In May, thoughts turn to the May Pole dances and Spring
celebrations in Merrie
Olde England. This month’s selections illumine the worlds of court and
entertainment, revealing the sometimes stark reality of life for women in
England in the 18th century—both high-born and commoner.
Married off to the dissolute, violent son of distant relations, Henrietta Howard
endures a life of increasing hardship until, to evade her husband’s creditors,
the two escape to Hannover. There, they ingratiate themselves with the
heirs-in-waiting to the British throne, Prince George and his wife, Caroline of
Ansbach. Henrietta becomes a Woman of the Bedchamber, her husband one of the
prince’s staff. But the prince has more in mind for Henrietta than attending his
wife, and to buttress herself against her abusive husband, Henrietta reluctantly
yields to him. So begins a relationship with the man who will become King George
II that spans decades, embraces a sort of friendship with Queen Caroline, and
ends finally with Henrietta building a life for herself as a woman of style and
intelligence who counted Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift among her friends and
built Marble Hill House, the prototype of the English Georgian villa that
remains a gem of the National Trust collection. Purcell’s story illumines with
deftness and detail the intricate, often boring, sometimes tawdry, life at the
early Georgian court.
Orphaned and trapped in an abusive marriage, Henrietta Howard has little left
to lose. She stakes everything on a new life in Hanover with its royal family,
the heirs to the British throne. Henrietta's beauty and intelligence soon win
her the friendship of clever Princess Caroline and her mercurial husband, Prince
George. But, as time passes, it becomes clear that friendship is the last thing
on the hot-blooded young prince's mind. Dare Henrietta give into his advances
and anger her violent husband? Dare she refuse?
Whatever George's shortcomings, Princess Caroline is determined to make the
family a success. Yet the feud between her husband and his obstinate father
threatens all she has worked for. As England erupts in Jacobite riots, her
family falls apart. She vows to save the country for her children to inherit -
even if it costs her pride and her marriage. Set in the turbulent years of the
Hanoverian accession, Mistress of the Court tells the story of two remarkable
women at the centre of George II's reign.
Moving on to the third George, Laura Purcell explores the life of Queen
Charlotte in QUEEN OF
BEDLAM. By 1788, Charlotte is forced to admit that her once-beloved husband,
for whom she bore fourteen children, had descended into madness. While his wife
battles to hold onto her husband’s throne in the midst of war and revolution,
the King’s illness also exacts a grim toll on the lives of his six daughters. A
princess cannot marry just anyone—but what royal family wants its son to wed the
daughter of a madman? Charlotte’s struggles and the voices of two of the trapped
princesses, Royal and Sophia, remind us that life in a royal palace is not
always a fairy tale of luxury and privilege.
An emotional tale based on historical fact imagining the impact of
King George III's madness on the lives of his wife and daughters
London 1788: the calm order of Queen Charlotte's court is shattered by
screams.The King of England is going mad. Left alone with 13
children and with the country at war, Charlotte has to fight to hold her
husband's throne. It is a time of unrest and revolutions but most of all
Charlotte fears the King himself, someone she can no longer love or trust. She
has lost her marriage to madness and there is nothing she can do except continue
to do her royal duty. Her six daughters are desperate to escape their palace
asylum. Their only chance lies in a good marriage, but no prince wants the
daughter of a madman. They are forced to take love wherever they can find it,
with devastating consequences.
Sadly, madness wasn’t confined to George III himself. In her classic THE LOST QUEEN, Norah Lofts gives us
George’s youngest sister, Caroline Matilda, who was married off at age 15 to a
cousin, King Christian VII of Denmark. In echoes of King Henry VIII and Anne of
Cleves, the groom took an immediate dislike to the bride. The initial disdain of
the king, who was probably schizophrenic, deepened over time, and though she was
lovely, talented and eager to please, the princess found herself scorned and
isolated. In her loneliness, she fell in love with the king’s personal
physician, Johann Struensee. When the King’s illness worsened to the point of
interfering with his ability to govern, Struensee became for several years
defacto ruler of Denmark. But the King’s mother opposed the two lovers,
threatening both stable rule, and Caroline and Johann’s very lives.
Fleeing persecution in Scotland, Sophie McGann accepts the help of an actor
friend, Hunter Robertson, who spirits her to London. Using skills honed in her
father’s business, she takes over her aunt’s bookstore and print shop in Covent
Garden. Drawn into the theatre community, she finds a mentor in actor/theatre
manager at Drury Lane, David Garrick, who encourages her to write her own plays.
But theatre censor Edward Capell dislikes women playwrights, and the charming
but devious Sir Peter Lindsay-Hoyt champions Sophie for reasons of his own. A
vivid portrait of the English theatre world of the late 18th-early
19th century, Ware’s novel places her heroine at the center of lively
society inhabited by the real-life Garricks, Sheridans, Capells and Brinsleys of
All of life's a wicked stage and love a dangerous drama...
If Shakespeare had a sister...
In 18th century London the glamorous Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres
were all the rage, beckoning every young actor, actress, playwright, and
performer with the lure of the stage lights. But competition and back-biting
between theatre owners, patrons, actors, and writers left aspiring playwrights
with their work stolen, profits withheld, and reputations on the line. For a
female, things were harder still, as the chances of a "petticoat playwright"
getting past the government censor was slim.
In this exciting and cutthroat world, a young woman with a skill for writing
and an ambition to see her work performed could rise to glory, or could lose all
in the blink of an eye...
In Ciji Ware's signature style, real-life characters of the day create a
backdrop for a portrait of a glittering era, a love story, and a compelling
glimpse into what life was like for a strong and independent-minded woman in an
emphatically man's world.
Ready to plait your flower crown, join the dancers, and join in a round before
heading off to the palace—or the theatre? Courtesy of this month’s authors, the
sights, sounds and smells of Merrie Olde England await!
After twelve years as a vagabond Navy wife, an adventure that took her from
Virginia Beach, VA, to Monterrey, CA, to Tunis, Tunisia to Oslo, Norway and
back, Julia Justiss followed her husband to his family's East Texas
homeland. On a hill above a pond with a view of pasture land, they built an
English Georgian-style home. Sitting at her desk there, if she ignores the
summer heat, she can almost imagine herself in Jane Austen's Regency
In between teaching high school French and making jaunts to visit
her three children (a Seabee in Gulfport, MS, a clothing buyer in Houston and a
mechanical engineer in Austin, TX) she pursues her first love—writing
Leader of Hadley’s Hellions, a group of outsiders who bond together at Oxford
vowing to reform Society, Giles Hadley wants nothing to do with the earl, his
father who banished him, or his stepbrother George, who is the bane of his
existence. But he’s curious about the woman rumor says George is to marry,
daughter and political hostess of prominent Tory Lord Witlow.
part, Lady Maggie finds angry rebel Giles far more fascinating than George—so
fascinating, that though she has no intention of risking her heart after losing
her beloved husband, she might just be tempted into an affair…