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Victoria’s Secrets

The public image is of a stuffy, buttoned-down monarch but, as historian Lucy Worsley tells Emma Slattery Williams, Queen Victoria’s private journal and letters reveal the real woman behind the crown

LUCY WORSLEY is a familiar face on British TV screens having presented a host of history programmes. A prolific author, her new book is Queen Victoria: Daughter, Wife, Mother, Widow

Victoria’s near-lifelong writings show, says historian Lucy Worsley, that there are aspects of the Queen that “should be drawn out and treated more sympathetically”
ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST/© HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II 2019, PHOTO OF LUCY WORSLEY: HISTORIC ROYAL PALACES/BLOOMSBURY/BEN TURNER
LEFT: The young Princess L Alexandrina Victoria - aka A the th future Queen Victoria
THIS PIC: Kensington T Palace, where Victoria was vi virtually confined for the length of her childhood le
ALAMY X3, GETTY X3, ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST/© HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II, 2019/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1

In the early hours of 20 June 1837, a young woman was woken by her mother in Kensington Palace. Arriving in her sitting room, she was greeted by two men kneeling at her feet – the Lord Chamberlain and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Just a few hours earlier, her uncle, King William IV, had passed away. This barely five-foot girl was now Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Victoria received this news alone – one of the few times throughout her life thus far that she hadn’t been chaperoned. This tiny woman, forced to live a sheltered life until now, would go on to rule a quarter of the world’s population.

Unlike those of other British monarchs, many of Queen Victoria’s innermost thoughts are available for the world to read. They reveal a passionate and strongwilled woman who defied the image created of her. Victoria was first given a diary by her mother when she was 13 and added to it almost daily, right up until just days before her death. She was also a voracious letter-writer and these letters tend to be more open and honest; her journal was read by her mother until she was queen and so she avoided writing anything that might offend her family. Indeed, Victoria later instructed her daughter Beatrice to remove anything too personal after her death. Beatrice destroyed most of the originals and the letters were censored, helping to cultivate the image that has survived down the centuries. Despite the censorship, her vast wealth of entries still gives us extraordinary insight into her thoughts and life.

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About History Revealed

“Don’t let every little feeling be read in your face and seen in your manner.” Queen Victoria certainly took her own advice. But her personal feelings have since been revealed through her diaries and letters, and this issue we ask the celebrated historian Lucy Worsley how these private words have shed light on Victoria’s life and deeds. Plus: the tale of how modest Oxford don JRR Tolkien was inspired to create Middle Earth, an ancient Athenian whodunnit, our A-Z of executions, the most brilliant beards in history, and more.