A touching portrait of Victoria offstage and unguarded.



Mining the record left by six intimate Victorian servants, Hubbard (Rubies in the Snow, 2007, etc.) discovers a great deal about the British monarch, wife and mother.

Discretion, self-reliance and the stamina to endure staggering periods of immobility and ennui marked the duty of the reliable courtier of stalwart Queen Victoria, who acceded to the throne at age 18 in 1837 and reigned until 1901. In this nuanced study, the author meticulously picks her way through the lives of the women and men carefully chosen to serve as Victoria’s intimates over her long life: ladies of the bedchamber, maids of honor, lords-in-waiting, grooms-in-waiting and equerries, drawn from a low-aristocracy pool and serving the queen in rotation. Lady Sarah Lyttelton, a 50-year-old widowed lady-in-waiting, was new to the game in 1838, charmed by the young and still-single sovereign. She was in charge of keeping an eye on the maids of honor and making sure the new regime was not besmirched by the “doings” of the previous Hanoverians. The “frank and fearless” Victoria married her cousin Albert in 1840, and he proceeded to reorganize the household into a tight system of efficiency; soon the babies arrived like clockwork and Lyttelton was put in charge of the nursery. Charlotte Canning, an ace artist and young wife who became lady of the bedchamber, found her duties essentially companionable and social: accompanying Victoria on her open-air afternoon rides. Dining with the queen meant jawing an infinite parade of platitudes with an injunction on broaching politics. In other chapters, Hubbard highlights maid of honor Mary Ponsonby and her adviser husband, Henry Ponsonby, physician James Reid and Windsor chaplain Randall Davidson, who all endured a stultifying monotony of duty and probity, weddings and funerals, systems of etiquette and middlebrow refinement.

A touching portrait of Victoria offstage and unguarded.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226991-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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