Saturday, February 10, 2007

Queen in Waiting

I finished Queen in Waiting today. As I mentioned before, this historical novel, published originally in 1967, is the story of Caroline of Ansbach, wife to the future George II, before she became queen.

(By the way, this book, like its predecessor, has a very tasteful cover--some well-dressed men and women standing in front of a grand house with a Grecian sculpture in the foreground. I'm really missing the tacky clinch covers that grace some of my Plantagenet Plaidys.)

This book starts out rather gloomily, with Caroline's spiritless mother, Eleanor, making a disastrous second marriage that nearly results in her being poisoned. Fortunately, smallpox saves Eleanor by widowing her a second time, and with Eleanor's decline and death soon following, the story switches to the much more interesting figure of Caroline herself. We follow Caroline into her marriage with George Augustus, whose father is destined to become King George I of England. In what would apparently become a Hanoverian family tradition, George I and George Augustus hate each other heartily, and their jockeying for power once the family moves from Hanover to England forms most of the plot of the novel.

Caroline is an intelligent, shrewd opportunist who is quick to take advantage of George I's unattractive personality by ingratiating herself with the people. Though George I succeeds in getting control of some of Caroline's children, Caroline is no victim like her mother; the fight never goes out of her. I also liked George Augustus's mother-in-law, Sophia, who is pleased when George Augustus takes up with an English mistress: "It should improve his English," she tells the furious Caroline. Sophia is one of several cheerfully cynical characters here.

There are some repetitive moments; we're reminded way too often that George I has locked up his wife because of her love affair.

Amusingly, once the Hanoverians move to England, Plaidy reminds us of their heavy German accents by having the Prince and Princess of Wales speak sentences such as these: "Ve vill think of something, my tearest." This usually works well enough, but it tends to undermine Plaidy's more dramatic moments.

All in all, though, this novel left me looking forward to more dysfunctional family fun with its sequel, Caroline, the Queen.

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