You know how it is. You’re staying in someone’s house. With half an hour to kill before bedtime, you pick up one of the books arranged around the spare room and idly leaf through it. This happened to me a month ago. Rather than “idly leaf” through the book, however, I got hooked on it and am now on the last few pages, having greedily devoured it (albeit at my normal snail’s pace) over the last month. (Fortunately, my host was my mother, who was only too pleased to see someone enjoying her book and for me to take it away with me.)
The book is The life and times of William IV by Anne Somerset.
William IV had previously passed me by. But the book tells an enthralling tale of the naval life of William. He was not your usual royal. A breath of fresh air, one might say, who presided over the passing of the Great 1832 Reform Act, which heralded fairer representation across social classes and finally did away with most of the rotten and pocket boroughs. But (viewed from today) it is extraordinary that, before he became king, he enjoyed a life of quiet domesticity in Bushy park, Surrey with his mistress, famous comedic actress Mrs Jordan, and their ten illegitimate children.