I don’t know about you, but I have an affinity for Queen Victoria. There could be a number of reasons for it, but I think a lot of it stems from the time my Aunt Liz and I saw the film The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt during Priesthood session of General Conference one year. (The Asian restaurant we ate at beforehand only had women diners, and the theater was only women in the audience. UTAH.) I really love Blunt’s portrayal of a royal figure, was as entranced by Paul Bettany’s Lord M as Victoria was, and fell in love with Albert same as the young queen. It’s such a great “girl’s night” movie, and just a lovely film anyway. Years later, Aunt Liz and I took a trip to England and spent some time at Kensington Palace, where Victoria was raised before she became queen. (Oh my goodness, she really was tiny as a young woman!)
So this book popped up in my library ordering, and I knew I’d have to read it. The author, Daisy Goodwin, has created a show for PBS/Masterpiece on Victoria’s early reign coming out in the new year, and this book is a tie-in. It’s definitely not a rehash of The Young Victoria, but it does cover some of the same ground, so you get some additional context. I hopped onto Wikipedia at different points out of curiosity, and found Goodwin got quite a bit right in her story. There’s a new biography about Victoria that recently came out, and I may have to dive into that one to really get a good picture of all the circumstances around the young queen’s early reign.
A good bulk of the book focuses on Victoria’s relationship with Lord Melbourne, the prime minister when she was crowned, and her deeply appreciated mentor who guided her along. Not being a scholar on Victoria, I can only surmise from what I’ve read and seen thus far is she was not very well-prepared for the duties and protocols of being queen, and Melbourne turned into a father figure of sorts assisting her as she came into her own. Goodwin portrays their relationship has something deeper than that of father figure/foster daughter and hints at the romantic feelings they may have felt for each other. Victoria was 18 when she took the throne. She had been raised apart from society for the most part due to her mother’s fear that another in the line of succession would try to harm her. So in a sense Victoria was a teenage girl who finally had a chance to rebel. I thought Goodwin did an excellent job of portraying her as such, while still aching to be the kind of queen her country needed and that she wanted to be, and being confronted with so many different forces tugging her in different directions that she clung to the one man she saw as only there to help – Lord M.
Albert figures in later in the book, and I will admit I was a little disappointed with the development of his relationship with Victoria. But since the romance and marriage of Victoria and Albert has been done and redone so many times, Goodwin made the choice to not make it as much of a focus in her novel. However, I still felt like I was reading a nice Regency romance at times (technically inaccurate, I know, since this is *Victorian* times, but you know what I mean), and swooned along with Victoria at not only Lord M, but at all the opportunities Victoria had to spread her wings and find the woman she was destined to be. Definitely recommended for a reader in need of a more light historical fiction.