Picks and Pans Review: The Unruly Queen: the Life of Queen Caroline
by Flora Fraser
Once upon a time there was a Princess of Wales whose marriage was preapproved by her husband's mistress, whose embraces were soon spurned for someone else's and who embarked upon dalliances of her own so that her prince began to press for a divorce. Familiar? Of course—but it happened 200 years ago, and the princess's name was Caroline, wife of the self-indulgent profligate who became George IV.
George loathed Caroline on sight—hygiene was not her long suit—and he spent the night of their prearranged marriage lying in a fireplace in a drunken stupor. Their sexual conjugations were few, and Caroline left Britain to wander across the Continent for several years with a lover, a former valet. Though the marriage was never dissolved, George tried to bribe Caroline to stay abroad after he succeeded to the throne, but she refused. Perhaps the crowning moment in her colorful life was her uncrowning: She showed up for George's 1821 coronation at Westminster Abbey and was turned away.
Chronicling this chapter in the sorry saga of this dysfunctional dynasty biographer Fraser—her mother is Antonia Fraser, her grandmother Elizabeth Longford—finds a happy balance between gossip and scholarship that will make The Unruly Queen appeal to collectors of historical tittle-tattle as well as to serious students of Regency Britain. (Knopf, $35)
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