The Last Princess


The pendulum of public opinion seems to have swung as far as it will go with regard to Queen Victoria and her reign. Perhaps it is time for the return swing.

This book about Princess Beatrice, the youngest of the Queen’s children, is a dense read, solidly researched. Dennison makes a valiant attempt at presenting all sides of an argument, or ways of seeing an action or decision, often using quotes from letters or personal reports to do so.

If you know little of Princess Beatrice, this book is an excellent read, interesting and clearly written in plain English. But (there had to be a “but,” didn’t there?), Mr. Dennison assumes that Queen Victoria’s selfishness – ‘monumental selfishness’ – in keeping Beatrice a child for as long as possible, and in expecting her not to marry but stay at home to look after her, is the monstrous Queen’s selfishness alone. Dennison, who is a young journalist, may be out of step with the old-line historians. Those of us born in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s will recall “spinster aunts” and “bachelor uncles,” or great-aunts and great-uncles, whose duty was to remain at home to look after their parents. There are Victorian books of sermons on that issue and on the topic of duty. Perhaps Beatrice was not so much a product of upbringing by a uniquely selfish woman, as Dennison believes, but the typical product of her age?


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