Read Becoming Queen by Kate Williams Online

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'I will be good,' promised the thirteen-year-old Victoria, when she understood that she would be Queen of the most powerful country in the world. That, of course, is a matter of opinion. And there are other layers to the story.With a combination of novelistic flair and historical accuracy, Kate Williams begins by relating the heartbreaking story of Princess Charlotte, the'I will be good,' promised the thirteen-year-old Victoria, when she understood that she would be Queen of the most powerful country in the world. That, of course, is a matter of opinion. And there are other layers to the story.With a combination of novelistic flair and historical accuracy, Kate Williams begins by relating the heartbreaking story of Princess Charlotte, the Queen who never was, and her impact on the young Victoria. Our perception of Victoria the Queen is coloured by portraits of her older, widowed self - her dour expression embodying the repressive morality propagated in her time. But Becoming Queen reveals an energetic and vibrant woman, determined to battle for power. It also documents the Byzantine machinations behind Victoria's quest to occupy the throne, and shows how her struggles did not end when finally the crown was placed on her head.In the late eighteenth century, monarchies were in crisis across Europe. Discontented with their mad King, George III, and his spendthrift offspring, the English pinned their hopes on the only legitimate grandchild: Princess Charlotte, daughter of George, Prince of Wales. But Charlotte died at the age of twenty-two, a few hours after giving birth to a stillborn son. A grieving nation immediately began venerating her as someone who would have made an ideal Queen while Charlotte's rackety uncles embarked on a race to produce the next heir.No one thought that little Victoria, daughter of the Duke of Kent, would ascend the throne. She, in turn, became increasingly determined to take control of her own destiny, and clashed constantly not only with her hugely ambitious mother but with her protégé and household comptroller, the Irish adventurer, John Conroy. After she became Queen, ministers, even her beloved Prince Albert, still attempted to steal power away from her.Revealing how Charlotte's death shaped Victoria's reign and laying bare the passions that swirled around the throne, Becoming Queen is an absorbingly dramatic tale of secrets, sexual repression and endless conflict. After her lauded biography of Emma Hamilton, England's Mistress, Kate Williams has produced a most original and intimate portrait of Great Britain's longest reigning monarch....

Title : Becoming Queen
Author :
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ISBN : 9780091794798
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 432 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Becoming Queen Reviews

  • Jane
    2018-11-24 01:51

    Where I got the book: purchased online. Amazon? I've had it for a while.This is, in a sense, a two-part book, and the blurb is pretty deceptive. Fortunately I do not remove stars for publisher shenanigans. From the blurb you'd think this book is all about Queen Victoria whereas in fact 100+ of the 346 pages of text are devoted to her far less well-known cousin Charlotte, daughter of George IV (better known as the Prince Regent) and, during her short lifetime, heir-presumptive to the British throne. If she had lived to become Queen, Victoria would probably be a minor footnote in history and we could be talking about the Charlottian age (OK, probably some variation on Carolingian). Charlotte and Leopold instead of Victoria and Albert; I would like to spend some time developing that idea. (Leopold, interestingly enough, eventually became the first King of the Belgians.)I'm not complaining about the time spent learning about Charlotte, because this lively soap-opera of a dual biography is exactly what I needed to understand a vital point in British history; the transition between the reign of the Hanoverians with their (not all at once--well, not always all at once) dull, incompetent, vice-ridden, hard-drinking, insane, eccentric, greedy and peculiar German princes and the new age of propriety and pantaloons we call the Victorian era. I had always thought of Victoria as the last of the Hanoverians but in fact she was never a Hanoverian ruler; under Salic Law a female could not inherit the Hanoverian title so it passed to Victoria's uncle the Duke of Cumberland. Even that's not as simple as it sounds, but that's another story... Suffice it to say that if Victoria had died before she ensured the succession so very effectively (nine children), the British and German succession would have got all mixed up again so thanks for all the childbearing, Ma'am. And George V got rid of all the British monarchy's German titles during World War I and renamed his family Windsor...But I digress. The point is that the period between George III and Victoria wasn't an easy one for Britons longing for dynastic stability and Kate Williams has rightly fastened on it as a wonderful story, especially as two of the main players were young girls with parental issues. Charlotte's parents hated each other and the closer she got to the throne, the more they began to battle to get control of her. Victoria lost her father at an early age and fought throughout her teenage years to get out from under her power-hungry mother and her "special advisor" (ahem.)The result is a fantastic soap-opera that would stand up to the Tudors any day and Kate Williams does a wonderful job with it, keeping the threads of the story in front of the reader so that I never lost track. She also covers the courtship and very early years of Victoria and Albert, which is a great story in itself. My appetite is whetted for much, much more about this period in British history, which also covers the century when Britain went from being a mostly rural, slightly backward (culturally speaking) society to the industrial and cultural superpower it was by the dawn of WWI. Suggestions for further reading are very welcome.

