I’m all about the royals.
Whether I’m binge-watching The Crown, fangirling over Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, or breaking the news to Riggins that his reign as king doesn’t actually extend beyond our front door, I’m always looking for ways to weave a bit more royalty into my day.
When I first heard about author Daisy Goodwin’s new PBS show Victoria (premiering on Masterpiece tonight—yay!!!), I had a sneaking suspicion that it would become my latest obsession. Now that I’ve read Goodwin’s novel by the same name, I could not be more excited.
A gorgeous novel spanning the earliest years of Queen Victoria’s reign, Victoria begins shortly after the young princess’s 18th birthday, when she learns that her uncle has died and that she is now the ruler of England. As she ascends to the throne, the diminutive teenager struggles to be taken seriously by the men of parliament and fights to hold onto the crown as her mother, the Duchess of Kent, her mother’s advisor, Sir John Conroy, and her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, try to relieve her of her power. At least she has an ally in her handsome Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne—although the heightened emotional connection they share may only complicate things further. And then there’s her cousin, Prince Albert, who everyone seems to be pushing her to marry. Gripping from the first chapter, Victoria does a stunning job of capturing the transformation of a sheltered girl with only dolls and her dog for companions to a young woman who will go on to be one of the longest reigning monarchs in the history of England.
Many of us know at least some of the basics of Victoria’s life and reign (she had an entire age named after her!), but what I loved most about this novel is how it fleshed out all of these historical, iconic figures into such real, complicated people that I put a pin in everything I thought I knew. (I didn’t even picture Mark Strong’s villainous turn as Conroy in The Young Victoria, which was no easy feat!) Daisy Goodwin does an incredible job of bringing to life the delicate balance of an eighteen-year-old girl who finds herself responsible for so much of the weight of her country while also still caring deeply about what color dress she should wear and who she will give her first dances to. So much of what we typically hear about Queen Victoria is tied up in her marriage and partnership with Prince Albert, and while the beginnings of her love story with the eventual consort are highlighted in the latter part of the book, the main focus of this novel is on Victoria finding her footing and her voice—as a girl, as a woman, and as a queen—which I absolutely loved.
Of course, the prominence and attention given to the queen’s beloved spaniel, Dash, holds a special place in my heart also. There’s no love like that of a girl and her dog, and that’s conveyed here on every page.
Historical fiction fans and fellow royal watchers, I urge you to brew a pot of English Breakfast, throw a crown on your dog (if you’re so inclined), and move Victoria up the line of succession on your reading list. It’s a novel that truly reigns supreme.
Will you be watching the new PBS series Victoria? It premieres tonight at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE!