Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

victoriaIf you saw the Masterpiece presentation “Victoria” on PBS, as I did, I recommend that you also read this novel by the series’ screenwriter.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it, since I already knew the story, but the novel, which gives deeper insights into the characters, fascinated me as much as the TV series did.

Most of us think of Queen Victoria as an elderly woman, but as this novel opens, she is a teenager, under the control of her mother and her mother’s adviser.  She sleeps on a cot near her mother’s bed and has never been alone in a room with a man.  Her mother does not even approve of her going up or down stairs without holding her governess’ hand.  She has learned that protesting is useless; all she can do is wait until her seriously ill uncle, the king, dies.  If she has reached her 18th birthday by the time of his death, she will be queen – no regency required – and able to make decisions for herself.

That day comes, and she declares her independence by using her middle name, Victoria, instead of the name that she’s used since birth.  As a young, inexperienced queen, she makes mistakes and learns that not all of her subjects like her.  In fact, some consider her emotionally unstable and too inexperienced to rule.  However, the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, takes her under his wing, tutoring her in the role she must play.  Her relationship with this politician, old enough to be her father, becomes personal enough for some people to call her “Mrs. Melbourne.”

Then her cousin Albert comes from his home in Germany for a visit.  Will they marry, as their families think they should?  Victoria is determined that this will not happen; she met Albert three years earlier and declared him to be boring.  Reading about their visit will prove to be anything but boring, no matter how much or how little you know about Victoria’s life!

Goodwin, who has a history degree from Cambridge, has done extensive research and bases much of Victoria on the young queen’s diaries.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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