The Trials of the King of Hampshire: Madness, Secrecy and Betrayal in Georgian England
The Trials of the King of Hampshire is a very thorough biography of John Charles Wallop, the third earl of Portsmouth. Portsmouth had some strange habits, but by most accounts he did not seem to be a lunatic. However, when his brother tried a second time to declare him insane, there were more witnesses and his second wife’s behavior to account for. Was Portsmouth really mad, or was his family simply using his eccentricity and possible mental issues to take control of his title and fortunes?
This novel wasn’t exactly a page-turner, but it was very detailed, and you can tell that Ms. Foyster did her research. It is definitely an interesting case, and it seems hard, even now, to understand what Portsmouth was really like. Most of the case is based only on eyewitness accounts, which both attested to him being perfectly sane and completely mad. It just depended who you asked. From what I could tell, it seemed like Portsmouth never mentally matured, and those around him used that to their advantage to manipulate him and take away his rights.
Ms. Foyster did a wonderful job taking all of the information from the case and putting it into chapter form to make it easier for the layperson to understand. She really makes you look at how those with mental disorders or disabilities were treated in Georgian England and makes you wonder if it is any different than today.