  • Lady Wesley
    2018-12-02 03:43

    Note: please click on See Review to see the illustrations.10 May 2015: With the recent arrival of a new Princess Charlotte, I thought to add to my review of this wonderful biography of the last Princess Charlotte. Also, I ran across this illustration of the couple on their wedding day. I've already written about her dress, but notice his attire. Regency fashion for gentlemen really was not forgiving of a less-than-perfect figure. (Rather like popular women's fashions today). Those breeches and stockings really are quite revealing. And surely, he didn't actually have such tiny feet. I've noticed small feet in other illustrations and think that must have reflected a trendy ideal that was accomplished most often by artistic license. 10 June 2013: The so-called Regency Romance is a popular genre of historical romantic fiction. Usually the story is set roughly in the first twenty years of 19th century Great Britain, when the Prince of Wales served as regent for his insane father, King George III. They are populated by dukes and earls going to ton balls and Vauxhall Gardens. Occasionally, the Prince Regent, commonly called “Prinny,” makes a cameo appearance. Even his gang of drunken, dissolute brothers may show up.One member of the royal family of whom I was completely unaware, however, was Prinny’s only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales. She was born in 1796 to Prinny and his wife, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Although her parents adored her, they detested one another and used her as a weapon in their squabbles. She had a lonely childhood, surrounded by governesses and servants but few other children. She saw her parents rarely. Although it was apparent early on that she might become Queen of England, her education was desultory, and she was not a diligent student. She was vibrant and energetic, and remarkably sweet given how spoiled she was. This was a politically perilous time in Great Britain and the large, profligate royal family was uniformly disdained. As Charlotte grew older, she became more popular with the masses while her spendthrift father became more hated. After he was named regent for his father, Prinny feared that upon George III’s death he might be skipped over in favor of his daughter. His solution was to virtually imprison her in a ramshackle mansion full of toadies and spies. Her mother is without power to help her and doesn’t seem very interested in doing so anyway. Occasionally, Charlotte was allowed to visit the sea at Weymouth, but other than that she never traveled outside of London and Windsor.Charlotte, who was known to have Whiggish tendencies, became the hope of not just the masses but also those of the upper class who saw the desperate need for reform. She was only vaguely aware of her potential power, but when Prinny tried to marry her off to the unattractive Prince of Orange she finally rebelled. After a brief infatuation with a Prussian prince, known by all to be a worthless rake, she turned to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, a strikingly handsome cavalry officer in the Russian army. He was no virgin hero, though, having once had a passionate affair with Napoleon’s stepdaugher, Hortense de Beauharnais. He was, however, strong, steady, disciplined and honorable – quite a contrast to Charlotte’s father and uncles.Although she was stung by the Prussian prince’s rejection, she decided to marry Leopold, terming him as “the next best thing, which was a good tempered man with good sence, with whom I could have a reasonable hope of being less unhappy & comfortless than I have been in a single state.” (And ladies, take a look at this fellow and tell me if you wouldn't have settled for him too.)Charlotte was desperate to escape from her father’s tyranny, and her father was eager to marry her off to a foreign prince and hopefully get her out of England for at least part of each year. They were married on May 2, 1816, in a ceremony deliberately kept small by Prinny. Her dress, however, was said to have cost £10,000. The newly wedded couple moved into their Surrey estate, Claremont House, and for the first time in her life Charlotte was independent and content. Just like in a romance novel, she and Leopold soon fell deeply in love, and before their first anniversary, they announced the expected birth of their first child.Sadly, there was no HEA. On November 5, 1817, after nearly three days of labor, she gave birth to a stillborn boy. The next day, Charlotte herself succumbed. The medical care she received was atrocious by today’s standards but probably the best available at the time. The public’s grief was overwhelming; everyone, even the poorest beggars, wore some form of mourning and shops closed for two weeks. “Her death is one of the most serious misfortunes the country has ever met with,” said the Duke of Wellington. After Prinny and his six brothers, there simply was no heir to the throne. Of George III’s estimated fifty-six grandchildren, not one was legitimate. Charlotte’s death set off an unseemly rush to the altar by several of Prinny’s brothers, including the relatively respectable lifelong military man, the Duke of Kent. Not coincidentally, he set out to court Prince Leopold’s widowed sister, Victoire. They married in 1818, and barely nine months later, the duchess gave birth to a girl, whom Prinny decreed would be named Alexandrina Victoria. Sadly, the duke died before his daughter was even a year old. The story of Queen Victoria’s upbringing and marriage comprises the second half of this book. Those events are well known, and I won’t summarize them here. Suffice it to say that her widowed uncle, Prince Leopold, who later became King of the Belgians, remained close to his sister and niece, and young Victoria looked upon him almost as a father. For that reason, as well as for his own ambition, he spent years grooming his young nephew, Price Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, for the role that Leopold himself had hoped to assume – Prince Consort to the Queen of England. If you’re interested in learning more about the regency period, I recommend this book. The writing is lively and not pedantic, even though the author holds a D. Phil. from Oxford. Neither George III nor Prinny come off looking very good here; they both were just awful parents. Moreover, Prinny, later George IV, and his brother, later William IV, were drunken, selfish kings who cared only for their own comfort and privilege. As with Charlotte, the public pinned their hopes on young Victoria, and this time their hearts were not broken.

