Tonawanda News

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May 28, 2013

BOOK NOOK: 'Serving Victoria' gives behind-the-scene details of monarchy

Tonawanda News — Happily ever after.

That’s how things go at the end of a fairy tale. The handsome prince weds the beautiful princess, dragons are slain, wicked witches become dust, peasants rejoice and they all live… well, you know what comes next.

But maybe you’re wrong. Maybe scandal comes next, or war, disease, death. Only the servants know for sure, and in the new book “Serving Victoria “ by Kate Hubbard, they were quite willing to tell.

When Alexandrina Victoria became Queen of England in 1837, she inherited a court filled with impropriety, which scandalized the young woman. Though she ultimately retained some of her uncle’s court, she needed to appoint her own ladies-in-waiting, maids-of-honour, nursery attendants, physicians and other personal staff. Members of her court were required to have a sense of duty, discretion and high morals. Most of them would come from British aristocracy.

While writing a children’s book on the Queen, Kate Hubbard came across collections of letters and diaries written by various members of Victoria ‘s entourage — penned notes that detailed life inside the monarchy, including daily drudgery and isolation. Hubbard also found gossip that gives modern Anglophiles an intimate peek at the Queen, her husband, uncles and other members of the royal family.

Working for the Queen seems like it would be an honor but it was, in truth, dull and dreary: Evenings, for instance, consisted of stiff dinner conversation followed by two hours of small talk. The Queen was said to be somewhat immature and loud, often “showing her gums.” More than one blue-blooded palace employee thought that Victoria and Albert were the 19th-century equivalents of trailer trash.

Still, despite mind-numbing duties, palace life wasn’t horrid.

Queen Victoria never became friends with her female attendants, but she became “close” to some of them and was a generous gift-giver. Though the Queen notoriously kept drawing rooms and bedrooms at 40 degrees or less, court members were well-fed and safely sheltered. They also got decent (for the time) salaries.

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