In her lauded biography England’s Mistress, Kate Williams painted a vivid and intimate portrait of Emma Hamilton, the lover of English national hero Lord Horatio Nelson. Now, with the same keen insight and gift for telling detail, Williams provides a gripping account of Queen Victoria’s rise to the throne and her early years in power—as well as the tragic, little-known story of the princess whose demise made it all possible.
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, monarchies across Europe found themselves in crisis. With mad King George III and his delinquent offspring tarnishing the realm, the English pinned their hopes on the only legitimate heir to the throne: the lovely and prudent Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince of Wales and granddaughter of the king. Sadly, those dreams faded when, at age twenty-one, she died after a complicated pregnancy and stillbirth. While a nation grieved, Charlotte’s power-hungry uncles plotted quickly to produce a new heir. Only the Duke of Kent proved successful in his endeavor, with the birth of a girl named Victoria.
Writing with a combination of novelistic flair and historical precision, Williams reveals an energetic and vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations behind Victoria’s struggle to occupy the throne—scheming that continued even after the crown was placed on her head.
Upon hearing of the death of her predecessor, King William IV, Victoria—in her bold first act as queen—banished her overambitious mother from the room, a simple yet resolute move that would set the tone for her reign. The queen clashed constantly not only with her mother and her mother’s adviser, the Irish adventurer John Conroy, but with her ministers and even her beloved Prince Albert, all of whom, in one way or another, attempted to seize control from her.
By connecting Charlotte’s sad fate to Victoria’s majestic rule, Kate Williams lays bare the passions that swirled around the throne—the court secrets, the sexual repression, and the endless intrigue. The result is a grand and satisfying tale of a woman whose destiny began long before she was born and whose legacy lives on.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Becoming Queen Victoria|
|Release Date: 08-10-2010|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Ballantine Books|
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Becoming Queen Victoria
“The Most Distressing Feelings of My Heart”
The Prince of Wales was drunk. It was his wedding day, he was disgusted by his bride, and he was the most inebriated he had ever been outside of a brothel. He was in debt to the tune of over £500,000, and the only way to settle his obligations was to marry. But he was shocked by the ugliness of his wife-to-be, Caroline of Brunswick, and thought she smelled like a peasant. In the over?heated, overdecorated Chapel Royal, dressed sumptuously in his customary high-fashion garb, the prince gritted his teeth, took another swig of porter, and tried to focus his mind on the showers of money he would receive.
The marriage of the thirty-two-year-old Prince of Wales had been a subject of debate for years. By 1794, ministers and courtiers were desperate for cheering news. Great Britain was mired in despond and recession. War with France had strained the country’s finances and increased the price of imports, and the gentry lived in fear of the English mob setting off another French Revolution in England. “Never was there seen so gloomy a Birth-Day in this country as that of yesterday,” bleated the Morning Post in January, referring to the queen’s birthday. “Care and despondency seemed to sit on every brow, the affected smiles of Ministers shewed that disappointment and despondency resided in their hearts, and instead of being a day of joyous gratulations, a settled melancholy and dread apprehension for the safety of the Nation pervaded the Assembly.”
The English needed a national event to lift their spirits, and the ideal solution was a royal wedding. But George was a demanding suitor. Af...