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    2018-11-18 22:47

    A brilliantly researched book! Great focus not only on the beginning years of Victoria's reign, but also Princess Charlotte's sadly sheltered life.

  • Jane
    2018-12-14 00:31

    This is not the book that I expected it to be – it’s more in some ways but less in others.The title, the image on the front cover, the words on the back cover – they all suggest that this is a book about the early years and the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria. And it is, but there’s a great deal of ground to cover before the story gets there, because this story goes much further back.It tells the story of two young women who might have been Queen. Each was her presumptive to the British throne, each seemed likely to ascend to that throne, but only one of them did. And she was only born because the other did not.It’s an amazing true story – or it might be truer to say a series of stories – very well told, in a style that is both chatty and informative. It’s clear that the storyteller knows and loves her subject, and that she is eager to share what she knows.Princess Charlotte of Wales was born in 1796 to Prince George – later Prince Regent, later George IV – and his wife, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Although her parents adored her, they detested one another and used her as a weapon in their squabbles. She had a lonely childhood, surrounded by governesses and servants but seeing few other children, and seeing her parents very rarely.And athough it was apparent early on that she might become Queen of England, she was given little education or preparation for the role she was expected to be called upon to play.Charlotte was born into an age when the large, profligate royal family was poorly regarded by its subjects. But she was popular; the hope of not just the masses but also those of the upper class who saw the desperate need for reform. Her dissolute, spendthrift father hated that, and so he did his level best to keep her away from the public gaze, shut up in a grand mansion run by his own trusted servants. .She grew up to be spoiled and wilful; but she also grew up to be vibrant, energetic, and very good at managing people.When her father tried to marry her off to the unattractive and unappealing Prince of Orange she finally rebelled. Charlotte made some missteps, but eventually she turned to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who she described as “a good tempered man with good sence, with whom I could have a reasonable hope of being less unhappy & comfortless than I have been in a single state.”Charlotte was eager to escape from her father’s tyranny, and her father was eager to marry her off to a foreign prince and hopefully get her out of England for at least part of each year.The young couple were married on May 2, 1816, and then moved into their Surrey estate, Claremont House, where for the first time in her life Charlotte was secure and happy. Very soon she was expecting a child.On November 5, 1817, after nearly three days of labour, Charlotte gave birth to a stillborn boy. The next day, she followed him to the grave.Public grief was overwhelming. And after the Prince Regent and his six brothers, there was no heir to the throne. George III had ore than fifty grandchildren, but not one was legitimate.Charlotte’s death set off an unseemly rush to the altar by several the of the sons of George III. Mistresses and morganic wives were cast aside. The Duke of Kent, a lifelong military man, set out to court Prince Leopold’s widowed sister, Victoire. They married in 1818, and barely nine months later, the duchess gave birth to a girl, who would be named Alexandrina Victoria.The Duke died before his daughter was a year old.Her mother kept her close, and kept her away from the world, determined that she would reign as her daughter’s regent.William IV – her uncle who had come to the throne after the death of his George IV – steeled himself to live long enough for his niece to come of age, so that she could rule without a regent.And her widowed uncle, Prince Leopold, who later became King of the Belgians, remained close to his sister and niece; and he spent years groomed his young nephew, Price Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, for the role that Leopold himself had hoped to assume – Prince Consort to the Queen of England.That story rolls on until Victoria is a wife and mother and twenty-two years old – the age that Charlotte was when she died.The telling of this whole extraordinary story is wonderful; it’s full of detail and it is clearly underpinned by a great deal of research.I loved that it made history a very human story.But I was disappointed that it didn’t highlight the parallels between Charlotte and Victoria, and that the author seemed more interested in comparisons with the present day. I was disappointed with that lack of analysis generally, and that momentum of the story overtook almost everything else.I was left to do all of my own thinking, and I loved doing that but I couldn’t help thinking that I shouldn’t have had to do quite so muchwork.And yet I was engaged from start to finish by a story I already knew; I had a lovely time reading, and I am eager to read more about many people and events that this books touched upon.

