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It is characteristic of the way in which historians have neglected the House of Hanover that no life with any claim to completeness has yet been written of Caroline of Ansbach, Queen-Consort of George the Second, and four times Queen-Regent. Yet she was by far the greatest of our QueensConsort, and wielded more authority over political affairs than any of our Queens-Regnant with the exception of Elizabeth, and, in quite another sense, Victoria. The ten years of George the Second's reign until her death would be more properly called “ The Reign of Queen Caroline,” since for that period Caroline governed England with Walpole. And during those years the great principles of civil and religious liberty, which were then bound up with the maintenance of the Hanoverian dynasty, were firmly established in England.
Therefore no apology is needed for attempting to portray the life of this remarkable princess, and endeavouring to give some idea of the influence
which she exercised in her day and upon her generation. The latter part of Caroline's life is covered to some extent by Lord Hervey's Memoirs, and we get glimpses of her also in Horace Walpole's works and in contemporary letters. But Lord Hervey's Memoirs do not begin until Caroline became Queen, and though he enjoyed exceptional facilities of observation, he wrote with an obvious bias, and often imputed to the Queen motives and sentiments which were his rather than hers, and used her as the mouthpiece of his own prejudices and personal animosities.
Of Queen Caroline's life before she came to England nothing, or comparatively nothing, has hitherto been known, and very little has been written of the difficult part which she played as Princess of Wales throughout the reign of George the First. On Caroline's early years this book may claim to throw fresh light. By kind permission of the Prussian authorities I am able to publish sundry documents from the Hanoverian Archives which have never before been given to the world, more especially those which pertain to the betrothal and marriage of the princess. The hitherto unpublished despatches of Poley, Howe and D'Alais, English envoys at Hanover, 1705-14,
1 Dr. A. W. Ward's sketch of Caroline of Ansbach in the Dictionary of National Biography contains some facts concerning this period of her life, but they are necessarily brief.
give fresh information concerning the Hanoverian Court at that period, and the despatches of Bromley, Harley and Clarendon, written during the eventful year 1714, show the strained relations which existed between Queen Anne and her Hanoverian cousins on the eve of the Elector of Hanover's accession to the English throne.
In order to make this book as complete as possible I have visited Ansbach, where Caroline was born, Berlin, the scene of her girlhood, and Hanover, where she spent her early married years. I have searched the Archives in all these places, and have further examined the records in the State Paper Office, London, and the Manuscript Department of the British Museum. A list of these, and of other authorities quoted herein, published and unpublished, will be found at the end of this book.
In The Love of an Uncrowned Queen (Sophie Dorothea of Celle, Consort of George the First) I gave a description of the Courts of Hanover and Celle until the death of the first Elector of Hanover, Ernest Augustus. This book continues those studies of the Court of Hanover at a later period. It brings the Electoral family over to England and sketches the Courts of George the First and George the Second until the death of Queen Caroline. The influence which Caroline wielded throughout that troublous time, and the part she played in maintaining the Hanoverian dynasty upon the throne of England, have never been fully recognised. George the First and George the Second were not popular princes; it would be idle to pretend that they were. But Caroline's gracious and dignified personality, her lofty ideals and pure life did much to counteract the unpopularity of her husband and father-in-law, and redeem the early Georgian era from utter grossness. She was rightly called by her contemporaries “ The Illustrious”. If this book helps to do tardy justice to the memory of a great Queen and good woman it will not have been written in vain.