The Queen’s Knight: The Extraordinary Life of Queen Victoria’s Most Trusted Confidant

Written by Martyn Downer
Review by Doug Kemp

The eponymous knight is Major-General Sir Howard Elphinstone, who served Queen Victoria for 30 years. A decorated war hero from the Crimean campaign, Elphinstone was recruited by the Prince Consort to be Governor to the young Prince Arthur, Victoria and Albert’s seventh child. Elphinstone then stayed with the Queen, eventually becoming her aide-de-camp and eminence grise. This is not just a highly capable biography, but provides a fascinating insight into the intrigues and minutiae of the Victorian court and how Elphinstone, who was not a natural diplomat or temperamentally suited to the demands of court life, had to adapt to the strange world of the monarchy, especially when Victoria withdrew from public life following the death of Albert. Victoria’s stubborn pro-German sympathies and then her infatuation with the Rasputin-like John Brown and his Highlander coterie are examined with revealing analysis. Victoria’s other children also valued Elphinstone as a friend and advisor, and Downer narrates in depth the sad circumstances of Victoria’s eldest child, Vicky, married to the enlightened Fritz, son of the Kaiser, whose untimely death ushered in the accession of the awful Wilhelm II.