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

Written by Lucy Worsley
Review by Jasmina Svenne

In 1725 up-and-coming artist William Kent was commissioned by George I to decorate the walls alongside the King’s Grand Staircase at Kensington Palace. The result was a mural consisting of the portraits of 45 members of the royal household, leaning over a painted balustrade and watching visitors with interest.

Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley, has taken her inspiration from this staircase, identifying some of these people and interweaving their life stories with those of more powerful members of the court, including the royal family.

The cast of characters includes arguably the cleverest queen consort ever to sit on the British throne, two Turkish valets, a reluctant royal mistress, a secretly married Maid of Honour, who hides her intelligence under a frivolous exterior, feral child Peter, who becomes the court pet, and his kindly tutor.

Courtiers is a highly readable, almost novelistic work of non-fiction. It takes a largely neglected period of history – the reigns of George I and George II – and brings it vividly to life. Worsley even succeeds in presenting the two misunderstood monarchs in a more human light and explains some of the intensity of the inter-generational feuds for which the Hanoverian kings were notorious. Highly recommended.