By Daisy Goodwin
Published: November 22, 2016
Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin―creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria and author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter―brings the young nineteenth-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.
Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.
Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.
“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”
Next, people say she must choose a husband. Everyone keeps telling her she’s destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.
On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.
What I know of Victoria, I mostly learned from watching Victoria and Albert and Young Victoria so I learned something from reading this book. I also found it to be very readable and at first I was pulled into the story because I felt bad for Victoria. She was kept so isolated and under the control of Sir John Conroy, her mother's comptroller (it is implied that her mother the widowed Duchess of Kent is in love with Sir John). After Victoria becomes queen, I was happy to see her standing up for herself. Unfortunately because of her upbringing Victoria is woefully unprepared to rule and she leans heavily on Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, for advice. Victoria is also immature and this really shows at times with all her foot stamping and her refusal to appoint the wives of Tory politicians as her ladies.
While I had thought that we would see the love story between Victoria and Albert, the book instead focuses on the relationship between the young queen and Lord Melbourne for whom it is implied she has romantic feelings. Albert only appears towards the end and his character isn't given much room to develop. Also, the book ends with their engagement. I'm hoping the author will continue Victoria's story to show how she grows after her marriage and as she gains more experience as a ruler.
I would have liked to see more of the Prince Albert/Victoria relationship but otherwise I thought this book was entertaining and I enjoyed it as historical fiction. I think it is an interesting take on a fascinating historical figure. While I doubt it could take the place of Downton Abbey, I am also eagerly anticipating the series on PBS this January. For those looking for more historical details and facts rather than the fanciful, there is a new biography about the queen, Victoria: The Queen: an Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley