Thursday, January 26, 2017

God save the Queen--Tricia McGill

Find all Tricia McGill's Books We Love titles HERE

It amazes me how even today a vast majority of people are fascinated by the British Monarchy. Magazines make a lot of money publishing pictures and anecdotes of members of the Royal Family, be they British or otherwise. I, personally, am a monarchist. Arguments go on here in Australia about whether or not we should become a Republic. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it is my motto. I admire and respect Queen Elizabeth, who has done a marvelous job throughout her long reign, and I do hope she can continue until the day she passes on. Just my humble opinion.

One of my brothers met Queen Elizabeth at Portsmouth when she visited one of her Royal Navy minesweepers that he served on after WW11. His only comment I can recall was that she was tiny and had lovely skin. My eldest sister, Doris, also met Her Majesty here in Australia on one of the Queen’s early visits. I seem to recall my sister was more worried about one of the other waitresses who had the audacity to be showing an inch of her under slip. That just didn’t do in front of the Queen. Doris was introduced to the Queen, which gave her something to talk about for years.

Another monarch who has fascinated me over the years is Queen Victoria who ruled the United Kingdom of Gt Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901. Many authors are also intrigued by the Victorian Era, as shown by the books set in that period. Mind you, it is not so much Victoria who holds my interest as her large family. And being a romantic at heart I pictured this idyllic love affair between her and her beloved Prince Albert, and their perfect life surrounded by their many children conceived through that love.

Alas, my previous opinions concerning Queen Victoria were completely shattered recently when a programme aired on BBC TV; Queen Victoria’s Children. What a fascinating insight into that royal family.
And what an eye-opener. Far from being this devoted family, wholly content within their blissful cocoon, they were what today might be considered dysfunctional to say the least.

My heartfelt thanks to historian Jane Ridley for some of the following facts, mainly taken from her book Bertie: A Life of Edward V11, published by Chatto & Windus:  

Victoria and Albert’s marriage was a love match of course, but in time their picture of perfect domesticity was proved a lie. The four sons and five daughters were born due to Victoria’s insatiable infatuation for her prince. The fa├žade shown to the world proved to be so different to the actual facts.

Because, in the 17 years of their marriage, Victoria was pregnant a lot of the time, the Prince ably took on her heavy workload. This annoyed hell out of her and they were caught in this power struggle, which caused endless rows, some shaking the walls of the palace as she stormed about slamming doors. This makes her more human to me, as my husband and I had many a door-slamming argument even though we dearly loved each other. Poor Victoria, although she loved her prince she must have been madly jealous when he made such a good job of the tasks he took on. Albert became terrified of these temper outbursts of hers and doubtless considered at times that she might have inherited the madness of George 111.

Truth was, Victoria detested being pregnant, even though she enjoyed the initial act of conceiving the babies. And over time she hated almost every one of her offspring. She brought in a wet nurse as she considered breast feeding ‘disgusting’. Her breasts were more for Albert’s pleasure than to satisfy her baby’s hunger. In her documented letters to several of her children and friends she admitted her dislike for her children. To be honest, she was a battle-axe of a mother, domineering and unlikable, never caring or soft. It seems most of them couldn’t wait to get married and away from her.
Bertie, the eldest, who later ruled as Edward V11 (and by all accounts made a not too bad job of it) was disliked, and even bullied, by both parents for his philandering ways. They both considered him a half-wit. Imagine! The story of his “fall from grace” when, while training with the army in Ireland, he smuggled a prostitute into his bed, is well known. Victoria and Albert must have been beside themselves with chagrin.
Victoria blamed Bertie for Alfred’s premature death because, after her husband visited his son at Cambridge where they took a long walk in the rain, Albert took sick. He died three weeks later, but it is probable the rain soaking had nothing to do with it. The cause of death was likely typhoid. Victoria could not bear to have Bertie near her and for the next 40 years of her life wore black as she mourned her Prince. The public saw her as a pathetic grief-stricken widow. We now know the story is very different.
In fact her pathological need to exact control of her large family caused her to send informers and spies out to report back to her on all of her offspring. I found it inconceivable to hear that after Bertie married Princess Alexandra, Victoria went so far as to get the doctor to report back on everything, even Alexandra’s menstrual cycle.
Victoria once remarked that Bertie was like her. Obviously she was right, for Bertie was highly sexed, and had a bad temper. His saving grace was that he was charming. At least he has been praised for the way, in later years, he modernized the British monarchy.
Victoria’s other sons didn’t fare much better with their mother. Dear Leopold, a hemophiliac, was described by Victoria as "a very common-looking child". What kind of mother can’t stand the looks of her son? She did her best to wrap him in a cocoon as if he was an invalid, appointing a bully of a servant to look after him. Leopold won the chance to study at Oxford after a long battle with her. He was only 30 when he died. What a miserable existence he must have endured.
The only son who was anything like his father was Arthur, later the Duke of Connaught. He was her favorite, simply because he obeyed her.
As for the girls, Vicky, the eldest daughter, couldn’t escape her mother’s interference even after she married Fritz, the heir to the throne of Prussia. Victoria wrote to her daughter almost every day, trying to manipulate their lives in Germany. And when Vicky became pregnant what did her mother say? The “horrid” news upset her dreadfully.
Thank goodness Vicky, and her sister Alice, also married to a German prince, decided to defy their mother and secretly breastfed their babies. Of course Victoria found out and was furious. I imagine all the children were scared of their mother at any given time. Because she was also their sovereign they were compelled in some way to obey her.
The youngest child Beatrice (known as Baby) was kept at home. Baby was terrified of her mother. Victoria refused to speak to her for 6 months after Beatrice told her that she had become engaged to be married to her own German Prince. Thank goodness there was one daughter with the courage to rebel. Feisty Louise refused to marry her mother’s choice, and chose Lord Lorne, the son of the Duke of Argyll instead. Sadly this proved a bad choice as it was a disastrous, unhappy marriage.
Perhaps I should not be so harsh on Victoria, for she herself was brought up by an overbearing mother who designed “The Kensington System”.
This consisted of a strict set of rules concerning the upbringing of the future Queen. Victoria grew to hate her mother, who was strict to the point of being brutal. Victoria also hated her mother’s lady-in-waiting Lady Flora Hastings.  Doubtless Victoria felt released from her mother’s clutches when she married her handsome Prince Albert. But then all these babies began to come along, putting a curb on her own pleasures, presumably fostering her resentment. They often say a bully breeds a bully. Hopefully this trait wasn’t passed on to her offspring. I can't help but wonder just why she didn't look more kindly on her children considering her own miserable childhood.

Queen Victoria’s letters are available in some form from most online book sellers.
Find her scrapbook here: