As the mistress and possible secret wife of George I, Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenburg, was England's first Georgian queen in all but name.
Her nickname amongst the English, who loathed her and found her scrawny, was 'the Maypole'. Others sources complained she was old: she was hideous; she had appalling dress sense and was bald; she was excessive in her greed; she had no love for George and would have 'sold him to the highest bidder'; she was dim-witted; she was dull; she stood by passively as George pursued younger and more attractive mistresses; she condoned incest, willingly sharing George's affections and his bed with his half-sister, Sophia Charlotte.
Yet this scandalous gossip only tells one kind of story. It doesn't mention how Melusine charmed George away from his wife, the beautiful and tempestuous wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, and bound him to her until his death. Nor does it show how her gentle nature and good sense helped keep George's notoriously dysfunctional family from tearing itself apart. The brutal English press, who pursued her mercilessly, gave Melusine no credit for her astonishing rise from minor courtier to the ranks of the most powerful women in Europe, or for her love of music that saw her mixing with everyone from George Frideric Handel to the flamboyant theatrical impresario John James Heidegger.
In The King's Mistress Claudia Gold brings Melusine, and the many contradictions that make her such a fascinating character to vivid life.
Claudia Gold holds a Masters degree in medieval history. She has researched and written for a number of TV documentaries. Her first book, Queen, Empress, Concubine: Fifty Women Rulers from the Queen of Sheba to Catherine the Great was published by Quercus in 2009. She lives in London with her husband and their two children.