Ready for a journey back to the years of Jane Austen's  and Lord Byron's England? Today's guest is Charlotte Frost.  

Charlotte is a post-grad who,  after years of anonymous, behind-the-scenes work for history projects, decided to put her name on a book cover. The result is Sir William Knighton. The Strange Career of a Regency Physician, a biography of George IV's influential, enigmatic courtier. She accepted to present this fascinating character and her research here on FLY HIGH! Enjoy her piece and try to win her book. The details of the giveaway contest are at the end of the post. Read them carefully, there are three copies of the book for you!

Lord Byron
Sir William Knighton was a farmer’s son who transformed himself into one of Regency London’s most expensive, fashionable physicians.  Then, amidst the speculations of his contemporaries and to the dismay of his wife, he gave up his practice to become a courtier to George IV. 
Though Knighton did not belong to Society, he was at its heart.  In 1812 he was described as having the keynote of almost every family of distinction in the country.  His patients included Byron , the first Marquis Wellesley, and Wellesley’s mistress.   When Charlotte, Princess of Wales, died in 1817 soon after giving birth, Knighton took it on himself to safeguard the reputation of Charlotte’s physician, Sir Richard Croft, by reassuring Croft’s aristocratic patients.

Book cover
Knighton was a man of mystery.  One of his contemporaries said that he gained control of his patients’ minds, always for their benefit.  Another said that to have a conversation with Knighton was to conclude that he was in complete agreement with whatever one said.  Opinions of him ranged from ‘dearest friend’ (George IV) to ‘rogue and a blackguard’ (Mrs Arbuthnot), while Princess Lieven wrote that he had poisoned his wife.  He admitted to a friend that he knew little about his early years, and documents from that time show that his perception of his childhood was flawed.
Knighton was also a complex man.  He stood high in his own estimation yet fretted over what others thought of him.  Tiredness and ill health brought out the worst in him and sometimes he harboured resentment, yet friends in need received considered advice and practical help.  He died in 1836 aged only 59, prematurely aged by royal duties that proved more arduous than he had envisaged.  A decent, conscientious family man, he had come to regret his change of career yet remained loyal to his demanding but increasingly dependent royal employer, working tirelessly to serve him. 

Prince Regent

Sir William Knighton was an important personality in Regency and late-Georgian England.   To research his life was an adventure and I discovered intriguing new sources, including material from the Royal Archives. 
Thank you, Maria, for inviting me to write about this elusive man. I'm ready to answer your readers' questions now.
 Charlotte Frost


Leave your comments to get a chance to win the paperback printed edition or one of the 2 e-books of Sir William Knighton's biography that Charlotte Frost generously provided me for this contest. Don't forget to add your e-mail address and to specify which area of the world you are writing from because the paperback is only for UK readers while the 2 e-books can be won by readers from all over the world. So, please, let us know where you live if you want to be entered this giveaway. The deadline is  January 14th.

You can get the print from most internet book stores, apart from Amazon.com in US. 

 Here's the Amazon UK link 


rainakochanvideo said...

i'd like to read this book and participate to the giveaway ,i'm living in France .


Anonymous said...

I'm very curious about this!
I live in Pise, Italy.



papyrus of ani said...

Wow, this sounds very interesting, I I am obsessed with the Georgian and Regency era, and this book sounds right up my street, I would be very pleased to win, by the way is there some where Charlotte Frost writes Essays on the era that I can read further on?


Charlotte Frost said...

Sorry, I haven't written any essays. Venetia Murray's 'High Society in the Regency Period 1788-1830' has chapters on different aspects of Regency life, and you can pick the ones that interest you most. There are many good Regency blogs, and 'The Regency Redingote' would suit you. If you can get to a large library you'll enjoy browsing the diaries of the artist Joseph Farington. For something out-of-the-ordinary, try the letters of medical student Hampton Weekes who studied in London 1801-1802. Hampton's father said that he could have as much money as he wanted, as long as he explained exactly what he spent it on, so the letters have plenty of detail about the life of a young man in London. You'll probably have to borrow this on inter-library loan. Here are the details:

Ford, John M. T. (editor), 'Medical History', Supplement No 7, 'A Medical Student at St Thomas’s Hospital, 1801–1802. The Weekes Family Letters' Published in London by the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1987

papyrus of ani said...

OOh, Thank you! I have quite a few historical books on the subject and Ian Kelly's Beau Brummel Biography is very good.
Thank you for the list!

Charlotte Frost said...

Thank you for telling me about Ian Kelly's book. I've made a note of it. I enjoyed Druin Burch's 'Digging up the Dead. Uncovering the Life and Times of an Extraordinary Surgeon', about Astley Cooper, who was one of Knighton tutors.

David said...

Mmm, a kind of Svengali or Rasputin figure rising from relative obscurity to a central position of influence.

Would like to read more.

Nina Benneton said...

I'm currently perusing 'Domestic Medicine' by Dr. Buchan, 2nd Edition, 1785.

Ms. Frost's book about a farmer's son who became a courtier physician sounds fascinating. I'm curious if some of the cures were the same as Dr. Buchan's.

Thanks for the tip about Ford's book. I love reading letters from that period.

Nina Benneton

uncolorbenneton@yahoo.com from US.

Phoebe's Sisters said...

He sounds like an extremely interesting historic figure and I'd love to have the chance to read about him. Thank you for the giveaway! I live in Ukraine.


Charlotte Frost said...

To David Bennett. Knighton was a benign influence, and when he was drawn into politics it was against his will. His most difficult tasks involved resolving problems remaining from George IV's wilder days, and liaising between George IV and his Continental relatives on private family matters. The secrecy surrounding Knighton's duties made him the subject of private and public opprobrium but, out of loyalty to George IV, he chose not to defend himself.

