Sometimes I sit down to write these reviews and just don’t know where to start. I’ve been staring at this screen for several minutes now wondering, “Now, where do I begin?” Always best to start at the beginning, I suppose. I didn’t intend to read this book. I hadn’t read any opinions about it on Goodreads or, to be honest, had not ever even seen it before. This book was chosen completely at random. I was walking into the library with my little girl and snagged a book haphazardly from a display near the entrance to amuse myself while she did her thing. I’m so glad that my hand landed on this one.
“I am referred to as Alexandrina Victoria. But I do not like the name Alexandrina. From now on I wish to be called Victoria.”
Our story begins with a young Alexandrina, the heir to the English throne. She is hardly more than a child and is already keenly aware that when the current king dies she shall ascend to the throne. Her mother, a rather self serving German duchess, and her co-conspirator Conroy believe that upon the king’s imminent death they will be the power behind the throne and control Alexandrina Victoria’s every move. However, the young Victoria has far too much spirit to ever allow that to happen.
I’m mildly ashamed to admit that when I started this book I knew very, very little about Queen Victoria. Other than knowing she was an English monarch, about the only other exposure I had had to her was a portrayal of her in Doctor Who that was mostly unflattering. I know, I know, horrible of me. As a lover of history I should have had more knowledge of her. Somehow the queen had never been a blip on my radar, though. I will be amending that.
From the moment Victoria took the throne she began as she meant to go on. She dropped her first name of Alexandrina, which she disliked, for the uncommon Victoria. She also promptly created distance between herself and her mother. Victoria knew that the duchess and Conroy intended to rule her and she would not have it. She was young, only eighteen, when she took the crown and was well aware that people thought her too young and inexperienced to rule effectively. The Queen had every intention of proving them wrong.
I have to applaud the nerve Victoria displayed throughout the book. She knew her own mind and was more than willing to push her agenda. The Queen seemed fearless. During the course of this story, once the monarch had made up her mind there was no turning back. Sure, she was wrong occasionally but she had no qualm about making strong decisions.
One such decision she weighed heavily was taking a husband. The young queen had become enamored with her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. Though he was years older than her she still took a liking to him. He had kindly and gently guided her at the beginning of her reign. Victoria had not been properly taught all the ways of the English court and government and Melbourne was there to help her through the worst of it. She even went as far as to propose to him though he, as politely as he could, declined.
There were no wars and battles in this book. No obvious and flashy entertainment. Instead it was a story of the Queen’s everyday life and her struggles to adjust to her role up until her betrothal to Prince Albert. We witness her coronation, her opening of poor houses for her people, and her giddy joy while playing with her dog or enjoying a ball. It is the life of the woman behind the throne.
Despite the lack of flashy entertainment this book pulled me in. It was so easy to get lost in the budding world of Victorian England. All of the characters were well written and had purpose and the story was easy to follow. There were certainly a few points where I wanted to knock a character’s head for poor decisions but even those parts were amusing. Victoria had sparkle and glint, drama and intrigue. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’m very glad that it was the closest book to me on my way into the library that day.
“I know that I am young, but I am ready for the great responsibility that lies before me.”