The dull and densely told lives of six women whose effect on history was negligible.
We can only be grateful there were no more daughters born to George III and Queen Charlotte—not that Fraser (The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline, 1996) doesn’t strive mightily to convince us of the consequence of her prodigious research.The author tells us early on that these women were “resilient, independent-minded women” worthy of our attention, but the many subsequent pages convince us of the contrary. Fraser follows each of the six—Charlotte (aka Princess Royal), Augusta, Elizabeth, Sophia, Amelia, Mary—from birth to death, drawing heavily on official and personal correspondence, telling us about nurses and servants, education, flirtations and marriages (not all found partners), relationships with their parents and their nine male siblings. Amelia died early (TB, at 27), but the rest lived awhile, and Fraser awards each a curtain-call chapter in the final 70 pages or so, telling us how she died, who was with her, how the survivors felt (they felt bad). The principal problem here is that these women just weren’t very interesting, and even Fraser drifts away from them to tell us, sometimes at length, about the madness of King George, about the corpulent, randy Regent and his troublesome wife (Caroline), or Caroline’s sad daughter (who died after complications from childbirth), or Napoleon (whom Royal knew and liked) or King William IV. And then, wouldn’t you know it, a really interesting woman appears, Victoria, and just how do you shift your focus from her and back to, say, the failing eyesight of Princess Sophia?
Evidence of the truth that six times zero is—well, zero.