  • David Eppenstein
    2018-12-05 05:52

    I recently found myself in our local independent bookstore in need of some new reading material. Alas the history section of this wonderful store is not very large, at least not as large as I would like. I have repeatedly suggested to the management that they could do away entirely with the children's section and devote the space to history. My suggestion has thus far gone unheeded. Well all I could find of interest was this little biography of Queen Victoria. I've never read a biography of this enormous figure and even though it was a paperback and I dislike paperbacks I bought it. At 373 pages I thought it might provide an overview to this queen's reign that lasted more than 60 years. What I discovered is that I need to read titles more carefully or at least take them more literally. "Becoming Queen Victoria" is not really a biography of the reign of this queen as the book ends in about 1842, 5 years into her reign. The book is actually more a full biography of Princess Charlotte the daughter of the prince regent, later George IV. The book devotes 140 of its 373 pages to the short life of this tragic princess whose death made Victoria's conception necessary. I can understand an author wanting to give the reader the necessary background information needed to make the primary focus of the book understandable. In this case, however, the author seems to go more than a bit overboard. What the reader needed to understand could have been covered in a few pages but not 140. George III, our George of the American Revolution, had 13 children, 7 boys and 6 girls. Among all of these offspring only George Prince of Wales produced a single legitimate heir with a wife he detested and who detested him. This child was Princess Charlotte. The king's other sons produced numerous bastards but not a single legitimate heir. When poor Charlotte died shortly after delivering a stillborn child the monarchy was left without an heir. The middle aged besoted and debauched sons of George III who were all involved with mistresses were immediately placed in the position of having to run off and find princesses that would have them in order to produce an heir. The only one of these geezers that wasn't a drunk and a wastrel was the Duke of Kent and he won the race to produce an heir, Victoria. Now this is all you needed to know to understand Victoria's family but a bit more color would certainly be useful. The author provided and enormous amount of color about this dysfunctional family. In fact, after reading this book you will probably be amazed that any royal ever survived their childhood without become an psychological and emotional wreck. European nobility used children as tools in their adult games of power politics. Noble children were conceived, pledged in marriage as infants to people they might not have met until they walked down the aisle of their church; these kids were also kidnapped, imprisoned, held for ransom, and executed for being heirs to a throne or because their mere existence posed a threat to somebody sitting on a throne. And none of these kids may have had any idea why any of this was being done to them. Charlotte and Victoria didn't have it quite that bad but their childhoods would probably be labeled abusive and subject to court monitoring had they occurred today. So what is my beef with this book that I'm only giving it 3 stars? Well it is written and it is entertaining and informative but this is Queen Victoria for pete's sake and all we get is 5 years of her reign and a lot of family infighting and soap opera behavior and gossip. Don't get me wrong, there is a big market I'm sure for reading about the dirty laundry of past royals and I enjoyed it myself. However, this woman was the longest reigning monarch of the greatest country of the 19th century world during some of history's most significant events and absolutely none of that is mentioned. I like to read a little gossip and dirt in my history as it is certainly entertaining and comical at times but I still want the major historical events to be covered and dealt with. This book failed in that regard

