[Victoria]: A Review

Hi y’all!

Happy February! I love February. It’s full of birthdays and Valentines and fun at our house. Hope you are staying warm and feeling loved this month.

Today I am excited to share a review of Victoria by Daisy Goodwin. This past fall I went through a bit of a royalty reading phase. I suppose it was connected to the death of Queen Elizabeth II whom I admired and loved. I read several books centered on royalty especially the British royal family. This novel follows the early reign of Queen Victoria. If you have seen the PBS Masterpiece series of the same name, much of this book will feel familiar — lines, scenes, characters. Daisy Goodwin created the show as well.

I really enjoyed this novel of Queen Victoria’s early years as the Queen of England. I love Victoria and her story.


Book Summary: “In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

This novel offers poignant details of Victoria’s life and relationships with everyone from her mother to her Prime Minister to her ladies in waiting. She was one of the most powerful people in the world and yet she was very young. Many people sought to influence her. It was intriguing to read about how she felt about politics and people. How people guided her in different ways. She got along so well with Lord Melbourne but his politics did not represent the entire country. She fought with her mother but John Conroy was in the middle of their relationship. And she resisted the matchmaking efforts of others especially when it came to Albert. But then she got to know him. I loved the intricacies of these relationships and more. Goodwin does a masterful job creating compelling historical characters with life and depth.

I was impressed by the meticulous research and historical detail throughout the story. The discussion of the Chartist revolutionaries, the logistics of forming a government and the complexities of monarch roles within a constitutional monarchy were all really interesting. I loved hearing about how Victoria sought to style herself and learned the ways of monarchy. She certainly wasn’t perfect and often let her personal feelings dictate her actions. But she loved her people and sought to serve them. I admire her determination to be among her people and not be pushed around as a young woman new to the throne. She did frustrate me at times like when she goes to Lord Melbourne’s home unannounced or pushes her mother away for no particular reason. Or her misinterpretation about Flora Hastings. But she learns and grows into her role. It’s impressive to think of how long she reigned and at a time when women were not usually in power. The historical details are fascinating and powerful throughout the novel.

We get to see Victoria from several perspectives which I loved. I enjoyed getting inside the heads of so many characters including Victoria, Melbourne and Albert. Of course, we don’t know exactly what they were thinking at the pivotal moments of history. But I enjoyed Goodwin’s interpretation. What was it like for Lord Melbourne to meet the new young queen for the first time? How did Victoria feel during her coronation? What did Albert think about England and about Victoria? Goodwin does a masterful job giving voice to these and other interesting questions about this time. Favorite moments included Victoria’s coronation and her first visits with Albert. I wish there had been more Albert in this book! I loved reading about what they could have been thinking at moments like when Victoria and Albert met for the first time or when they dance. Their relationship is one of my favorites and I loved the details of their courtship and early love story.

A great story about a favorite monarch! I enjoyed the historical detail and well developed relationships. It felt a bit repetitive of the PBS show but that also made the story easy to follow. And I would have liked more of Prince Albert! If you love Queen Victoria, royalty, England or the Victoria PBS show, I’d recommend this novel. 

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