OverviewConsorts of the British monarchs have sometimes been regarded as dangerously influential, although since the Hanoverian succession there has been only one queen who sought to be the power behind the throne. This book surveys the wives of the English kings from the George I to George VI. Life has not always been easy for these women—one was imprisoned for life, another arraigned before the House of Lords, while a third has been described as "the most wronged wife in Europe." And often there was little romance involved in royal marriages. A prince or king might be betrothed to a princess he had not even met, and she would then be set on the task of begetting heirs to the throne. Some princesses were great beauties, some plain and domestic, some wise and virtuous and one loose and licentious. Of the nine wives considered here, all but two were faithful partners. Of these two, the divorced spouse of George I was kept under lock and key, while George IV's wife broke out and did all she could to shame him. The others may have been loyal, but this did not always ensure their happiness. Charlotte endured mockery and abuse and had the agony of seeing her husband George III lapse into dementia; while Alexandra had to come to terms with Edward VII's multiple infidelities. The joker in the pack was Mrs Simpson, twice divorced, of dubious reputation and American; but her marriage to Edward VIII, which caused such a furore, was to survive their exile and last until his death. From George II's ambitious wife Caroline of Anspach to Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the survival of the British monarchy is in no small measure due to them.
Reviews"A fascinating catalogue of that unseen but crucial relationship between monarchs and their spouses." —Good Book Guide
Author BiographyMark Hichens is a biographer, historian, and retired teacher. He is the author of Oscar Wilde’s Last Chance: The Dreyfus Connection.