Caroline of Ansbach

Image Credit: Warwick Shire Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

By Amy-Jane Humphries

Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737) the future Queen of Great Britain was born to the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, John Frederick, and his wife, Eleonore of Saxe-Eisenach. Caroline was the daughter-in-law of George I, wife of George II, and grandmother of George III. During the reign of George II, Caroline was popularly regarded as the power behind the throne. One famous saying from the period is: ‘You may strut, dapper George, but ‘twill all be in vain; We know ‘tis Queen Caroline, not you, that reign.’

Now, we cannot be certain how much power Caroline really did wield, but she undoubtedly had influence and she was key to Robert Walpole’s continued prominence within government. We do know that Caroline had a lot of personal influence over ecclesiastical appointments, though!

Caroline’s formative years had been spent in the court of the King and Queen of Prussia. She grew into a highly intelligent woman and was particularly interested in British history, as she understood that Anglicising the Hanoverian dynasty was key to its longevity.

Engraving of the royal couple and the children who survived infancy. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Caroline was the perfect Enlightenment princess. She was a great patron of musicians, artists, architects, scientists, and philosophers – the most notable of which being Gottfried Leibniz, the philosopher who was infamous for his row with Newton over Calculus. Caroline was no stranger to loss, though. She was orphaned at just thirteen and her life with the Hanoverians was marked by family strife between, first, her father-in-law and husband and then between herself, her husband, and their son, Frederick, Prince of Wales.

When Caroline died in November 1737, she was still not reconciled to her son and heir. George II was never quite the same after his wife’s death, and neither was the Hanoverian court. George II famously declared on Caroline’s deathbed that he would not take another wife. George stayed true to his promise, though he did keep mistresses in his twilight years. Caroline is a lesser-known queen, but one well worth reading up on. Her early life, which has not been discussed here, was as extraordinary as everything that followed.

Portrait by Joseph Highmore (1735). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Recommended Reading

Joanna Marschner, Queen Caroline: Cultural Politics at the Early Eighteenth-Century Court (London: Yale University Press, 2014)

Joanna Marschner, David Bindman, and Lisa L. Ford, Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World (London: Yale University Press, 2017)

Matthew Dennison, The First Iron Lady: A Life of Caroline of Ansbach (London: William Collins, 2017).

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