  • Dee Kridel
    2018-12-11 01:31

    Most Biographies of Queen Victoria touch only lightly upon the sad and untimely death of Princess Charlotte, which moved Victoria into the position of Heir to the Throne as a teenager. In this highly readable retelling of the story of Victoria's ascension and early reign, neither Princess is idealized. They were both difficult young women, reflecting the stilted nature of their upbringing, yet both longing to live full lives and do their best for their country. Kate Williams doesn't sugar-coat it! What emerges is a picture of the real Charlotte, who was not the Saint she became to the country, and the real Victoria, not the face on the Postage Stamp. The author examines all of the factions and forces that attempted to influence the young Queen Victoria, from her beloved Uncle Leopold (Charlotte's Widower), her ambitious mother, her beloved Governess Lehzen to her dear Husband Albert and a succession of Prime Ministers. It was a delicious read. Lots of gossipy detail and great research. I highly recommend it!

  • Lauren Albert
    2018-11-25 06:45

    Anyone who thinks it would be great to be a royal should go see "The King's Speech" and read this book. Take a "normal" dysfunctional family and toss a lot of money, power and jealousy into the mix and you get the childhoods of Princess Charlotte, Queen Victoria and King George VI. If you've ever known someone who was the pawn in their parents' divorce, you can imagine how much worse it would be when there is so much more at stake. Princess Charlotte's story is tragic--dying as she did shortly after finding happiness for the first time. Both stories (Charlotte's and Victoria's) are fascinating and make quite vivid the strange lives they lived as royals and heirs to the throne.

  • Negin
    2018-12-18 06:47

    I adore Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and I know this sounds silly to say, but even talking about them brings me joy. Since I was a child growing up in Britain, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert have been my favourite monarchs. My teachers at school passed on their passion to me. This is really two books and it’s very well-researched. The first part is about the life of Princess Charlotte, who was meant to be queen. Since she died in childbirth, her cousin Princess Victoria became queen instead. At first, I enjoyed learning about Princess Charlotte, since I really knew nothing much about her and her dysfunctional family. It started to get rather tedious until we finally get to Victoria. It took the author quite a while to get there and I found this to be more interesting, although the focus is mainly on her younger years and her early reign. Her later years and the ending are rushed. The reason that I bought this book and chose to read it was because of Queen Victoria not Princess Charlotte, so I felt a bit cheated. This isn’t what I was looking for. I don’t mind some background on Princess Charlotte, but not pretty much half the entire book, or however long it was. I wanted a complete biography, not something that makes me want more, and not something that feels rushed towards the end.

