Book Review

Book Review of Serving Victoria - Life in the Royal Household

Serving Victoria

Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household - Informative, Engaging and Eye-Opening

Kate Hubbard has taken letters and diaries from 6 different high-ranking courtiers and shaped an intimate portrait of Queen Victoria and her court over the course of over sixty years.

Serving Victoria is a LONG book to get through, but worth it if you want to know about Victoria's life through the eyes of those who served her, specifically her Lady of the Bedchamber Charlotte Canning, Sarah Lyttleton "Superintendent of the Nursery", Mary Ponsonby: Maid-of Honor, James Reid - her personal physician, Randall Davidson her chaplain and Abdul, a favored Indian servant who stirred up quite a bit of drama and brought out a maternal and protective steak in the Queen. There are so many others mentioned though, as well. You get a real feel for the people, events and times surrounding Victoria's reign. It's an eye-opening portrait that goes into such detail that I can't possibly do it justice.

This book is full of the gossip and rumors swirling about court through the years, the struggles, politics, social pecking order, events and all intertwined through the thread of Victoria's existence. It shows Victoria as human with all her strengths as well as her foibles. It covers her loving relationship with Albert as well as her devastation at his loss. It's not all about Victoria, however. You see how she affected the lives of so many others with the clashes, battles, triumphs, boredom and every other aspect of life made all the more interesting for being a part of Victoria's life. I was surprised at how at how some of the servant's found their lives so demanding that their health broke down. Victoria was demanding and controlling and while sometimes you can't help but feel bad for her in many situations, there were times when I felt worse for those who dedicated themselves to her service. And yet, Victoria gave immediate reprisals to those who treated her servants harshly or rudely; she truly cared about and involved herself in their lives with great enthusiasm.

I just found it interesting to get such a thorough picture of what it was like to live in Victoria's household. In some ways it was luxurious and in others, extraordinarily demanding and draining. I also enjoyed the photographs, like the one of the menu showing "The Household Dinner" for July 1891 and other photographs/illustrations such as a personal hand written note from Victoria to James Reid, a sketch, train table, Balmoral Castle, the ladies drawing room in Osborne, etc. . There aren't many, but they showed up in the Kindle ARC (advance reader's copy) just fine.

If you want a picture of what Victoria's court was like and a much more personal story of her life painted with the strokes of truth and remembrance quoted directly out of letters and diaries you won't be disappointed with Serving Victoria. It's a rich, well-researched human tapestry and drama that doesn't shirk with the details. The only negative about Serving Victoria is that I wish it would have included a listing of all the people mentioned with a description of who they were or perhaps a family tree in the beginning. It also was a little tedious in a few places, but then so is life itself - so that's not too surprising. ;-) Otherwise, it's a very informative and sometimes fascinating book that really makes Victoria's life and the lives of those who were closest to her come alive.

Note: I received a free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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