Queen Caroline of Ansbach was the most powerful consort in British history—but she used that power to enact an unspeakably vicious revenge.
Caroline Of Ansbach Facts
1. She Was A Juggernaut
As Queen Consort of Britain, Caroline of Ansbach’s job was to sit back and be supportive of her King, George II. Well, that’s not what happened. Smarter than her royal husband—smarter than pretty much everyone, actually—Caroline schemed and plotted against her enemies…especially the ones within her own family.
Read on for one of the most brutal family feuds of all time.
2. She Watched Her Family Perish
Maybe it’s no wonder Caroline had so many interpersonal issues—she started out her life in a nightmare family situation. Though she was born in 1683 as the daughter of a German noble clan, none of this privilege saved her from tragedy.
Her father perished from smallpox when she was three, and her mother died when she was 13, turning her into an orphan. Still, that’s right when destiny came knocking.
3. She Was Super Smart
Alone and vulnerable, Caroline ended up in the court of the King and Queen of Prussia—after all, Queen Sophia of Prussia had been her mother’s friend. Sophia quickly took the girl in as her ward, only to discover that Caroline had a rare intellect and curiosity, not to mention that she was also turning into a beautiful woman.
This meant there was only one thing to do.
4. She Was The Number One Bachelorette
Caroline’s noble breeding, pleasing face, and sharp smarts made her, as her surrogate mother Queen Sophia put it, “the most agreeable Princess in Germany”. So it was no time at all before the Queen of Prussia was plotting to marry Caroline off to the future Holy Roman Emperor. But Caroline’s response stunned everyone.
Marrying the suitor meant changing religions, so Caroline—showing a stubborn side even then—said no. Within months, she’d have an even bigger problem to deal with.
5. Her Mother-Figure Died Suddenly
In 1705, Caroline went through her third enormous ordeal in her young life. That year, her beloved Queen Sophia passed suddenly from pneumonia at only 36 years old. The news threw Caroline into a depressive stupor, and she wrote to a friend, “The calamity has overwhelmed me with grief and sickness, and it is only the hope that I may soon follow her that consoles me”.
Yet once more, fate had a far different plan in store for Caroline.
6. A Strange Man Visited Her
Queen Sophia may have been gone, but that summer the late monarch still managed to give Caroline a gift—of a kind. In June, Sophia’s nephew, Prince George Augustus of the House of Hanover, visited Caroline’s court. But his appearance turned out to be deeply bizarre. Oddly, George came to visit in disguise, and his reasons had nothing to do with practical joking.
7. She Had A Stalker Suitor
Prince George was on a serious mission to find a bride like Caroline and make heirs, but his family history in the marriage department was…not good. In fact, the House of Hanover was notorious for in-fighting, and his own father’s marriage to Sophia Dorothea of Celle had ended with the patriarch (allegedly) killing his wife’s lover and (definitely) locking her up for decades, without ever letting her see her children again.
As such, George thought it best to do some re-con on Caroline as his potential bride. He just had no idea how it would backfire.
8. She Didn’t Play Games
Don’t get me wrong: George was obsessed with Caroline from the start. He’d heard rumors of her “incomparable beauty and mental attributes,” but the reality far outstripped even his imagination, and soon he “would not think of anyone else after her”. The thing was…Caroline, sharp as ever, knew who he was from the start.
Lucky for him, though, she also liked what she saw, and she agreed at last to a match with him. That said, she might have had some ulterior motives.
9. She Stepped Into A Royal Life
Now, George’s family was firmly in the “utterly dysfunctional” category, what with the locking up of his mother and him never seeing her again. But they did have one thing going for them: They were virtually next in line for the English throne.
Although their distant cousin Queen Anne currently ruled, she was sickly and without children. Soon, the scepter was due to go to George’s father and, eventually, to George himself. It’s hard not to think that cunning Caroline had her eye on the crown when she said yes to George—but she also had absolutely no idea what she was really in for.
10. Her In-Laws Were Intense
Before that summer ended, Caroline traveled to George’s home court of Hanover and married him in a simple ceremony…and that’s when the pressure started. Her in-laws wanted a male heir right now, so much so that George’s father even forbade him from attending military campaigns until he put a bun in Caroline’s oven—and as long as that bun came out as a boy.
