The Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces in England shares her unique access to the quotidian history of English royals to treat us to another delightful story from the inside.
Worsley (Jane Austen at Home, 2017, etc.) is helped in this instance by Victoria’s penchant for saving outfits she wore at important milestones, right down to the shoes, and the author provides significant insight into her attitude to the throne. At first, she was a headstrong young woman trying to break away from the influence of her mother and John Conroy. Her father’s friend and servant, Conroy devised a system that he and Victoria’s mother used to control all aspects of her life. It was a system designed to ensure their power when she ascended the throne, whether as regents or advisers. Luckily, Victoria was sufficiently headstrong to reject them both. As queen, she relied on Lord Melbourne, a father figure, for advice, and she exhibited her strong emotional intelligence. After her marriage to Albert, she fell under his orderly, dispassionate intellect; luckily, she retained the empathy that made her beloved. Still, he often infantilized her, downplaying her abilities. As a mother, Victoria came up short, as Worsley amply shows. She didn’t enjoy her children except that they made Albert happy. She was tyrannical and never nursed them, since that would have made her feel “like a cow or a dog.” Albert’s influence was reflected in her thinking that women were inferior to men and therefore had no right to vote. She held him up as the unattainable perfection that none of her children would ever attain. Her grief at Albert’s death and interminable mourning are legendary, but it also made her realize that no one could have mastery over her. John Brown caused no end of consternation, but it was he who brought her back to the people. She made few public appearances, but photographs and two books she wrote about Albert took the place of her presence.
An utterly enjoyable account of Victoria’s familial relationships.