Just eight months old when her father, Edward, duke of Kent, died unexpectedly, the princess Victoria moved significantly closer to England’s throne. The task of raising a potential female monarch assumed critical importance for the nation, yet Victoria’s girlhood and adolescence have received scant attention from historians, cultural critics, and even her biographers. In this engaging and revealing book, Lynne Vallone shows us a new Victoria—a lively and passionate girl very different from the iconic dour widow of the queen’s later life. Based on a thorough exploration of the young Victoria’s own letters, stories, drawings, educational materials, and journals—documents that have been under appreciated until now—the book illuminates the princess’s childhood from her earliest years to her accession to the throne at age eighteen in 1837. Vallone presents a fresh assessment of “the rose of England” within the culture of girlhood and domestic life in the 1820s and 1830s. The author also explores the complex and often conflicting contexts of the period, including Georgian children’s literature, conventional childrearing practices, domestic and familial intrigues, and the frequently turbulent political climate. Part biography, part historical and cultural study, this richly illustrated volume uncovers in fascinating detail the childhood that Victoria actually lived.
Lynne Vallone is professor of English and childhood studies at Rutgers University. She has written and co-edited several books, including Becoming Victoria and The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature. She lives in Riverton, NJ.
To be honest, this was exactly my kind of Victoria biography. She is so, so much more fascinating as a child and a teenager than after her accession to the throne, and everything in Becoming Victoria was done in such detail and didn't try to dwell on her adulthood that I was very impressed. Brava!
Four stars, because it really was fascinating to see the education of a princess in the Georgian era and the many original sources drawn upon. The reading journal and variety of reading materials described and discussed shows the importance of reading to becoming a critical thinker. All that being said, it is a tedious and often muddled reading experience, though hard to put down. Not narrative non-fiction, but a very scholarly look into Queen Victoria's childhood.
I would think this a good book, if not for several typos. From the name of a Victoria’s half brother to claiming Edward II as one of the longest serving British monarchs, I can’t help but wonder how correct a book with so many mistakes truly can be.