  • Melanie
    2018-11-21 03:37

    Before reading 'Becoming Queen Victoria' I had never read a biography about a royal family member. I found the background information of King George interesting because I had just finished reading The Founding Brothers and King George is mentioned for his 'crazy' behavior. The 'crazy' behavior made more sense after reading about his bout with mental illness. It was very well written and I enjoyed it, although I do wish there was a bit more about Victoria's reign in later years. I also thought it ended without tying up some loose ends. All in all I'm glad I was never born into a royal family!

  • Meg
    2018-12-02 05:33

    The title is a bit misleading as I expected this to be more about Victoria than her predecessors, but this was a book that is half about the politics and people leading up to Victoria's crowning and half (and a rushed half) about her ascension as queen. The Kindle file is 20% notes, which would be interesting to look through in a hardcopy rather than a digital file. Still, I enjoyed it and I liked reading about the kings and queens who could have been.

  • Barbara
    2018-12-14 04:26

    I now have a much better understanding of the Hanoverians and how Victoria came to the throne. The book also covered the first few years of Victoria's reign and her marriage to Albert. Very well-written and interesting.

  • Gerry
    2018-11-30 22:52

    Kate Williams presents a superb portrait of 18th and 19th century England with the emphasis on the royal line of succession and the tricky path that young Victoria trod to finally ascend the throne. That in itself was quite an achievement for she was quite some way down the pecking order at the time of her birth, her father being the Duke of Kent, the fourth son of the then reigning monarch George III.With George III going mad and the public becoming disenchanted with him, his son the Prince of Wales was appointed Regent but his spendthrift ways did not particularly endear him to the populace either. However, after an illegal marriage to Maria Fitzherbert, he married Caroline of Brunswick and they did produce a grandchild for George III, Princess Charlotte, who was to be the only legitimate offspring and heir to the throne.The marriage eventually failed but Charlotte remained the apple of her father's eye and she was groomed to become Queen. However, she died on 6 November 1817 after giving birth to a stillborn son. The line of succession suddenly changed with George IIIs other sons, William, Duke of Clarence, Frederick, Duke of York, Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, and Edward, Duke of Kent, being thrust to the fore. William lived in irregular but domestic bliss with Mrs Jordan, a famous London actress, Ernest had married Frederica, Princess of Prussia, who was to die childless in 1820, Ernest had married 37-year-old Princess Frederica and the couple had lost a daughter in childbirth and there was little sign of any other children thereafter while Edward had married Victoire, Princess of Leiningen, and their daughter, Princess Victoria, was born on 24 May 1819.The Prince Regent, as George IV, duly took the throne on the death of his father in 1820 and on his death in 1830, his brother William became monarch as William IV. By this time all other leading contenders for the throne, including her father, had passed away and Princess Victoria was being feted as the future Queen.Victoria passed an unhappy, or as she put it a 'melancholy', childhood and, although she loved her mother, she was more often than not at odds with her, particularly when her mother's close ally, and some said lover, Sir John Conroy was close at hand. But she was well aware of her destiny and undoubtedly from a young age prepared herself for it.The moment came in 1837 when William IV died and from the very first moment that Victoria knew she was Queen, she imposed her will, particularly on her mother, who she declined to see on many occasions. She was instantly the monarch and in charge of all she surveyed, perhaps surprising for a girl of such tender years.Obviously the thought of marriage was far from her thoughts but the matter had to be addressed and her cousins Albert and Ernest were invited over from Saxe-Coburg. After a couple of visits when Victoria found Ernest the more pleasing, she decided that it was Albert who would prove to be the better prospect. She, therefore, proposed to him and they were eventually married.It was not all a bed of roses for the couple, even though they were madly in love for Albert wanted more power than Victoria was prepared to give him. There was eventually a compromise and their love affair continued until Albert's early demise. Queen Victoria, with her motto 'I hate to be idle', ruled until 1901, devoting herself to business and steering the monarchy through an increasingly pro-republican age.Kate Williams admirably covers all the machinations of court life, the affairs, the political intrigue, and the endless conflict, all of which goes to presenting an original and intimate portrait of Victoria and the age in which she lived. An excellent and thoroughly well-researched read.

