This story begins with a family of brothers, of whom one will inherit the family titles and fortune: Hanover, Celle and Osnabruck. When it falls on the one brother least eager for the responsibilities, Duke George William, he passes it on to a younger brother with a few concessions — the main one that he continues his bachelor life and never marries, as there can be no rivals to the brother who takes on the family affairs. As life would have it, during George William’s travels he discovers the one woman he would settle down with, and she won’t have him any other way than through a respectable ceremony. A civil agreement is drawn up and George William signs extra documents stating that any children he has will not rival his brother’s, Ernest Augustus, for the lands and titles.
Meanwhile, George William settles into a happy family life. He and his wife, Eleonore, soon discover they made a grave mistake by allowing their lands and riches to go to the younger brother upon the Duke’s death. They have but one child, a girl, and she stands to lose almost everything due to the agreement. Her mother plans a great marriage for her to another German principality, but is thwarted by Ernest Augustus when he suggests a marriage to his eldest son, the bad mannered and ungainly soldier, George Lewis (the future King George I of England). The beautiful girl, Sophia Dorothea, must leave her loving home to marry into the rival family she has been taught to hate all of her young life.
The marriage turns out quite miserable, though produces two adored children. Sophia Dorothea’s father-in-law has a reigning mistress, Clara von Platen, who loathes the princess and concocts many schemes to dishonor or shame her. After years of neglect, the princess finally falls for a Swedish wandering solider, Count Konigsmarck, who has also caught the eye of Clara. Through him Clara plans the ultimate downfall of Sophia Dorothea.
Once the story settles down with the life of Sophia Dorothea it becomes very interesting. Though he is not a saint, Ernest Augustus seems to be a mostly fair and honest man, and ends up his daughter-in-law’s champion in many cases, though his choice of mistress causes most of the problems.
I enjoyed this book, but it is not one of my favorite Plaidy novels — there was plenty of political intrigue, but of minor states. Overall, it is worth reading as it gives a good background of England’s George I and how he came to the throne.