The Queen's lost library
Country Life UK|January 12, 2022
New research offers fresh insight into the splendid interiors of Queen Caroline’s library, a compact building by William Kent that once overlooked London’s Green Park, reveals Rufus Bird
Rufus Bird
QUEEN CAROLINE (1683–1737), consort of George II, combined an intellectual curiosity, characteristic of enlightened princely courts across Europe, with the duties of consort, mother and queen. One of her many brilliant achievements was the creation of a beautiful, compact library building overlooking Green Park, London SW1. It no longer survives, but it deserves to be remembered.

Caroline was raised in the sophisticated courts of Germany, then sent away, first to Berlin, to the court of Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg, and, after 1692, brought back to Dresden to live with her parents, John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and his second wife, Eleonore of Saxe-Eisenach. Tragically, both were dead by 1696: the 13-year-old princess and her 11-year-old brother were taken to Ansbach by their half-brother George Frederick, who had inherited the Margravate. Soon after, Elector Frederick III, their earliest protector, suggested the siblings return to live with him in Berlin. Some years later, in June 1705, Caroline met her future husband, George Augustus of Brunswick-Lüneburg, son of George Louis, Elector of Hanover. They were married in September the same year.

After Queen Anne’s death in August 1714, the new King brought his son and family to London that autumn and took up residence in St James’s Palace. For two centuries, it had been a sort of royal ‘nursery’, but, after Whitehall Palace burned in 1698, it had become the principal seat of the monarch.

With George I’s death in 1727, the new King and Queen moved into the Sovereign’s private apartments, which lay in the south-eastern corner of St James’s Palace. The Queen’s private apartment was probably on the ground floor on the south side, adjoining the King’s apartment in the south-east corner. Conveniently nearby were the rooms of one of the Queen’s Women of the Bedchamber, Henrietta Howard, Lady Suffolk—who was also the King’s mistress.

George II, like his father before him, went back to Hanover for the summer months in roughly every other year of his reign. By the early 1730s, his interest in his mistress began to wane and he became irritable. However, on the King’s return from Hanover in 1735, Caroline noticed that his notoriously short temper had improved and attributed his demeanour to his new mistress, Amalie von Wallmoden, who remained in Hanover.

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