18 July, 2013
Review: Serving Victoria by Kate Hubbard
Seen through the prism of limited writings from a selection of her staff, Victoria emerges as a complex woman lacking self awareness. She seems fortunate in her support system and almost willfully obtuse in her daily life. Hubbard is forced to leave some questions for a true biographer of the queen while she illuminates what being by Victoria's side entailed. While the reader emerges with a clear picture of the almost suburban isolation of Victoria's world, one occasionally wishes for further insight. Why, after Albert's death, did Victoria so enjoy the drunken disrespect of the Brown brothers? Was it a personal fetish? A rejection of the rigid morality she demanded from others? Alternating between complimentary and condemning, this look at Victoria through the eyes of those serving her is ultimately a look at the business of monarchy. Victoria, for all her freedoms, is as imprisoned as her court.
I found Serving Victoria a rewarding read at the close. The disconnect between her true self and her public image informs the delicate dance still required of the British Monarchy today. Her rejection of her successor (the Prince couldn't win with his parents) and favoring of her daughter is played out in her shuffle of favored ministers. Victoria's court is one where those in waiting do just that for hour upon stultifying hour, dolls in a game of house with far reaching consequences. I ended with a deeper appreciation for both Alberts and a respect for Victoria's attempts to bridge her idealized world with her actual one. No one in Serving Victoria seems truly happy save (perhaps) the Browns. Respect is a far easier emotion to grant than love or satisfaction.