Victoria's Daughters

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Macmillan, 23 дек. 1999 г. - Всего страниц: 400

Five women who shared one of the most extraordinary and privileged sisterhoods of all time...

Vicky, Alice, Helena, Louise, and Beatrice were historically unique sisters, born to a sovereign who ruled over a quarter of the earth's people and who gave her name to an era: Queen Victoria. Two of these princesses would themselves produce children of immense consequence. All five would face the social restrictions and familial machinations borne by ninetheenth-century women of far less exalted class.

Researched at the houses and palaces of its five subjects-- in London, Scotland, Berlin, Darmstadt, and Ottawa-- Victoria's Daughters examines a generation of royal women who were dominated by their mother, married off as much for political advantage as for love, and passed over entirely when their brother Bertie ascended to the throne. Packard, an experienced biographer whose last book chronicled Victoria's final days, provides valuable insights into their complex, oft-tragic lives as scions of Europe's most influential dynasty, and daughters of their own very troubled times.

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Пользовательский отзыв  - wealhtheowwylfing - LibraryThing

Queen Victoria's eldest daughter was born 17 years before the youngest. Her daughters had drastically different relationships with their parents: their mother alternated between codependency and harsh ... Читать весь отзыв

LibraryThing Review

Пользовательский отзыв  - flyheatherfly - LibraryThing

This book will cure you of your childhood fantasy of wanting to be a princess! An interesting accessible read about the daughters of Queen Victoria. Sheltered childhoods created young ladies who were ... Читать весь отзыв

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The Victorians: An Age in Retrospect
John Gardiner
Ограниченный просмотр - 2006
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1 Foundations Since neither the queen nor her new husband had the first idea how pregnancy might be avoided, only weeks after her wedding the amazed Victoria found herself, not particularly happily, with child. The expectant mother suppressed her horror of what she called the "shadow side" of marriage and resolved to look upon the approaching event with something like equanimity. Both parents were determined to give their kingdom a male heir, such production representing the most fundamental duty of sovereign mother and consort father. Thus it happened that in the early hours of November 21, 1840, a rainy day Victoria remembered most clearly for the smoking chimneys outside her bedroom windows, the young queen''s labor pains began, a week or two earlier than her doctors had predicted. Because of the low state of medicine in the early nineteenth century, childbirth was still a largely primitive undertaking. Though royal deliveries were conducted with a degree of care far exceeding that received by most of her kingdom''s mothers, the effort had, in truth, killed the queen''s aunt, a tragedy most responsible for putting Victoria on the throne. This unique position she nowfilled with a prideful mix of noblesse oblige and the assuredness that it had been God''s own plan. Indeed, it did appear that divine facilitation had led some three and a half years earlier to the accession of the eighteen-year-old princess to Britain''s throne.

