Nonfiction Book Reviews
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Title: Caroline and Charlotte: Regency Scandals 1795-1821 / Caroline & Charlotte : The Regent's Wife And Daughter 1795-1821
Author: Alison Plowden
First published 1989 in London by Sidgwick & Jackson. This edition published 2005 by Sutton Publishing Limited.
ISBN: 0-7509-4173-1 (0283994894)
294 pages. The 2005 paperback edition contains the text only of the original printing. The 1989 edition is 228 pages, illustrated and includes 16 pages of plates.
Of all family occasions a christening should be one of the most joyful, and to the outward eye the christening - with the first representative of the long-awaited new generation thriving in the nest of silk and lace, a young mother whos demonstrable fecundity gave every promise of male heirs to come, and a father who had at last entered the holy estate of lawful matrimony and provided for the Protestant Succession this christening certainly seemed to give the circle of doting aunts and proud grandparents a legitimate (in every sense) excuse for rejoicing. So it was especially mortifying that the event should have coincided with the moment when it was no longer possible to ignore or conceal the impending breakdown of relations between the baby's parents.
Realms of books have been written about the Prince Regent and future king George IV; after all, he lent his name to a whole era. In these biographies, the two women that should have been closest to him - his wife and his daughter - appear more as footnotes than an integral part of his life, which is rather like his own treatment of them. It was therefore nice to come across Alison Plowden's book that concentrates on these two rather neglected historical women. Here Caroline and Charlotte are allowed room, while Prinny is relegated to second place.
Citing of original sources is a major strength in this biography. We hear what people actually said about these women rather than having it filtered through the author's interpretation. It is also a weakness in this case since little or no effort is spent on trying to understand, let alone to get under the skin of either Caroline or Charlotte. What we have is a rather dry collection of, sometimes unconnected, facts and excerpts from letters, newspaper articles and diaries. What should have been the author notes on the subject has become the main text.
A major drawback for me was the rather supercilious tone of the author, whom had little sympathy for her subjects other than in a general way. Plowden writes about how badly Caroline was prepared for her roll as future queen of England yet fails to grasp the width of her problems. All through I could almost hear Plowden saying to herself 'Thank goodness I'm not like that!' which I found rather disconcerting. A little empathy would have gone a long way here. Rather a shame as the book is otherwise well worth reading.
The language is rather academic in nature, although a less than flowing prose is a common failing by factual writers. It is not a book to devour from cover to cover, unlike David's biography Prince of Pleasure about the husband and father. Caroline and Charlotte is full of facts, heavily sourced and for that reason alone has a place in any well rounded Regency history collection.
- With All My Heart I Marry...
- Separation in High Life
- The Delicate Investigation
- A Most Engaging Child
- A Pretty Queen You'll Make!
- The Plan of Protracted Infancy
- The Orange Match
- The Flight of the Princess
- Charlotte the Bride
- That Good and Generous Charlotte
A Note on Sources