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Every recent biographer of the Widow of Windsor has managed to describe, examine, and dismiss in less than a chapter the gossip rife during the latter half of her reign about a marriage, or an active sexual affair between her and her uncouth Scottish servant Brown. The talk stemmed from her excessive public demonstrations of favor toward the handsome, kilted ex-gillie. He got falling down drunk on Scotch whiskey while serving her, but Victoria claimed as he crashed that she felt a distinct earth tremor. She had a distinguished genealogy invented for him, preferred his company to that of the Prince of Wales, indulged his outspoken rudenesses, found appointments for his relatives, showered him with decorations, sent him valentines and forced her sons to kowtow to him. After his death, she erected a statue of Brown and wrote a book so open to misinterpretation of their relationship it had to be suppressed before publication. Mr. Cullen tracks down all the old titillations and what energy his mini-history has comes from the perverse amusement that still attaches to the idea of Queen Victoria getting up to any passionate pranks after the death of her lugubriously, lengthily lamented Prince Consort. Mr. Cullen, just as Victoria's biographers have, concludes that the Queen was much given to innocent crushes and the most subservient of her servants allowed her the only real scope for dictatorship possible in a constitutional monarchy. An entertainment decked out with all the trappings of social history--we are amused, mildly.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1969
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin