Like many people my knowledge of the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign has been based upon what I have seen in the ITV drama series “Victoria”. There were still things that I was unsure about, namely, how the line of succession played out so that she came to the throne in the first place. For my second book in the Russian Roulette Reading Challenge at Sandown Library I pulled out of the hat “a book with a green cover” and I chose Alison Plowden’s non-fiction work because a) it had a green cover and b) I wanted to know more about the young Victoria.
Plowden’s book was written in 1981 although I read a paperback reprint from The History Press which was published in 2016. It falls firmly into the category of popular history, there are no references to get you leafing through to the back of the book, a shorter bibliography than one might imagine and an author’s note which credits especially two biographies, one from 1972 and one from back in 1964. Plowden has synthesized this information into her very readable work which suited my purposes but may frustrate the more serious historian.
It does read like a novel, especially with its characters that we know from the TV series here being fleshed out and it was a little surprising to find that the ITV drama does not deviate too far from the facts as presented here.
The characters who feature strongly in Victoria’s early years and are brought to life well by Plowden are her mother, the Duchess of Kent, whose relationship with her daughter became strained during the teenage years largely because of the influence of Sir John Conroy, who placed himself and his family close to Victoria and her mother and who the Princess came to hate. Victoria had the most time for her beloved governess Baroness Lehzen and for Dash her dog. The book ends with Victoria’s marriage to Albert but the most fascinating relationship here (as it was in the early episodes of the ITV series) is the one between the young Queen and Prime Minister and mentor Lord Melbourne with Victoria demonstrating anti-Tory tendencies in her desire to keep him in power.
I still haven’t totally got the succession to the throne bit as her grandfather had so many children that it all gets a little confusing and I could have really done with a family tree appendix to sort this all out in my head. Inexplicably, the edition I read devoted two pages at the back to completely the wrong tree, that of the House of Tudor, which has no relevance whatsoever to Victoria’s time. That is a bad mistake from The History Press that I hope was put right in subsequent editions.
Alison Plowden was best known for her non-fiction on the Tudor period so that suggests that the family tree here was intended for another of her publications. She wrote around 25 books mainly on female historical figures. She died in 2007.
Young Victoria was first published in 1981. I read the 2016 History Press edition. The History Press have republished a number of her books.