Although, to many, Queen Victoria represents the embodiment of the large happy family, she actually grew up in a very dysfunctional household.
After the reign of her two notoriously wayward uncles, Britain embraced the symbol of a new young monarch and the order and uprightness of a stable large family.
Queen Victoria’s mother was the obscure Princess of Saxe-Coburg whose family were having cash flow problems after the Neapolitan Wars. Her first marriage, at seventeen, was to an equally obscure Prince of Leiningen. She had two children from this arranged marriage, a much desired son and a daughter. However, her husband died and she was free again to dump her children and be bartered for on the European royal market.
The Duke of Kent was in line for the throne of England but he was fifty, unmarried, childless and desperately in need of a wife and legitimate heir. The latter being the essential point. He sent his equerry Sir John Conroy to bargain the deal. The young widowed Dowager Princess of Leiningen was just thirty when she agreed to another arranged marriage. She only met the Duke in person when the marriage contract had finally been struck.
She and the marriage negotiator, Sir John, immediately began an affair which did not seem to bother the Duke overly much, as he still had his mistress tucked away in Paris. However, things became a bit awkward when the Duchess found herself pregnant with Sir John’s child. No matter – the Duke believed the father to be a passing musician and far more importantly, he had his much needed heir.
Once Princess Victoria was born though, things really became complicated but the Duke conveniently and suddenly succumbed to a common cold and died, leaving Sir John to head up the household, set the rules, manage the finances and totally dominate the Duchess and her daughter.
So this was the unusual family unit that Queen Victoria grew up in. Sir John, missed a trick though and instead of being loving and fatherly, he was strict, dictatorial and controlling. Victoria despised him and turned against not only Sir John but against her mother as well and began an abnormal, far too clingy relationship with her governess. Kensington Palace was split down the middle and the continuous hostility made for a very dysfunctional upbringing. It was not surprising therefore when Victoria, Queen at eighteen years of age, refused to allow Sir John to attend her coronation and banished her mother to the nether regions of Buckingham Palace.
These strange relationships are examined in the historical novel “Victoria’s Royal Secret”. Based on impeccable research, the book reaches an astonishing conclusion which will give the reader much cause for thought.