A self-professed anglophile, I was very excited to see Kate Hubbard’s Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household in Diane’s inbox. And I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you may be interested as well, because it bears some resemblance to a little show called Downton Abbey, and its predecessor, Upstairs Downstairs. Though set during the notoriously conservative 63-year reign of Queen Victoria (and, admittedly, there were no Turkish gents dying in the bed of Princess Beatrice), Hubbard’s book serves to shatter a number of our misconceptions about the Queen and her household.
Drawing on many previously unpublished letters and diaries, Hubbard follows six members of Victoria’s inner household circle, ranging from her maid of honor to her personal physician, throughout her reign. The result is a more vulnerable portrait of the Queen history has painted as austere. Here is a woman prone to giggling fits, selfishness, behavior that ran from controlling to comical to kind. Through her staff’s eyes, we witness the debilitating heartbreak of her husband’s death, and the sympathy she showed to others during their own tragedies.
Serving Victoria offers a fresh view of a monarch we thought we knew, and illuminates what it truly meant to serve the Queen. It will be on sale April 30.