 13, 2012

I have just finished reading Courtiers by Lucy Worsley, here’s what I thought.

Worsley is the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages Hampton Court, The Tower of London, Kew Palace, Banqueting House and lastly Kensington Palace which is the main focus of the book. She has also presented several BBC history documentories.

The book covers the Georgian Court during the reign of the first two king George’s. The book is a fabulous exploration of the men and women who in fabulous court dress climbed the social ranks of the court.

Lucy’s inspiration to write the book came from the amazing painting that runs up the Kings staircase at Kensington Palace. The painting by William Kent depicts the key players in the court, from the king’s turkish servants, to the queen’s ladies in waiting, to Peter the wild boy a feral child found in the German woods. The staircase itself offers a unique snapshot into life within the walls of Kensington Palace.

Lucy was fascinated to discover who the people in the painting were, and what each one of their stories were. What began as a small study because this book.

Highlights of the book include the story of Henrietta Howard who was both mistress to George II and Lady in waiting to his wife queen Caroline. Henrietta is an instantly likeable character and Worsley tells her story very sympathetically. The book cover several decades of Henrietta’s life pre and post Georgian court.

My favourite part of the book is the description of the death of Queen Caroline. This chapter really draws the reader in and you really get a sence of being in the room as the events unfold.

The colour images in the centre of the book are well-chosen and followed by helpful descriptions.  I referred to them throughout the book and found they really helped to tell the story.

I ended up ready this book over several months as I had very limited reading time. I don’t feel this affected my enjoyment at all. It’s a great book to pick up and put down. I like the way the book is easy to read, it is very much like reading a novel and is not as hard going as many history books can be.

. The book really is like getting in a time machine and witnessing the Georgian court first hand. I particularly liked the way the author got across that life in court could be miserable, mundane and boring as well as glamorous.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has visited a historical house or palace and really wanted to know more about the people who once lived there and what their lives were like.

I give Courtiers a 4.5 out of 5

Want to know more visit Lucy’s website here

Visit the Historic Royal Palaces website here

Courtiers is published by Faber and Faber

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