During her sixty-three-year reign, Queen Victoria gathered around herself a household dedicated to her service. For some, royal employment was the defining experience of their lives; for others it came as an unwelcome duty or as a prelude to greater things. Serving Victoria follows the lives of six members of her household, from the governess to the royal children, from her maid of honor to her chaplain and her personal physician.
Drawing on their letters and diaries—many hitherto unpublished—Serving Victoria offers a unique insight into the Victorian court, with all its frustrations and absurdities, as well as the Queen herself, sitting squarely at its center. Seen through the eyes of her household as she traveled among Windsor, Osborne, and Balmoral, and to the French and Belgian courts, Victoria emerges as more vulnerable, more emotional, more selfish, more comical, than the austere figure depicted in her famous portraits. We see a woman who was prone to fits of giggles, who wept easily and often, who gobbled her food and shrank from confrontation but insisted on controlling the lives of those around her. We witness her extraordinary and debilitating grief at the death of her husband, Albert, and her sympathy toward the tragedies that afflicted her household.
Witty, astute, and moving, Serving Victoria is a perfect foil to the pomp and circumstance—and prudery and conservatism—associated with Victoria's reign, and gives an unforgettable glimpse of what it meant to serve the Queen.
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About the Author
After leaving Oxford University, Kate Hubbard worked variously as a researcher, a teacher, a book reviewer and a publisher’s reader and a freelance editor. She currently works for the Royal Literary Fund. She is the author of the acclaimed historical biography Serving Victoria and lives in London and Dorset.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix
Part 1 'A queen is a very happy woman'
1 Windsor 1838 9
2 A Scandal and a Crisis 25
3 'Love rules the court' 40
4 Sarah Lyttelton: Superintendent of the Nursery 53
5 Charlotte Canning: Lady of the Bedchamber 69
6 'Gone afloat' 85
7 Osborne 98
8 In the Highlands 114
9 'The object of Education' 127
10 Departures 142
11 Mary Ponsonby: Maid-of-Honour 154
12 Glimpses of Abroad 167
13 Three Deaths 182
Part 2 'My heart is utterly and completely broken'
14 'Someone to lean on' 199
15 Henry Ponsonby: Private Secretary 216
16 Balmorality 228
17 Eastern Questions and Domestic Affairs 245
18 James Reid: Resident Medical Attendant 257
19 Randall Davidson: Dean of Windsor 275
20 Spring Holidays 292
21 Household Bothers 305
22 The Year of the Munshi 317
23 Accommodating Bipps 332
24 'A last look' 345
Postscript: After Victoria 363
Select Bibliography 391
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In a uniquely positioned perspective, Kate Hubbard utilizes the personal correspondences of six members of the household staff charged with serving the personal needs of Queen Victoria, presenting a brand new view of the royal, throughout her long reign. From shortly after her ascendance to the throne at 19, details of the mundane of those in service are detailed by their own hand in letters to trusted friends and family. This provides a whole new perspective on the Queen: one that shares some common ties to some of the “tell all books’ released by former royal household members, but is far less salacious or prurient in nature. This is a fascinating read, presenting details of events, attitudes and even personal prejudices of the letter-writer in a way that provides an unguarded view, peppered with personal asides. Although one must understand the attitude toward the crown she who wore it, staffing needs were filled most often through families with loyalties to the Queen and crown, and often, these loyalties resulted in generations from the same family being employed in the Royal Household’s Service consistently. Once an understanding of that basic fact is to hand, the book becomes a fascinating, if occasionally minutely detailed read. The book has several voices, although the most distinct changes come after Prince Albert’s death in 1861 after 20+ years of marriage. Nearly consecutively in this book, the correspondents move from female to male, when Victoria sought out male members of her household for council, sympathy and apparently, male appreciation. This is a book that develops slowly yet consistently provides information on the time, the Royal Household, and the concerns and interests of the correspondents. While there are no overtly obvious moments of “AHA so now I know her”, the insights and information provided in this book are fascinating and will help to present a fuller picture of the Victorian Court and the Queen. The book also includes several illustrations that are ‘of the time’ and quite beautiful: from menus to carriage arrangements, castles and notes their inclusion provides the reader with visual representations of much that is spoken of in more general detail. I received an ARC eProof from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review on I am, Indeed. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The book is well written and researched. It gives a new and inter point of view on the life of Queen Victoria. It really showed her complexity. I enjoyed it very much. The only reason for not awarding 5 stars was the faulty editing of the E-book, which I blamed on the Publisher.
A non-fiction book - but is very readable and interesting. Lots of facts and descriptions of the time period; however, the writing is excellent and engaging. Loved every bit of this book. A+++++
Read about half of the book and then quit. Pretty dry and lots to wade thru to get to points of interest.
Boring, dry, tedious and slow moving. Too many other great books to read to waste time on this one.
Kate Hubbard is my name