So I love history. And especially the history of royal houses. In university, I took up some extra classes from the History major, even though I was studying languages. Because, you know… It was a “History of the British Isles” two-part-class. What’s not to love? That love never really went away, but as it turns out, it gets a bit harder to take on extra courses when you’re not actually in University anymore. Oops? Anyways, all of this to say: I bought Queen Victoria’s Children over a year ago and I finally got around to reading it!
As you could probably guess from the title, this book is somewhat a-typical in that it focuses not just on Queen Victoria herself, but on her children as well. The fun bit about that is that, for example, you still get to hear about Leopold, who was married to Victoria’s niece Charlotte and later became the king of Belgium. (national pride and all that jazz :p )
At the same time, you also get to hear about Victoria’s eldest daughter who married into a family that then spend the following couple of decades fighting with just about the rest of Europe. That’s, right, she married the son of the German emperor. And her brothers and sisters married into families that were attacked by the German. Fun Christmas parties they must have had, right?
Now, I don’t feel like I’m boasting when I say I do know quite a bit about the British royals’ history. I had an entire period where I could not get enough of the Henry VIII-period, another where I was all about the 1066-excapades… And naturally, with The Crown being on, my knowledge of the last almost-century has been expanding. I’m totally the kind of person that has to get their post-episode-fact-check in 🙂
Victoria’s age, however? Not so much – apart from the scientific advances of that period. And of course, the fact that the Prince Consort had a lot to do with that. But that was about it. As this book soon showed – there’s a lot to know. I mean, Victoria basically gave birth to the royal houses of Greece, Russia, Spain, and like 4 other countries. That is some legacy to leave behind!
As I said above, there is a lot of information to give about this family. Queen Victoria – despite not being too enthusiastic about the entire concept of getting married and giving birth – had no less than 9 children. Quite untypical for the time, all of the children survived into adulthood. That means, however, that there is also a lot of names. I mean, those children get married, sometimes have prospective spouses before that, then get children of their own… Well, some of them didn’t have children, but still, you know what I mean.
To actually remember all of those names, when there’s several people with the same name, and then sometimes they’re called by their nickname and sometimes they aren’t? That’s a lot. It might be do-able. That necessitates some structure, however. And that, for me, really was the one thing missing in this book.
There are some pictures in the middle of the book that help a little – only each woman is named by their husbands title. Which, sure, was the habit at the time, but doesn’t necessarily help with the whole “keep these guys apart”-thing.
And okay, there’s a couple of family trees at the back of the book – but, they only show the line up to and including Victoria and Albert. Considering that this book explicitely makes it selling-point that it focusses on their children? I honestly don’t get that choice.
Finally, I do have this much to the author: he manages to get a lot of information in a fairly limited amount of pages. Not only that, but he manages to keep it entertaining, filled with quotes that make the characters speak to you… There’s a reference list that is, as I can only describe it, impressive. And I sincerely have to give kuddo’s for that.
The rating: 3,5/5
I seriously went back and forth between 4 and 3.5 stars, because – while Queen Victoria’s Children reads very easily as a whole, a bit part of writing a book like this is knowing your public. In other words: if you’re going to be playing with names like that, you have to make sure people can actually remember who those names belong to!
All things together, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It got me absolutely miles deep into google searches on all sorts of things related to those generations of royals. And more importantly: it made me discover that apparently there’s now a tv-series about Victoria’s life. And it features Clara Oswald. So basically I need to see it. So there’s that, right? 🙂
If you would like to get all your facts on Queen Victoria and her children straight, you can find the book on Amazon (affiliate link)- I definitely would recommend it, even if you do need to take your time in reading it!