Sunday, June 28, 2009

Caroline, the Queen by Jean Plaidy

Caroline, the Queen, the third book in Jean Plaidy's Georgian Saga, opens with the death of George I, Caroline of Ansbach's tyrannical father-in-law. Finally, Caroline takes the helm of the ship of state. For years, she has honed her ability to manipulate her husband, George II, a conceited, hot-tempered, selfish little man. With the help of the astute politician Sir Robert Walpole, Caroline sets England on the course of peace and prosperity.

However, her life remains far from easy. She must constantly coddle her insecure husband and make him believe that he, not she, is the true ruler of England. Her health begins to fail as she grows older, which she must hide from George, who cannot abide his wife showing signs of illness. And she must always contend with her and Walpole's enemies at court.

Unfortunately, Caroline is not nearly as successful a mother as she is at ruling. She is estranged from her oldest son, Frederick, who remained behind in Hanover when she and George came to England. As a consequence, she has lavished all her affection on her younger boy, William, and wishes he were the eldest son and Prince of Wales. Frederick and his parents grow to despise one another, especially as George II's popularity wanes. George makes the same mistake his father made: He prefers his principality of Hanover, where he is absolute ruler, to England, where he must win the approval of Parliament.

I grew a bit impatient with Plaidy's "just the facts" prose style while reading this book, which probably means I need to take a short break before moving on to the next. She packs a lot of information into fairly compact novels, and while she gives a good overview of each reign, I sometimes wish she would spend more time describing the personalities and politics involved. The novel also seemed a bit repetitive, perhaps because George and Caroline's hatred of their son mirrored George I's hatred of them a generation before.

However, I felt I got to know the formidable Caroline well through the pages of this novel. She was a complicated, fiercely intelligent and steely woman and must certainly have been one of the most influential queens-consort in British history. My grade: B-.


Arleigh said...

I've also noticed Plaidy can pack a lot of info into the smaller novels... it was the same for me when I read The Murder in the Tower. I thought I had read Caroline and Walpole were supposed to be lovers. I guess there wasn't anything about that in this novel?

Great review! I need to read more of the Georgian series.

Felicia J. said...

Wow. No, there wasn't anything about Caroline and Walpole being lovers, although I sometimes wished she'd TAKE a lover just to get back at the boorish husband of hers!