Dull account of the dull life of Beatrice, the final child of Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert.
In his book-length debut, British journalist Dennison strives mightily to find some glitter, maybe even some smut, on this ordinary rock in the English royal garden, whom Victoria designated almost from infancy to be her devoted confidante. About all he can discover is that Beatrice (1857–1944), apparently an attractive and bright child, played well the role that history and heredity gave her. The author early and often festoons his skimpy narrative tree with strings of clichés: Golden days are threatened by clouds of sorrow; a stout heart serves her well; a silk dress shimmers; shadows of the past haunt everyone. The queen comes off as profoundly insecure and grasping, Beatrice as doting and largely devoid of personality. Tutored and educated at home, the princess enjoyed writing and eventually published several books, including a couple of translations from German texts. Victoria, who steered some interested men away from Beatrice, eventually allowed her to marry—but only if she would continue to serve as Royal Lapdog. Prince Henry of Battenberg, nicknamed Liko, agreed to those terms, then became so bored that he spent months alone on his yacht before heading off on a military adventure in Africa, where he contracted an illness that cost him his life. Once the queen died, Beatrice’s stock fell, and she lived many of her final 40 years in an apartment in Kensington Palace where she expurgated Victoria’s journals, then burned the originals, an egregious act that Dennison finds ways to defend.
The author’s first clause—“It should not have happened”—refers to Beatrice’s unexpected birth; the words also apply to this soporific biography.