The Unruly Queen

Princess Caroline was born May 17, 1768, in the duchy of Brunswick in northern Germany. Her father was heir apparent to the duchy; her mother, elder sister of England’s King George III. Her parents’ marriage was an unhappy one, with Caroline caught between her ambitious, philandering father and her complaining, ultrareligious mother. As a result, Caroline, though often ignored, was so extraordinarily controlled and confined that she grew up to be poorly educated with no knowledge whatsoever of social graces and proprieties. Caroline’s English cousin and husband-to-be, the future George IV, was, in the meantime, growing up to be as extravagant and promiscuous as Caroline was sheltered. His debts were enormous. Marriage to the Brunswick princess was conceived as a solution to the prince’s financial problems.

From the moment Caroline and the prince of Wales met, the marriage was doomed. For the entire twenty-six years the two were bound together, the prince never ceased to abuse, neglect, berate, and shun his wife. Finally, he contrived to put her on trial as a means of ridding himself of her forever. In response to such overt rejection and derision, Caroline provoked, rebelled, manipulated, and, for a time, escaped to Europe. Her life, though one of unbelievable freedom and eccentricity, was in actuality an endless search for respect, love and a sense of belonging. Her spirited defense at her trial brought some vindication, but a pyrrhic victory was only the antecedent to her sudden and untimely death.

Flora Fraser’s prodigious research brings to life a two-hundred-year-old saga of indiscretions and infidelities in the English royal family which caught the public fancy just as intensively as its modern equivalent. While entertaining for most readers, those with a particular interest in English history will find this book most enlightening.