Charlotte Frost said...

To Nina Benneton. Thank you for telling me about Buchan. I've just been enjoying the 1812 edition online. Buchan 1812 and Knighton both believed in promoting sweating, urination, vomiting etc to induce the patient's body to flush out disease, with a different medication for each stage of an illness. They both advocated bleeding, but I suspect that Knighton bled more heavily than Buchan, and that he was not as anti-leech as Buchan. Both used mercury, though Knighton preferred calomel, a less harmful form, whereas Buchan reserved calomel for patients who could not swallow pills. They agreed up to a point about cold bathing. Knighton was firmly against it. Buchan said that it was dangerous for heated patients but on occasion prescribed short immersions, undertaken with care.

You'll enjoy Ford's book.

Charlotte Frost said...

To Farida Mestek. The first biography of Sir William Knighton, written by his widow and published in 1838, is on line. Lady Knighton was understandably biassed, and was too discreet to write freely about her husband's royal duties, but her book is still a useful source. http://www.archive.org/index.php and search for Sir William Knighton. It's in two volumes.

Charlotte Frost said...

About Ford's book -- Kelly McDonald at http://smithandgosling.wordpress.com/ has just found the first chapter online and emailed me the link. Thank you Kelly.


maribea said...

As a physician and a passionate reader I'd love to read your book.
I'm maribea at tiscali dot it and I live in Italy.

C.J. Archer said...

What a fascinating character! I love these rags to riches stories, history is peppered with them.

Please enter me in the giveaway for an ebook version (I'm in Australia).


Charles Bazalgette said...

I have a copy of the book and can confirm that if you win one (or even buy one!) you will not be disappointed.

Charlotte Frost said...

To Maribea. When I started the biography I was new to medical history. My impression is of an age when physicians worked hard to improve their skills and raise the standing of their profession. They were good at diagnosis and excellent at prognosis, but had limited treatments to offer, and Knighton was unable to save his own baby son. Judith Schneid Lewis ('In the Family Way. Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860', pub 1986 in New Brunswick by Rutgers University Press) wrote about Knighton as an obstetrician, but he still has much to offer medical historians. Do let me know if you write about him. I'd love to know your opinion.

Charlotte Frost said...

To C.J. Archer. Knighton's struggle was social rather than financial. He received a legacy to pay for a few years at school followed by medical training, and he never ceased to be grateful for it. However his yeoman origins combined with his work as an obstetrician made him an easy target at Court, and he had no way of overcoming prejudice other than by hard work and ability.

Charlotte Frost said...

To Charles Bazalgette. Charles, you're a true Gent. And a jolly good biographer.

Literary Chanteuse said...

Sounds very intriguing. I would love to read it! Thank you for the giveaway! I am in Canada so e book for me.


Lady_Byron01 said...

This sounds right up my street. I'm a huge fan of the Regency period and I love learning all about the lives of the lesser know figures that made this era what it was.

Bravo for undertaking such a task!

Charlotte Frost said...

To Lady_Byron01. Thank you. Though Knighton is remembered for his years at Court, they were a second career undertaken in early middle age. He's also important as an example of a real-life Regency man. His discretion made him a challenge to research, and I believe there are more surprises about him waiting to be discovered.

Irgendwo said...

I have the 1798 diary of Augusta Smith. Kelly McDonald has transcribed it. In the beginning Dr. Parry of Bath is treating Lord Northampton, Augusta's brother-in-law. I just now googled and found that he was a leading heart physician.

Really I'm just posting because I want the e-book.



Charlotte Frost said...

To Mark Woodford. I've read about you in Kelly's blog. Nice to meet you. Thank you for the information about Dr Parry. I hadn't come across him. And thank you for wanting a copy of my book :-)

Rachel Knowles said...

The more I research about George IV the more egocentric, volatile and vindictive I find him. I would love to read about Sir William Knighton and how he related to this difficult man who once ruled England.

I live in Dorset, UK, and would love to add this biography to my bookshelves.

Rachel Knowles


Charlotte Frost said...

To Rachel Knowles. Nice to meet you again.

Knighton's 1838 biography gives his first impression of George as 'very intelligent, with a mind easily roused to suspicion, but with a most fascinating complacency of manner'. Knighton also used the words 'proud and overbearing'* but they never made it into print. Nevertheless Knighton developed a genuine respect and affection for George IV.

Thank you for showing such interest in my book.

*Aspinall, A. (editor), Letters of King George IV, 1812–1830, 3 volumes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938) Vol 3, No 1588, p478

Felicia said...

Sir Knighton's story sounds fascinating. I enjoy reading about peoples lives, in all levels of society in the Regency era. I'd love to enter the giveaway.

felicialso @gmail .com

Charlotte Frost said...

To Felicia. Knighton is an interesting example of social mobility. He wanted financial security for his family, but he deliberately didn't introduce them at Court and he didn't aspire to join the aristocracy.

Marion White said...

Charlotte, this looks an incredibly interesting book and subject and I really look forward to reading about Knighton. I am a (mature and recent) post grad in History of Medicine and currently considering doing a PhD. My interest is in the early modern period, particularly Stuart and Georgian. The experience of early modern medicine, whether from the perspective of the patient or practitioner really interests me. As part of my MA I researched the case books of John Hunter, FRS, the leading surgeon and comparative anatomist who practised in London and was for a period Surgeon Extraordinary to George III. So you can see why Knighton's story would really resonate with me. Apart from that I simply enjoy history, biographies and a really good read!
I wonder if you used or came across Knighton's case books?

Marion (UK)