  • Louise
    2018-12-06 02:52

    Victoria was born for the throne, that is, without it; she would never have come to be. The line of succession ended with the death Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate child and heir, among King George III's 57 grandchildren. This set off a courtship scramble among the king's middle-aged and older sons. Victoria's father, the Duke of Kent (fourth in line for the throne) found a royal, protestant, German wife and produced an heir in record time.The first 1/3 of the book is the story of Charlotte and these wastrel dukes, her uncles. Given the implied content of the title, you might feel a bit put out, but the story is fascinating.The middle and longest part is how Victoria's mother and her special friend John Conroy tried to manipulate Victoria (and everyone else) so that they would rule as her regent. The shorter ending covers ascendance to the throne and the courtship and marriage to Albert.Throughout, you see the sense of entitlement of the royals, all of them. Even Victoria's Uncle Leopold, the best of the lot, advises his nephew how to get money and position from Parliament. Although King of Belgium, he gets a pension from England of 10,000 pounds/year for his brief marriage to Charlotte. The royals (and hangers on like John Conroy) never give a thought as to where this money comes from, or why anything should be paid for them. While Leopold's pension is modest compared to those sought and often received by others, the average workman (who has work) is barely making 1,000 pounds a year.This brisk interpretive biography fully informs what happens next. If you are planning to read A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy read this book first. Not only does it come first in time sequence, it sets the stage. Between the these two recent Victoria volumes, for all the rhetoric and the memorials, it's fair to ask: did Victoria love Albert, or was it just part of the pageant?Highly recommended for those interested in this period, and for a change of pace for Tudor readers.

  • Sara
    2018-12-17 06:27

    Well-written and funny in parts, but this book is just so DENSE. I didn't make it very far. Williams is brilliant and thorough and for long-time fans of Queen Victoria, I imagine reading this would be a delight. Unfortunately, I was instantly bogged down by the minutiae and found it difficult to stay focused on the slim thread of story throughout. I will be moving on to a more accessible non-fiction in order to actually learn something about Victoria, a historical figure who intrigues me greatly.

  • MAP
    2018-11-22 02:41

    This book begins with the short, somewhat tragic, and often overlooked life of Princess Charlotte, the only child of George IV, and follows through after her death to the scramble of her uncles to get married and pop out some kids. The Duke of Kent wins the race, and Victoria is born.The book does a good job of setting up how the people felt about Charlotte (and her father and uncles) and how Victoria in many ways took over that role (the hope of the people) after Charlotte's death. Although dry at times, Williams certainly has a witty way with words, and I was literally snorting with laughter at the image of Prince Albert practically having the vapors at a dance that lasted *gasp* past 11 PM!I always knew Albert was a bit of a prig, but this book really highlights what a little priss he was. That said, Williams also manages to show how and why Victoria would be crazy about him. This is a very delicate balance, and she does it well.4 stars and recommended to anyone: good to read if you don't know much about this period of history, and even if you do, you'll probably learn something new.

