Robins (media editor, Independent on Sunday) provides a new look at the so-called divorce crisis between George IV of England and his wife (and cousin), Caroline of Brunswick. Their marriage in 1795 was shaky from the start. Marital troubles between a prince and princess of Wales naturally generate prurient interest. The two lived apart, but when George ascended to the throne in 1820, he began divorce proceedings with her trial for adultery. The trial was publicly conducted in the House of Lords, and Caroline's cause was taken up with gusto by opposition politicians and radical agitators. Robins takes seriously (more so than this reviewer) the possibility of revolution as a result of the potent mixture of popular dissatisfaction, press sensationalism, and Caroline's own manipulation of public sentiment. Not surprisingly, the book relies heavily on evidence from the popular press of the time as well as the writings of prominent radicals, balanced by mainly aristocratic sources in support of the king and government. Robins's tone is rather colloquial, but the prose is generally intriguing and highly readable. Chapters are charmingly and usefully prefaced with reproductions of political cartoons of the period. Recommended for larger public libraries and for academic libraries that may wish to provide this alternative view of a past royal scandal.-Matthew Todd, Northern Virginia Community Coll., Annandale Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
An examination of the 1820 prosecution of unpopular George IV's popular queen, arguing that it instigated and/or solidified a variety of cultural changes in England and perhaps prevented a civil war. Although numerous biographies of both parties (e.g., Steven Parissien's George IV, 2002; Flora Fraser's The Unruly Queen, 1996) retell the story of Caroline's trial on charges of sexual infidelity, it prompts perennial fascination thanks to its seamy and steamy aspects. (In the courtroom, some of the queen's former servants testified about nasty stains on bedding and Her Highness' hand resting on the groin of a man who was not her husband. American readers will recall the Clinton impeachment.) British journalist Robins begins with the engagement in 1794 of young Caroline, Princess of Brunswick, to George, Prince of Wales. The soon-to-be-newlyweds had never met, and when they finally did, some five months later, George was aghast. He found Caroline physically repulsive, unclean and smelly, and judged her behavior far too frisky for the staid English court. (Secretly married to Maria Fitzherbert-"the only woman I shall ever love," he told his brother on his wedding morning-the prince was hardly unbiased.) George and Caroline managed to conceive a daughter, Princess Charlotte, but by 1797, the royal couple were separated and the Queen was living on the continent. There she traveled, spent tens of thousands of pounds and, according to her enemies, frolicked inappropriately with Italian solider Bartolomeo Pergami. When George III died, Caroline headed home to recommence life with George IV, who almost immediately sought a divorce. It proved to be an unwise move: the common folk preferred Carolineto her husband, as did most of the press, the opposition Whig party and political radicals. There were massive demonstrations in her favor, and her acquittal, argues Robins, empowered the people and strengthened the opposition press. A lucid account of one of the messiest, sleaziest and most dangerous times in British history.