Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard - review by Sarah Bradford

Sarah Bradford

At Home with Mrs Brown

Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household


Chatto & Windus 417pp £20

Self-centred, demanding, often maddeningly so, Queen Victoria commanded the devotion of the people who worked for her, as Kate Hubbard skilfully illustrates in Serving Victoria. The book is based on the letters and papers of six of her more important courtiers: Sarah Lyttelton, a Spencer who married into the Lyttelton family of Hagley Hall; Charlotte Canning, great-granddaughter of the third Earl of Bute and granddaughter of the third Earl of Hardwicke, married to the handsome and notoriously unfaithful Charles Canning, son of the prime minister and a future governor-general and viceroy of India; Lady Augusta Bruce, daughter of the seventh Earl of Elgin and wife of the Dean of Westminster, Dr Arthur Stanley; Victoria’s private secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby; Randall Davidson, Dean of Windsor; and finally, and perhaps the most revealing of them all, a middle-class Scot, Dr James Reid, who as the queen’s physician attended her to the end.

Through their eyes Hubbard views the human history of Victoria’s family and court, from the birth of her first children, Victoria (‘Princessy’) and Bertie (‘Princey’), through the traumatic death of Prince Albert, her black widowhood, and her fierce interventions in foreign politics, to her death at Osborne in January 1901,

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