It was the price of marrying into a soon-to-be royal line, but Caroline found a way to come out on top. (She always did).
11. She Produced An Heir In No Time
Defying the odds and even the conventions of their time, George and Caroline were deeply in love and had no problem doing their marital duty—which is why Caroline got pregnant almost instantly. In a stroke of luck, she also gave birth to a boy, Frederick, in January of 1707.
In a different story, the birth of a son without any trouble would have been a good omen for Caroline. Instead, it was a disaster from the very start.
12. She Nearly Met A Gruesome End
Soon after giving birth, Caroline fell deathly ill with smallpox and then pneumonia, and she started fighting for her life. While the palace kept her infant son away from her to prevent him catching anything, her husband’s response was heartbreaking. Devoted to his wife, George stayed by her side to nurse her, even catching smallpox himself.
Thankfully, they both survived—but looking back, it was just the beginning of a wild ride with little Prince Frederick. And speaking of wild…
13. Her Husband Was A Dog
Caroline’s husband may have loved her enough to brave smallpox for her, but he didn’t love her enough to be a one-woman man. As many nobles did at the time, George kept several mistresses in addition to keeping up his bedroom habits with Caroline. He must have, anyway, because she popped out three more children, all girls, in under a decade.
Only, when it comes to this side-piece situation, there’s something of a twist.
14. She Loved To Control People
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Caroline of Ansbach was a smart cookie. She knew just how to deal with her husband’s wandering eye. Instead of fighting against it, she went with it, even encouraging George to speak to her about his mistresses—that way, she was still on the inside, not the outside. Not only that, she often employed these women as her ladies-in-waiting, all so she could keep a hawk-eye on their comings and goings.
Caroline brought calmness and balance to George’s historically tumultuous house, but she was going to need every ounce of Zen she had for the next few years.
15. She Became The Princess Of Wales
In 1714, Queen Anne of Great Britain died, and Caroline’s father-in-law became King George I of England, while she and her husband became the Prince and Princess of Wales. Accordingly, Caroline traveled over to England—the only sea voyage she ever took—to pick up her titles in person and settle into royal life. But she forgot one thing back home.
16. She Abandoned Her Son
When Caroline and George went over to England to sit at King George I’s feet, they brought most of their daughters with them, but left their seven-year-old Prince Frederick back home for his uncle to raise him. Maybe this seemed like a good idea at the time, but it would be 14 long years before they ever saw him again…among other issues.
Caroline, however, wasn’t one to wallow in sentimentality. In fact, she got embroiled in British intrigue almost immediately.
17. She Had Too Much Power
When Caroline went over to England and became Princess of Wales, a whole lot else about her life changed. Because there was no Queen Consort—I’ll remind you again that the King of England still had his ex-wife locked up somewhere in Germany—Caroline was actually now the highest-ranking woman in the realm. Well, that power definitely went to her head.
18. She Was An Enemy Of The Throne
The royal family is supposed to present a united front to their people, but getting a bunch of entitled nobles to get along is no easy task. Caroline started stirring the pot within weeks. While King George I was thoroughly German, Caroline and her husband wanted to anglicize themselves. They quickly engaged themselves in British politics, culture, and friendships. This wasn’t exactly a good thing.
19. She Had A Rival Court
It might seem innocent and good-hearted for Caroline and George to engage with British culture, but they knew exactly what they were doing. They now looked completely new and modern next to the fusty old King, and their popularity soared…just like Caroline had probably intended all along. After all, she was going to be the next Queen of England.
Before long, they had established a fully-fledged rival court in opposition to the monarch, which King George was very unhappy about. That old House of Hanover dysfunction was popping up again, and tensions rose to a fever pitch. When that fever broke, it was tragic.
20. She Went Through An Ordeal
In the midst of these political machinations, Caroline fell pregnant again—but this time, it didn’t go her way at all. After four healthy pregnancies, she now gave birth to a stillborn son. People close to her blamed the tragedy on the idiocy of English doctors, but the bitterness brewing in the royal court must not have helped matters.
