cover image The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline

The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline

Flora Fraser. Knopf Publishing Group, $35 (16pp) ISBN 978-0-394-56146-2

The predicament of a rejected royal spouse denied her crown by an openly adulterous husband on grounds of her own flagrant adultery has contemporary resonances. The adventures of Queen Caroline have often been recounted, but Fraser (Emma, Lady Hamilton) has done more archival homework than past biographers, and her version will intrigue more than Charles-and-Di voyeurs. Caroline's introduction to adultery, the queen herself contended, occurred between the conjugal sheets. The foppish future George IV was already illegally wed to a Roman Catholic widow, Maria Fitzherbert. Once the royal couple--first cousins--conceived a legal heiress, only days into the marriage, the Prince of Wales abandoned his wife for his mistresses. Sexually frustrated, socially snubbed and parsimoniously financed, his unsophisticated and uneducated bride from Brunswick lapsed into reckless and disreputable conduct, ""a depraved woman but an injured wife,"" in the words of a Windsor observer. Meanness incarnate, Prince George tried for two decades and more to shed her, even after their only child, Charlotte, died in childbirth, leaving no heirs except George's dissolute brothers, none of whom had legal children. The suit for divorce, played out in Parliament, is a page-turner. Although the biography opens melodramatically with Coronation Day, it slips into lackluster prose to record the sordid beginnings of the relationship, gaining momentum only as the determined Caroline plays the game of getting even with one of the most unsavory occupants of the British throne. Photos not seen by PW. (May)