The recently published historical novel “Victoria’s Royal Secret” examines in depth the circumstances which led to Lady Flora Hastings life being ruined by an impetuous and immature Queen Victoria.
As a young lady, Queen Victoria’s female acquaintances – for instance, Lady Flora Hastings – would have expected their parents to arrange their marriages. Not only amongst royalty but any family of good standing. That was just how things were. A young woman’s only prospect of an acceptable future was a good marriage.
If they were particularly loved by a parent, they could, perhaps influence the choice. Except for Victoria, of course. While she watched as her friends and acquaintances busied themselves with marriage prospects she could more or less choose her man. She was the Queen of England and there were a lot of hopefuls to choose from. How very different it was for her lady-in-waiting Lady Flora Hasting. As each prospective husband slipped between her fingers and her looks and age began to take its toll, she became more desperate. At this stage of her life any hint of a scandal would be massive disaster. Any hope of marrying a respectable widower on the second merry-go-round would be over.
So, when a scandal broke out in the palace corridors about Lady Flora Hastings possibly being pregnant it was an incredibly serious matter. And when this scandal proved to be false and the originator of this gossip appeared to be the young Queen herself, the kingdom was appalled.
Marriage was vital in those times. It was not important what he looked like or how well you got on together, as long as you got married. If by luck and good fortune a woman’s husbands turned out to be fair and reasonable, they considered their marriage to be successful. They ‘rolled up their sleeves’ and got on with it. Their dreams and aspirations were children, a well run home, respect and stability. They had no worries about their husbands dumping them. No anxiety about their jobs and their careers. No angst about keeping up a lifestyle. As long as they behaved well, were presentable and discrete about family problems, life was not that bad.
To have this opportunity snatched away by false gossip was not tolerable. The scandal was leaked to the press and soon every household, not only in England, but across Europe, was discussing “The Lady Flora Hastings affair’. It became a media frenzy.
The Hastings family, both influential and wealthy were enraged and wrote to the newspapers defending Lady Flora’s position. What has to be understood was that such a sordid and discreditable scandal was now associated with the Queen and soon the case of Lady Flora was being used as a political weapon in the hands of the Tories against the Whigs. Queen Victoria’s esteem among the royal houses of Europe plummeted and the British Government fell from power.