Caroline was likely devastated, but she couldn’t have known it was going to go from uneasy to nightmarish overnight.
21. She Thought She Was On Top Again
In 1717, a year after her stillbirth, Caroline gave birth to another healthy boy, Prince George William. Ecstatic at her successful pregnancy, Caroline happily prepared for the boy’s baptism. Yet here, she made a rare miscalculation. She hadn’t taken into account that the royal court was a tinderbox as dry as a desert, and it was about to explode right in her face.
22. The King Banished Her
On the “happy” day of George William’s baptism, King George I—who had probably been waiting for his chance snap back—suddenly took issue with his son and daughter-in-law’s choice of godparents. His revenge was unspeakably brutal. Instead of talking the issue up with them, the King placed Caroline and her husband under house arrest at St James’s Palace, then banished them from court entirely.
Unfortunately for Caroline, his wrath didn’t stop there.
23. She Was An Exiled Princess
In the aftermath of Baptismgate, King George I forcibly separated Caroline and her husband from their children—including the newborn—insisting the babies stay with him while the couple sat in exile. It was a vicious punishment meant to show the upstart Prince and Princess of Wales who actually held the scepter and the power in Britain…but this time, the King had gone too far.
24. She Defied The King
During this separation, Caroline went literally sick with worry over her children and drove herself into such a frenzy that she even snuck into the King’s palace to visit them in secret. Eventually, King George I couldn’t help but notice and feel guilty for the stress he was causing, and he allowed her free access to her babies. Except by then it was too little, too late.
25. She Went Through A Mother’s Worst Nightmare
In February of 1718, Caroline’s worst nightmare surfaced. Her youngest boy Prince George William fell ill and died when he was just a handful of months old. The palace even had an autopsy to make sure the separation from his mother wasn’t what killed him; it turned out he had a polyp on his heart.
But whatever the cause of death, the boy’s passing didn’t help King George I’s popularity, nor did it go any way to repairing his relationship with his son and Caroline. Unfortunately, the hits kept coming.
26. She Endured A Horrible Year
Caroline’s nerves were obviously frayed down to the core by now, because the very year her infant passed, she miscarried another child—and all it took was being startled by a storm while she was at home. The Princess of Wales buried her third child, and although she would go on to have three more healthy children, she never forgot that King George I was the co-author of her misfortunes.
So what was a smart, driven woman to do? Come up with a ruthless plot, of course—one that would fail miserably.
27. She Made A Cunning Plot
Caroline was too smart to simply declare open hostilities between herself and her father-in-law. Instead, she befriended the politician Robert Walpole so that she could have some real power behind the scenes in the government. For a little while, it worked. Walpole even had her and her husband stage a just-for-show public reconciliation with the crown to get more influence and—Caroline hoped—get her children back from the King.
This did not unfold the way she wanted.
28. Her Ally Played Her
Caroline was used to impeccably running the show in her household—again, she was far smarter than her husband, who knew and respected that fact—but her alliance with Walpole taught her a harsh lesson about her fallibility. Walpole was actually using her to get his own power back, and while Caroline’s custody negotiations went nowhere, Walpole became the de facto Prime Minister of Britain.
Empty-handed and frustrated, Caroline had to find another way to seek vengeance. In the end, it came in the most natural way possible.
29. She Became Consort
In 1727, Caroline got violent news that likely overjoyed her. King George I had been traveling when he suffered a stroke on the road. Although he lingered for another day or so, the King of England—and thorn in Caroline’s side—passed on June 11, 1727. At long last, she was now Queen Consort, and her husband was King George II of Great Britain.
One of her first acts was to unite her family at last…but this was the opening of a Pandora’s box she would never close.
30. She Got A Family Reunion
Caroline now had possession of the children King George I had kept from her, but she still had to call over her son Prince Frederick—remember him?—from where he had been languishing back in Germany for a decade and a half. Now a grown man, Frederick joined the family in England as the new Prince of Wales in 1728.
Only, this was no happy reunion. When Caroline saw her son again, the troubles began.
