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The Trial of Queen Caroline: The Scandalous Affair That Nearly Ended a Monarchyby Jane Robins
Synopses & Reviews
Before Charles and Diana, before the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and long before the slogan "the personal is political," an astonishing British royal sex scandal threatened to trigger a revolution. Its lessons for leadership, popularity, and the impact of the absurd on history are fascinating.
In The Trial of Queen Caroline, Jane Robins tells the story of one of history's least happy marriages. The future George IV could not be bothered to meet Caroline, Princess of Brunswick, a woman "with indelicate manners...and not very inviting appearance," before she arrived for the wedding. He was immediately disgusted by her. He far preferred one of his mistresses, whom he had secretly married in a Catholic ceremony, knowing that the British state would not recognize the marriage if it ever came to light.
In 1797, just three years after George and Caroline wed, the couple separated. George wrote to her that "our inclinations are not in our power, nor should either of us be held answerable to the other. "As Robins relates, Caroline took him at his word and proceeded to live exactly as she pleased, departing for Europe and a life of scandalous associations and debauched parties. Rumors of Caroline's lifestyle soon reached George, still Prince of Wales, who determined that she would never become Queen. To the shock of the nation, he demanded that the popular Caroline face a trial for adultery. The potential consequences included a death sentence at worst, and certain divorce and disgrace. The voice of the popular press, raised in anger for the first time in Britain, roared in disapproval. Riots spread in the countryside. The mother of a single, deceased child, Caroline became the public's favorite martyr.
Jane Robins combines prodigious archival research with a sharp eye for telling detail. She shows how the rise of the partisan press helped magnify the story, until, at its peak, Caroline's trial became the story of a bad marriage that brought England to the very brink of revolution.
"The prize for the worst-behaved British royal couple goes not to Charles and Di but to George IV and Caroline, whose escapades heated up the early 19th-century scandal sheets and incited riots not long after the French monarchs were beheaded. When he married his first cousin Caroline, George was already vilified in the press for his unlawful marriage to a Catholic, his womanizing, financial extravagance, obesity and egotism. Caroline — poorly educated, magnanimous and reckless — became the darling of the people and the press, an advantage she exploited when her hubby cut her out of his will days after their daughter Charlotte's birth. The couple separated in 1797, barely two years after their wedding, but the escalating discord turned political after George restricted Caroline's access to Charlotte and she retaliated by championing the opposition Whigs. In 1820, George had Caroline tried for adultery to strip her of her title and gain a divorce. As this well-researched, competently written but uninspired account by a London journalist relates, the brouhaha spurred political reforms, and the queen triumphed at court but was still barred from George's coronation a few months later and died shortly thereafter. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
In August 1820, British queen Caroline stood trial by the House of Lords for adultery, as charged by her husband George IV. London-based writer and broadcaster Robins recounts events, and explains that had the popular queen been convicted, the common people might well have risen up against the monarchy. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Drawing on a wealth of sources, including the private papers of George IV in the Royal Archives and the British Library's extensive collection of trial correspondence, Robins creates a riveting royal narrative with sensational detail and intriguing gossip. 352 p.
About the Author
Jane Robins is a writer and broadcaster living in London. She has written for the Economist, the Independent, the Spectator and the New Statesman, among others. She has been a reporter for the BBC's On the Record and editor of Radio 4's The Week in Westminster.
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Biography » Historical