To understand how Victoria became queen of England, it is necessary to look back a few decades, to the reign of her grandfather, King George III, and his queen, Charlotte. George, the prince of Wales, the couple''s eldest child, had to the surprise of many fulfilled his dynastic duty by contracting for a lawful marriage, relatively late in life--he was already in his thirties when he went to the altar. Others, however, accurately foresaw the failure of that enterprise, since his bride-to-be was a woman whose tastes differed in almost every particular from those of her reluctant fiancé. To complicate the situation, the royal groom had already been married--although his first marriage, to the Roman Catholic widow Maria Fitzherbert, was officially kept secret: marriage between any heir to the British throne and a Catholic was impermissible under the law as it then stood, and to this day continues so. Because of its illegality, George''s marriage to Mrs. Fitzherbert had been contracted in an essentially morganatic state (though Britain didn''t and still legally doesn''t recognize this either),1 which meant that his wife could not assume rank as princess of Wales, nor could any children of that union have inherited rank, titles, or rights to the throne from their father. Though on becoming king George could have made Mrs. Fitzherbert his queen--she was already widely called "Princess Fitz"--such an act would have brought disapprobation from every European court, as well as grave constitutional questions as to the legitimacy of Britain''s crown, a matter taken by royalty of the early nineteenth century with massive seriousness, and therefore not a course likely to have been followed by a fourth King George. Mrs. Fitzherbert''s star began to be overshadowed in the mid-1790s when George took a sudden passion for new lovers, first LadyJersey, later Lady Hertford. It was actually debts incurred during his illegal marriage that most directly prompted the prince to contract an approved marriage as a means of regularizing his purse. George abruptly divorced Mrs. Fitzherbert, even though he swore he still loved her. He surely was mollified, however, by Parliament''s promise that in return for making a dynastically valid union, it would pay off his vast debts and generously increase his state allowance. In 1794, George asked Lady Jersey, his hitherto standby mistress, to see what she might be able to find him by way of a suitably Protestant princess. It is perhaps understandable that she did not wish to recommend anyone who would diminish her own standing with the prince. In view of the results--Lady Jersey''s intervention proved catastrophic--George would have been better off asking the help of a less personally interested intermediary. What she came up with turned out to be one of Europe''s least appealing princesses. Caroline of Brunswick was royal--in fact, George''s first cousin (her mother was the sister of his father)--but that about covered her commendable qualities, aside from the prospective groom''s belief the connection would please her uncle, his father. On the negative side, Caroline''s speech was uncouth, her appearance astoundingly unregal, her bodily hygiene verging on the barbaric. George''s cultured tastes clearly stood diametrically opposed to the princess''s general lowness. The courtier Lord Malmesbury was nonetheless dispatched to Germany to inspect and negotiate. When in 1795 Caroline arrived in England and George first saw what his ill-luck had brought him, he immediately called out to his valet for a brandy. Remaining insensibly drunk even on his wedding night, the prince nonetheless performed conjugally, the result being a daughter whom he named Charlotte, after his own mother. The infant was destined to be--given the father''s lack of regard for its mother--George''s only heir. Caroline was, unsurprisingly, discarded almost immediately after Charlotte''s conception, never again to spend a night with her husband, nor even to pass many more days under his roof.George would soon formally separate from a woman chiefly distinguished for being one of the most ill-used princesses in British history. Eighteen years later, Princess Charlotte, by then a young woman, was herself ready to mate. Understandably, she was leery of marriage, having seen her own childhood ruined by the aftermath of her parents'' ill-assorted union. Though she was loyal to her father, Charlotte was nonetheless perfectly sensible to the prince of Wales''s many and varied shortcomings--she once confided that "my mother was bad, but she would not have been so bad if my father had not been much worse still." But now grown, the all-but-certain heiress to the kingdom in which George was serving as regent for his mentally incapacitated father had all Europe from which to choose a husband. Leopold of Coburg was the eventual winner of Charlotte''s hand and of future status as consort to a British monarch. Likely the handsomest prince in Europe, Leopold already boasted a distinguished career as a major general in the Russian Army during the Napoleonic Wars, and--what gave him his eligibility to marry Charlotte--he was the younger son of the reigning duke of an insignificant if picturesque German duchy. Coburg claimed little more than sixty thousand subjects and was almost entirely unremarked upon in Europe''s affairs except for the extraordinary good looks borne by a high proportion of the sons of its reigning house; even the great Napoleon himself once called Leopold the "handsomest young man I ever saw at the Tuileries." Of ponderous personality, and apt to measure every word with razor-edged precision, Leopold''s somber character stood in notable contrast to Charlotte''s; the princess, though dignified and imperious, was outspoken and romantic, possessed of impulsive spirits and a generous heart. As for Leopold, he was cautiously quiet, not noticeably passionate, and had too little money to be generous. But in May 1816 the couple married, and the still-gangly princess almost immediately became pregnant. She miscarried this first child, but quickly conceived again. On November 3, 1817, three weeks overduein her second pregnancy, Charlotte''s waters broke and her doctors put her to bed. Had those doctors been less timid in their ministrations, the subsequent history of the world might have been greatly altered. But dealing with royal births tended to make even otherwise-aggressive physicians think twice before applying necessary measures. Sir Richard Croft, Charlotte''s obstetrician, examined the princess--without, of course, the slightest effort to employ sanitary methods, the medical implications of asepsis not then being understood. Judging that birth was near, the doctor called in the great officers of state to observe the event--a ritual long required at royal accouchements to ensure that no substitute baby was inserted into the royal line. But Croft and the witnesses were to be disappointed: the child refused to be born. Following a full day of labor, Charlotte''s pains lessened in their intensity; but though her cervix had dilated, she grew too weak to provide the final effort needed to push her baby into the doctors'' waiting arms. The princess had been bled several times during her pregnancy in the accepted maternity treatment of the age (the reasoning being this would "prevent hemorrhage or the child growing too large") and had thus by the time of her labor been rendered dangerously anemic. After another twenty-four hours during which she still failed to expel the child (her doctors were unwilling to apply forceps, though a pair was standing by and the technique had been in use for over a century), it became obvious that a medical disaster was occurring. Finally, at the end of a total of fifty hours of labor, the all-but-expended princess managed to deliver a son--stillborn. Though her attendants frenziedly attempted every known remedy to bring breath into the child, it had evidently been dead for hours. Valiant but tragically overdue efforts were now hurriedly put into play to save the life of the mother. Charlotte''s loss of blood over the two days had been substantial, and a clumsy manual removal of the placenta only depleted h

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