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Old 02-10-2011, 11:36 PM   #8226
ATDrake
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Posts: 6,647
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Join Date: Mar 2010
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Just finished Kate Williams' Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain's Greatest Monarch, which was a dual biography focusing on both the entirety of Charlotte's brief life and how her death as sole legitimate heir to the British throne prompted a scramble to secure England's succession which resulted in Victoria, who was then controlled throughout her own childhood by her mother, who had hopes of attaining power as her regent.

Frankly, the Duchess of Kent would have been far better off had she just settled for the prestige and privileges of being Queen Mother instead of setting up such a smothering relationship (Victoria had to sleep in her mother's room every night) that once queen, her daughter lost no time in sending her packing.

Anyway, this was an interesting and somewhat entertaining pop-historical-leaning read, showing there's no feud like a family feud (some of the back-and-forth squabbling between George IV and his wife Caroline of Brunswick, who was apparently the Regency equivalent of Princess Diana in popularity and "the common touch" and being the wronged wife, is absolutely amazing).

Plus in addition to the personal anecdotes and how-they-got-to-be-this-way analyses, this is also somewhat grounded with mentions of the national events and social conditions of the time, and what effect that royalty/government had on them, or they on the popularity of the royals, an extra which I appreciated.

Fun facts: before Victoria became queen, apparently "Victoria" was considered an un-English, made-up sort of name that no one but a foreigner could possibly sport. Also, before Victoria's white wedding dress and massively public ceremony, weddings were performed quietly mostly at home for just the immediate family, and the bride wore her best dress which could be any colour including black.

Overall, I quite liked reading much of this, and it was entertaining and informative, even if I'd classify it as an essentially non-serious biography/history work. Recommended if you like stuff about royals and the personal interactions which shaped them as people who then tried to make the personal political.

And the people of England should give praise that they were spared from having as their king Leopold of Belgium, notorious for cutting off people's hands in his goldmines in the Congo. Though it would have been interesting to see where England would have gone had Princess Charlotte lived to be Queen, as apparently a lot of the Victorian-ness of the Victorian Age is directly attributable to the priggish sensibilities of Prince Albert (piercings named after him notwithstanding).

Last edited by ATDrake; 02-10-2011 at 11:45 PM.
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