31. Her Son Was A Bad Man
In the years since Caroline had seen her son, Prince Frederick had undergone a troubling transformation. He was now a drinking, gambling rake who kept several mistresses—but that wasn’t the worst part. Frederick also had quite the chip on his shoulder for his absentee parents and, in a case of karma for Caroline’s own activities as the Princess of Wales, quickly surrounded himself with her political enemies.
If only it had stopped there.
32. She Understood Power
Throughout the years, Caroline’s political acumen had remained sharp as ever; she even encouraged her husband to keep their old frenemy Robert Walpole in power because she knew how influential he was and wanted to stay on his good side. Starting in 1728, this kind of political genius paid her back tenfold. When King George II was abroad, it was Caroline who acted as regent, not the black sheep Frederick.
That’s right, only Caroline of Ansbach could find a way to cement her influence and insult her son at the same time. Uh, but did it ever backfire on her.
33. The Country Turned On Her
In 1736, King George II was out of town once more, and Caroline was acting as regent in his stead again. Then it all went so wrong. One of the King and Queen’s detractors posted a satirical note to the gate of the royal palace that snarkily read: “Lost or strayed out of this house, a man who has left a wife and six children”.
It was one of the first rumblings against Caroline’s influence on George, but the situation was about to turn into an earthquake.
34. Her Husband Had A Shipwreck
When King George II did try to return to his post in England a few months later, a spate of bad luck nearly destroyed everything. First, his ship ran into a storm, which sent rumors spinning around London that the King was dead. When he finally made it back, it went from bad to worse, as he collapsed into his bed with a fever.
Caroline must have been sick with worry from end to end—but her son Frederick only saw it as a vicious opportunity.
35. Her Son Put Out A Ruinous Rumor
While Frederick had inherited his mother’s distaste for the older generation, he’d gotten none of her political cunning, and everything he did was big, loud, and brash. Case in point: Frederick quickly spread another rumor around town that now the King really was dead, forcing George II to clamber out of his four-poster in a feverish haze just to prove that no, he really wasn’t.
At this point, Caroline and George knew they had to do something about their idiot son. Their solution, however, was a disastrous one.
36. She Got A New Daughter-In-Law
Perhaps hoping that married life would settle her son down, Caroline had married Frederick off to the 16-year-old Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha just before the whole shipwreck debacle. Well, it did not settle him down; it just gave him a new pawn to move around in his attempts to insult his parents any way he could.
At one point, he instructed the naïve Augusta to always arrive to chapel after Queen Caroline. That way, when she got in, Augusta would have to rudely nudge the consort out of the way to get to her spot. It was a petty annoyance Frederick took immense joy in, but his next move was when this feud became truly ridiculous.
37. Her Son Tried To Keep Her From Her Grandchildren
When Frederick’s new bride got pregnant, he found another way to get revenge on his mother and father. As soon as he found out Augusta was in labor, he launched a brutal plot. He forced the poor princess to travel in the middle of the night to an out-of-the-way palace and give birth to a baby daughter—on a tablecloth, no less, since said palace wasn’t ready to receive her.
Why do this? It was all so his parents wouldn’t be present for the birth of their grandchild. When Caroline found out, her reply was merciless.
38. She Knew How To Come Up With An Insult
Caroline was no rookie to the “I hate my family” game, and although she was horrified at Frederick’s actions, she managed to get in her own cutting insult. See, royal births usually had a bunch of witnesses, mostly because people wanted to make sure the child, especially if it was a boy, was legitimate not some kind of changeling.
So when Caroline discovered it was a baby girl, she sniffed with relief that it was a “poor, ugly little she-mouse” instead of a “large, fat, healthy boy”. But she didn’t stop at mere words.
39. She Banished Her Own Son
Trying to cut your royal parents out of the line of succession isn’t recommended, and Caroline and King George II made sure their son paid dearly for his sins. They banished him from their court—as the old King had done to them—and parents and son were now officially estranged from each other.
Yet somehow, even after all that, it managed to get more awkward.
