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Summary

Often compared to Catherine the Great or Elizabeth I, Caroline of Ansbach is the great queen Britain forgot it had - a thinker, politician, schemer, patroness and matriarch. This brilliant book offers a remarkable portrait of a woman of great political astuteness and ambition, a radical icon of female power.

The intellectual superior of her buffoonish husband, George II, Caroline is credited with bringing the Enlightenment to Britain through her sponsorship of red-hot debates about science, religion, philosophy and the nature of the universe. Encouraged by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, she championed inoculation; inspired by her friend Leibniz and Samuel Clarke, she mugged up on Newtonian physics; she embraced a salon culture which promoted developments in music, literature and garden design; and she was a regular theatregoer who loved the opera, gambling and dancing. Her intimates marvelled at the breadth of her interests. She was, said Lord Egmont, 'curious in everything'.

Caroline acted as Regent four times whilst her husband returned to Hanover, and during those periods she possessed power over all domestic matters. No subsequent royal woman has exercised power on such a scale. So why has history forgotten this extraordinary queen?

In this magnificent biography, the first for over 70 years, Matthew Dennison seeks to reverse this neglect. The First Iron Lady uncovers the complexities of Caroline's multifaceted life from the child of a minor German princeling who, through intelligence, determination and a dash of sex appeal, rose to occupy one of the great positions of the world - and did so with distinction, élan and a degree of cynical realism.

©2017 Matthew Dennison (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic reviews

Praise for Matthew Dennison: "Fascinating...Dennison's clever, searching account of her life shows the incredible flight she had to make herself into the kind of woman she wanted to be." (The Times)
"A natural storyteller. Dennison's impeccable scholarship never weighs down his lively narrative." (The Independent)
"Finely written and dancingly quick." (TLS)

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  • Judith
  • STONEHOUSE, United Kingdom
  • 10-08-18

Interesting subject but poor narration

I was very much looking forward to listening to this book and, whilst I enjoyed learning more about Queen Caroline, this was limited by the narrator's poor reading. I find it difficult to understand how Godfrey Kneller's name could have been pronounced as K-neller rather than Kn-eller (with a silent K as in knee) but also how it passed any editing. Surely someone has to listen to this to make sure it is not gobbledygook? Didn't the author express any concerns about the narration?

Likewise when the narrator was reading an original article quoted in the text, that was written in a way that can appear odd or missspelt to us and therefore has the word (sic) added after it (meaning that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original), she also included that word in her reading, which is very off putting. It is very odd to suddenly hear the word 'sick' at the end of a sentence when it has absolutely no relevance to what has been spoken before. As we cannot see the misspelt word she did not need to include that abbreviation but because she obviously didn't understand what she was reading she included it to the detriment of her narration and my enjoyment of the book. I will look for more books by the same author but will avoid this narrator.