Books, Reviews

Royal Mistresses of the House of Hanover-Windsor

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This fascinating and colourful romp through the annals of royal history gives rare insight into the lives and loves of rather rampant royals from the house of Hanover-Windsor. The detailed description of pomp and privilege is also a rather refreshing escape from coronavirus overload.

Today’s royals, no matter how badly behaved, tone-deaf or spoiled, appear positively tame in comparison to their frisky and overindulged forbears. The apparent largely fictional The Crown Netflix series may beg to differ, but there is no doubt a wanton disregard for monogamy far exceeded current Royals norms. Marriage back then involved titles and bloodlines with the hope that love came later. In the 1800s, arranged marriages were made for ‘political, financial and dynastic reasons’ — mainly to produce the all-important heir.

“Most of them compensated for loveless arranged marriages to German cousins by taking mistresses. Royal brides had to have blue blood and be virginal to prevent any chance of a cuckoo in the royal nest, so a prince marrying his mistress was unthinkable,” says the author. Camilla Parker Bowles became the first royal mistress to be both bedded and wedded.

Camilla followed a grand tradition. Her great grandmother, Alice Keppel was King Edward VII’s beloved mistress, although on his death, neither Mrs Keppel nor the ‘hundreds of other extramarital affairs’ were of course mentioned. While cash-strapped former mistresses such as Daisy Brooke, Countess of Warwick occasionally attempted to bribe royals with love letters as collateral—evidence of a royal’s infidelity was mostly destroyed. Some of these scintillating details were, however, preserved.

The diary of Consuelo, older sister of Freda Dudley Ward, Edward VIII’s first mistress, gave intimate details of the prince’s indiscretions and sexual inadequacies (caused by childhood mumps).

Some of these scintillating details were, however, preserved. The diary of Consuelo, older sister of Freda Dudley Ward, Edward VIII’s first mistress, gave intimate details of the prince’s indiscretions and sexual inadequacies (caused by childhood mumps). Nicknamed the ‘Peter Pan Prince’, for his child-like behaviour, The Prince of Wales went on to inherit the Crown. He famously abdicated to marry his mistress, the twice-divorced American, Mrs Wallis Simpson and became Duke of Windsor. 

Portrayed as a heartless gold digger, Wallis initially wooed the prince by pandering to his deep-seated psychological and sexual issues. These were lasting effects from his affection-deprived childhood and being raised by his abusive and rather depraved Nanny Greene.

While most royal indiscretions were quietly whitewashed, the advent of tell-all tabloids and mercenary paparazzi meant Princess Diana’s life played out before our eyes. By all accounts, it began as a fairytale. Who could forget the glowing princess-in-love gliding down the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral in her beautiful crushed ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown? But the author (rather more factually than the Crown), reveals the fairytale was a facade. “The Firm”, as Fergie liked to call it, had advised a much older Charles to marry the virginal Diana despite his great love for soulmate, Camilla. According to the author, Charles had spent the night before his wedding with Camilla while Diana was alone ‘eating bowls of ice cream and throwing up’.

Camilla, once deemed the scarlet woman, slowly gained entry into the royal courts and was even finally accepted as the heir to the throne’s loyal wife. The author says it was under her guidance that Kate Middleton learnt the Royal ropes. Camilla’s tiara is currently teetering a tad with millions of Crown viewers suddenly remembering her royal infidelity. Kate, on the other hand, is without blemish. Her marriage to Prince William in 2011, put an end to centuries of arranged royal marriages. Queen Elizabeth II had married for love and encouraged her grandsons to do the same.

One of the Royals missing from this historical caper is Prince Harry, who married way after the book’s publication. As everyone knows, he too defied royal tradition, dodging virginal royalty and choosing the glamorous and increasingly vocal social justice warrior, Meghan Markle instead. And how that unfolds, only time will tell.

Royal Mistresses of the House of Hanover-Windsor – Secrets, Scandals and Betrayals by Susanna de Vries is published by Pirgos Press.

Available on Amazon

Susanna’s latest book, Nell, is currently available through Boolarong Press.

Susanna de Vries is the author of 20 books including 12 biographies on significant women. She received an Order of Australia for “services to art and literature.”