The trial(s) of Queen Caroline and Hays’s Memoirs of Queens, Illustrious and Celebrated

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Journal Article
Women's Writing, 2018, 25 (2), pp. 150 - 166
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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Sometime before the death of Queen Caroline in August 1821, Mary Hays, Rational Dissenter and feminist radical, published her last work, Memoirs of Queens: Celebrated and Illustrious. Hays claimed her intention in writing the Memoirs was to compile a selection of lives of queens “illustrious for their great qualities, and celebrated for their endowments and fortunes”. Unlike the Victorian collective biographies of women worthies with which Hays’ final text is sometimes lumped, Memoirs of Queens was not, however, written as an aspirational text, but rather as a study of the perils of royal life and the struggle of queens to overcome the conditions engendered by the “sexual distinction”. This article explores Hays Memoirs of Queens in the context of the aftermath of the trial of Queen Caroline, arguing that this text was perhaps Hays most radical. In her study of the life of Queen Caroline, I will suggest that Hays pushed the boundaries of the radical politics she had shared with Wollstonecraft in the 1790s, vigorously rejecting the sexual double standard enshrined by the George IV’s supporters in their relentless crusade to ruin the Queen, while also making a plaintive plea for a woman’s right to an erotic life.
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