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Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

In case you are wondering what to do with yourself on Sunday evenings in the New Year – worry no longer. You’ll be watching Victoria on PBS – in the time slot Downton Abbey occupied for the past six years.

The writer of the television series, Daisy Goodwin, has also written a novel of the same name. Victoria tells the story of the young girl, heir to the British throne, who became the Queen of England at the age of 18.

Alexandra Victoria had not been raised as the heir to the throne – she became Queen only after her many uncles were unable to produce children who lived to take their place in the line to the throne. That left the job to Victoria upon the death of her uncle William IV.

Until I read this novel I thought of Queen Victoria only as a severe old woman dressed in black – a Queen who reigned for over half a century. Daisy Goodwin tells us the story of a young Victoria, the early years, just before and into the first year of her reign.

Victoria grew up in a sheltered home with her widowed mother as her only companion. She was not brought into society and lacked both the education and the skills that a boy in her position might have had. But, Victoria made up for this with her fierce intelligence and determination to learn about the government of her country and the international influences that might affect her kingdom. She also firmly believed in the “divine right of kings” that the King, or in this case Queen, derived their authority directly from God and therefore had absolute power to rule over their people, and their parliament. That being said, Victoria understood that she and her Prime Minister must work closely together for the good of the Empire. When Victoria became Queen, the Prime Minister was Lord Melbourne who took his duty and his loyalty very seriously. Victoria was fortunate to have Melbourne as her mentor and friend, and there seems to be no doubt that he prevented those who wished her ill to meet with any success in influencing her or undermining her authority.

I found it fascinating to read about this time. Dickens had just published Oliver Twist, writing about the poverty of so many of the citizens of London. There is unrest in Afghanistan.

It was of course important that Victoria marry and produce children. One relative, and potential suitor, to visit at this time was Alexander Romanov, the future Tsar. Though they would not marry their future children and, most famously, grandchildren did. Other guests were King Leopold of Belgium, along with his young nephews Ernest and Albert. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I expect the episodes we watch this winter will be the first of many – Queen Victoria lived a great many years and there is much story to be told. I hope that Daisy Goodwin will carry on, regardless of the success of the television series, and write more novels to follow Victoria.

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