Thursday, October 10, 2013

Caroline the Queen (1968)

Caroline the Queen. Jean Plaidy. 1968. 415 pages. [Source: Library]

Caroline, The Queen was my first introduction to the historical writer Jean Plaidy. (It is the third book in the Georgian Saga.) The novel opens shortly before the Prince of Wales, George Augustus, learns that his father (whom he REALLY hated) has died and he is now king. Caroline, his Queen, may be the main character of this one, but she is not our only point of view--far from it. This novel tells many stories from many different points of view.

Husband and wife. The novel spends some amount of time with George II and his wife, Caroline. She is presented as being oh-so-clever. Readers are never allowed to forget for a moment that Caroline is smarter and wiser than her husband. George is presented as a complete fool: short, ugly, boring, bad-tempered, easily flattered. Caroline loves being married to him because she can rule through him. But she has absolutely no respect for her husband. Caroline is presented as noble because she tolerates her husband's many mistresses.

King and mistresses. The novel mentions George II having many mistresses both in England and Hanover. His mistresses are presented as a necessary, oh-so-expected habit. Kings have mistresses, he is now king, therefore, to show how kingly he is, he must have mistresses, the people will love him even more because he is acting like other kings. Future kings must have mistresses as well. To be Prince of Wales gives you freedom to gather as many mistresses as possible and put them on display. Some of George II's mistresses are quite "old" by the time he is king. He visits them on schedule not out of desire but out of habit. The last half of the novel focuses on the King acquiring much younger, much prettier mistresses.

Family. The glimpses we get of Caroline and George as parents is disturbing, at least in my opinion. Frederick, the prince of Wales, is DESPISED by both of his parents. He is their oldest son, but both of his parents HATE him and wish that he'd never been born. Neither wants him around. And he knows it. He hates them both. At one point he's shown as hating his mother even more than his father because he feels his father is just being ruled. Some time is spent on their other children. But I can't say that Caroline and George were extraordinarily good parents to any of their children. Anne, the oldest girl, is given some time in the novel.

Prince of Wales. Some time is spent with Frederick and his friends and mistresses. Readers see people trying to get close to him so they can use him, people trying to get favors. Some spy on him and tell all to the powers-that-be.

Politics. Caroline has several politician friends--notably Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Hervey. She loves power and politics and manipulating things behind the scenes so that George does precisely what they want without being wise to the fact that he's being manipulated. 

The novel was quite interesting and very readable. The characters were all believably flawed; I found no one sympathetic, however. I liked this one.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sally said...

I agree with your conclusions on this book. Definitely "readable" if not outstanding. But then I love historical fiction and have read many of Jean Plaidy's books (there are far too many to have read them all!) I wonder whether people who are less into historical fiction would enjoy her books though..?

Becky said...

Sally, I've gone on to read a handful more Jean Plaidy novels since reviewing this one! I'm trying to track down as many as I can so I can read more, more, more!

I do think you'd have to have a love of history though. But that isn't a bad thing in my opinion. Historical fiction is THE BEST.