Melusine von der Schulenburg was the longtime mistress of King George I of Great Britain before he even succeeded as King. She gave birth to three daughters by George, although none of them were recognised by him. George’s wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle had been imprisoned following their divorce in 1694. His son, the future King George II, also kept a mistress, by the name of Henrietta Howard, who later also became Countess of Suffolk.
The Mistresses of George I & II: A Maypole & a Peevish Beast by Catherine Curzon covers the stories of these women in great detail. Naturally, we also cover the ultimate double standard of the time. Sophia Dorothea also had a lover and she was brutally punished for it. Her lover mysteriously disappeared and his body has never been found. Sophia Dorothea saw her marriage ended and never saw her children again. She spent the rest of her life imprisoned and never became Queen of Great Britain.
Henrietta Howard had a Queen to compete with but she was generally on good terms with Caroline of Ansbach. She never bore her lover any children and had considerably less influence than Melusine. Henrietta’s own marriage to Charles Howard was practically non-existent. He liked to spend her money as far away from her as possible. They had a single son together. The couple never officially divorced so when Charles became Earl of Suffolk in 1731, she was entitled to call herself Countess of Suffolk. He died just two years and their son became the new Earl.
The book is a wonderful look at the Hanoverian court, although it can be a bit confusing at times. The author did her best to separate the many Georges and Sophias but sometimes they just become a blur. Don’t let that scare you off though, as this book is well worth the read.