Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch

Written by Kate Williams
Review by Jeanne Greene

This is a fascinating and intimate picture of a girl becoming a queen, all because of a royal crisis before she was born. George III’s dissolute sons had produced only one legitimate heir, the Princess Charlotte. When she died in childbirth in 1817, the greedy dukes, none of them young, married quickly to correct the matter. Two years later, one succeeded; and Victoria was born. As a child, she lived apart from her father’s family and, except for a certain willfulness, showed none of the worst Hanover traits.

Victoria took the throne at age 18, inexperienced, naïve, and susceptible to bad advice, but, by the time she was thirty, she had developed (or been shaped) into the dutiful monarch who gave “Victorian” its meaning. With sources of national power changing rapidly, the Queen chose cooperation rather than competition with Parliament, the first English monarch to derive strength from being above politics. This perceptive analysis of Queen Victoria’s young years is highly recommended.