An enquiry into the death of Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Consort.
Abandoning Jane Austen for the nonce, Barron trains her historical microscope on the House of Hanover, the Saxe-Coburg line and bedtime indiscretions that may have put Victoria unjustly on the throne and turned Prince Albert’s mind to suicide. The Prince had long enjoyed a private correspondence with Dr. Georgiana Armistead, a young woman who studied medicine in Edinburgh before Albert sent her to Cannes to see his son, Prince Leopold, who suffered from “the German disease” of hemophilia. Georgiana, the ward of barrister Patrick Fitzgerald, who had the effrontery to defend Victoria’s would-be assassin 20 years back, has her correspondence stolen, then burned. Patrick’s law quarters are ransacked and his law partner set upon and killed. The man behind all this mayhem, possibly at the request of the Queen, is Count von Stühlen, who does not shrink from two more murders and a touch of royal blackmail. After the Prince Consort’s death, his daughter Alice antagonizes her mother by wondering loudly and frequently why Victoria maintains that he died of typhoid when there are other, more sinister possibilities. As Alice repeats her accusations, making little headway, Georgiana and Patrick are assailed in France, in Germany and back in London. After a spot of torture for Patrick’s manservant, an arrest of Georgiana as an abortionist and more, Patrick’s syphilitic wife avenges one death, clearing the way for a confrontation with the Queen over her attempts at a dynastic coverup that leaves her to rule in peace and manufactured bereavement for another 40 years.
A disagreeable but believable portrait of Queen Victoria, intertwined with information about medical malpractice 150 years ago and royal genealogy. Interesting enough, but fans of Jane Austen (Jane and the Barque of Frailty, 2006, etc.) will want her back soon.