21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
a royal mistress of much decorum - a delightful entertaining book,
This review is from: King's Mistress, Queen's Servant: The Life and Times of Henrietta Howard (Paperback)
Henrietta Howard (1688 - 1767), was the daughter of Sir Henry Hobart, a Norfolk landowner who was killed in a duel when Henrietta was still a child. Having become the ward of the Earl of Suffolk, she married his youngest son, Charles Howard, in 1706. The marriage was a very unhappy one as Charles was violent, a drunkard and squandering the few resources of the couple. She was able to acquire the respect to Princess Caroline of Ansbach, wife of the Electoral Prince George and future princess of Wales and Queen Consort. On the accession of George I she became a Woman of the Bedchamber and her husband was appointed to the household of the new king. Very unusual Henrietta managed to secure a legal separation, not a divorce, in 1723, but lost her only son to her husband. In June 1718 she became the Prince of Wales mistress and remained in this position for near 20 years, a position held with the approval of the Queen who tightly controlled the King and any influence on him. Being in the service of the Queen did leave Henrietta not much room for manoevre. After her husband had become quite unexpected the Earl of Suffolk and Henrietta the countess of Suffolk, in spite of being separated from him, she was appointed mistress of the robes of the Queen. However that signaled the slow end of her career at court. In 1734 she left the court, settled in her house at Twickenham, Marble Hill, married George Berkeley, younger son of the Earl of Berkeley in 1735, and lived the live of well to do countess, with a wide circle of influential friend like Alexander Pope or Horace Walpole. She was a well respected lady and a model of decorum.
Royal mistresses have always been a favorite subject for biographies or novels. Many royal mistresses are still well known and their scandalous antics are still well known and their semi-royal off-springs feature prominently in the peerage. Well Henrietta Howard, later to be the Countess of Suffolk, was in many ways different.
First she is not one of the very well known royal mistresses, maybe because her royal lover, King George II is equally not well known. He seems to have been one of the most boring royal ever to sit on the British throne. His reign seems to be a "forgotten one" and with him his mistress. But her position of a royal mistress was hardly attached to notion of scandal. It was known, but conducted with tact and under the tight control of Queen Caroline herself.
This excellent biography is a great study of the court life under George I and George II. It is a biography as well on George II and his Queen Caroline as much as on Henrietta. I value most how Tracy Borman clearly explains the position of women at this time and the inferior treatment they received in life, in the legal world. It is pure discrimination and one of the many reasons why the "good old times" where not as good as some want us to believe. Henrietta managed to escape the clutches of her husband, rather the exception than the rule. The book is written with a great flow, knowledge, sympathy but the necessary distance to the subject.
Alison Weir said "This is a delightful entertaining book". Yes, she is absolutely right. I hope you will enjoy as much as I did to meet this extraordinary woman, a royal mistress of much decorum.