40. She Wanted To Disinherit Him
Frederick grew up not knowing his mother, so maybe we can forgive him for not understanding how truly dangerous she was. Soon, Caroline and George weren’t just openly favoring their younger son Prince William, they even investigated ways to split up the inheritance so that Frederick got as little of their holdings as legally possible.
Around this time, Caroline also said things you can never, ever take back.
41. She Was Vicious
Caroline’s hatred for her son was deep, and she didn’t mince her words about it. She reportedly once said, “I wish the ground would open this moment and sink the monster to the lowest hole in hell”—or, speaking of Frederick’s long-suffering wife Augusta: “Poor creature, were she to spit in my face, I should only pity her for being under such a fool’s direction, and wipe it off”.
Motherhood—at least with a son like Frederick—clearly didn’t agree with Caroline. It would also be her downfall.
42. Her Body Betrayed Her
Way back in 1724, when Caroline gave birth to her final child, she’d suffered a serious umbilical hernia. More than a decade later, it came back to haunt her in the worst way imaginable. After a formal reception in the winter of 1737, Caroline was in utter agony and took to her bed. Disgustingly enough, part of her intestine had come through that old hernia opening, and the situation was now threatening her life.
This is when the desperation started.
43. The Palace Tried Desperately To Save Her
King George II was still very much in love with his wife, and had the royal medics launch into a series of procedures he hoped would cure her. But no amount of operations, purging, or bleeding worked, and Caroline’s agony only grew. Eventually, Queen Caroline realized the end was near. So she enacted one of the final revenges of her life.
44. She Refused To See Her Son
During this time, Caroline’s son Frederick had been trying to see his dying mother one last time. Her response was ice cold. Under his wife’s direction, King George II forbid Frederick from seeing Caroline, and though the Queen Consort did relent and send a message later that indicated her forgiveness, that note was probably a tad passive-aggressive.
Of course, then she got downright aggressive.
45. She Got A Final Revenge
Caroline’s last moments on Earth were tragically painful. Her strangulated bowel burst on November 17, 1737, and she writhed for four more days before passing on the 20th at the age of 54. There was, however, a dying triumph. When attendants buried her in Westminster Abbey, she made sure her son Frederick wasn’t invited to the funeral.
46. Her Husband Fell To Pieces
Another consolation for her painful end? Caroline’s fading moments on Earth also contained her husband’s love. The King reportedly sobbed at her bedside as she slipped away, and when she insisted that he remarry after she passed, he protested, “No, I shall have mistresses!” leading her to quip, “My God, that doesn’t prevent it!”
When King George II followed her to the grave 23 years later, it was in a matching coffin right beside her. Not all her relationships got that kind of closure.
47. Her Son Met A Horrible End
In the end, all of Caroline’s feuding with her son Prince Frederick came to naught. Not only was she dust in the wind now, but Frederick never even lived long enough to be King of England. In 1751, at the age of 44, he likely suffered a pulmonary embolism and passed suddenly, leaving his son—Caroline’s grandson—to become George III instead.
48. She Was On The Cutting Edge
Caroline’s intelligence and curiosity made her one of the most fascinating women of her day, but it also put her right on the cutting edge of many 18th-century discourses and advancements. One of her close friends and correspondents was the famous philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, and she held salons for writers like Jonathan Swift. But her most lasting intellectual legacy had a very dark side.
49. She Put Her Children At Risk
At the time, medics were testing out new ways of inoculating against deadly illnesses such as smallpox, the virus that felled Caroline’s own father. Caroline supported this research, first by testing the potentially dangerous inoculation on condemned prisoners…and then by performing the inoculation on her own children, Frederick included.
Did it work? Yes. Does it give some insight into Caroline’s parenting style? Just a little.
50. She Was Extremely Powerful
Caroline’s political and emotional influence over King George II—as well as her influence over her family feuds—remains her legacy today, and people were certainly aware of it during her time. One satirical and none-too-complimentary poem went: “You may strut, dapper George, but ’twill all be in vain, We all know ’tis Queen Caroline, not you, that reign” before continuing, “Then if you would have us fall down and adore you, Lock up your fat spouse, as your dad did before you”.
Personally, I wouldn’t dare to risk getting on Caroline’s bad side like that.