Book Review: Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life
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I love history. I love books. I love documentaries. So when I found this book by one of my favorite historical documentary presenters, I knew it was a must read! Dr. Lucy Worsley, who is Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, is one of my favorite television presenters because of the subjects she seems to love, the passion she shows and the way she digs into the details of why things occur the way they do. I’m a curious person so I not only want to understand what happened but the why behind the scenes. This book is exactly that for the reign of Queen Victoria.
I love the Victorian age because of the overwhelming amount of creativity and change that was brought about. It truly is a strange time with many moments of juxtaposition within. I think of my dear great grandmother who was born at the end of Victoria’s reign and how she went from riding in a horse and buggy to man walking on the moon and from corsets and pantaloons to Playboy. She lived through multiple World Wars, saw industrialization revolutionize domestic living and benefited from new modern medical capabilities that her parents couldn’t have dreamed of in their lifetime. I can only imagine there were many moments of excitement and fear for her but what an incredible scene to watch unfold.
Obviously, being the second longest reigning monarch in British history with an entire generation named after you lends some credence to your persona but I think what makes Victoria so remarkable is how in a lot of ways she wasn’t remarkable at all. In fact, from a royal perspective during that time period and certainly compared with what came before, Victoria was quite ordinary which I think is the brilliance of her reign, whether intentional or not.
Lucy chooses 24 of the most pivotal moments in Victoria’s 81 year life to paint a picture of how history has gotten it right and wrong when it comes to this iconic woman. Technology allowed for Victoria to be amazingly visible in ways that the monarchy had never seen before and allowed the Palace to undertake public relations in a way that hadn’t truly been tapped into until this modern era. Even more exciting is that Victoria, herself, was an avid writer and sketcher, which provides a truly personal insight to many of these moments. Hearing Victoria’s reign through Victoria’s pen is fascinating especially when she is often viewed as the little old lady with her sad widow’s cap on and nothing more. Just a figurehead when in reality Victoria was smart, brave, obstinate, funny and passionate.
So, if you enjoy drawing back the curtains of life to reveal the inner workings of iconic historical figures, you can’t go wrong with this book! Also, might I suggest checking out Dr. Lucy Worsley’s various documentaries and series. She is charming, witty and incredibly interesting to watch and makes you feel as though you are on a personal guided tour through venues and artifacts forgotten to time.