  • Diana
    2018-12-12 01:27

    I love books on Queen Victoria, mainly due to the fact that they really remove the myths about her. My four-star rating on this book, however, is due to all of the information on Princess Charlotte and finding out how her death and the life of Queen Victoria were linked. I really wonder now if Princess Charlotte hadn't died if the girl who would become Queen Victoria would have ever been born. Since none of George IV's brothers seemed inclined to marry or have legitimate children until disaster struck, and Princess Charlotte died in childbirth along with her son. I really enjoyed this book, I just wish that college classes had made it so I could read it faster, I did have to go back occasionally and reread passages due to having to take time away from the "fun" reading. If you're interested in British History or just the Monarchy I really recommend this book.

  • Sarah
    2018-12-13 05:36

    A really interesting account of the early life of Queen Victoria and also of her cousin, Princess Charlotte, whose untimely death in childbirth in 1817 left a big gap in the royal succession. It is an intriguing fact that at her death, King George III, though the proud father of 6 grown up sons and 5 daughters, had an astonishing 56 grandchildren - none of whom was legitimate! This sent all her feckless uncles scurrying to find wives in a desparate attempt to beget the next heir to the throne. The result, Victoria, was born less than two years later. I picked up this book after seeing the new film, Young Victoria, on a recent trip to England. It presents us with a very different image of Victoria than the perennial pictures of a fat old woman in black looking distinctly 'unamused'!!! Give it a go, I think you'd be surprised!

  • Vanessa
    2018-11-25 01:23

    I bought this book after watching the superb film "The Young Victoria" (starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend) because I wanted to know more about the young queen Victoria.When I started reading "Becoming Queen" I was a bit afraid that it would be very dry and textbook-like, but I needn't have worried --- Kate Williams managed to write a book that is vivid and interesting, and feels more like a novel than a work of non-fiction. She brings her characters to life in a very engaging way, and tells about all their little quirks. Her writing is detailed but never boring. In fact, it is at times full of humor and wit, and by the end of the book you will have learned a lot about Victoria's early years without feeling like you've just attended a dry lecture.

  • Susan
    2018-11-20 01:25

    Very well written account of Princess Charlotte life and tragic death and of the early years of Queen Victoria's reign. The author has a wonderfully dry sense of humor. I just wish this would have gone into the later years of Victoria's reign, but of course that would have been outside the parameters of this book.This was also my first Kindle download of a commercially published book. I found the book very easy to read on Kindle.

  • Neeuqdrazil
    2018-11-29 03:25

    This is a double biography of the life of Princess Charlotte (the only legitimate child of the Prince Regent) and the life of Queen Victoria up to and slightly beyond her ascension to the throne. Charlotte died young, in childbirth, and her death set off a rush of royal weddings, trying to produce a legitimate heir (none of George III's children had married or produced legitimate heirs, although there were dozens of Fitzes running around.) Victoria was the first (and only surviving) child of this wedding boom. There are interesting comparisons to be made between the childhoods of Charlotte and Victoria. Charlotte was raised by staff, with little to no contact with either of her parents (she was a pawn in their battles), while Victoria, whose father died before she turned 1, was the sole focus of her mother's life (with the aim of becoming Regent, as it looked as though Victoria would inherit before her 18th birthday.) The book itself is well written, with copious references. There are a few typos (missing capitals, etc.), but I suspect that has more to do with the ebook edition than anything else.

  • Vikki
    2018-11-20 03:40

    Years ago I read a captivating book about Queen Victoria. When I saw this title with QUEEN VICTORIA in large bold letters, I foolishly made the assumption it was about her. Queen Charlotte was interesting in her own right, but I was just disappointed that I had allowed myself to be mislead by the title. Took forever to finish this book.

  • Becky
    2018-11-29 00:44

    I absolutely LOVED this book!!! In fact, I think it's a true must-read. I should probably add some clarification: I LOVE history, I LOVE literature or classics, I love historical novels and historical romances. For anyone who reads classics written or published during nineteenth century--from 1800 on--this one could prove to be oh-so-enlightening! For anyone who reads historical novels (or historical novels with a touch of romance) set during this time period, this book could prove quite interesting!!! Whether you're a fan of books set during the Regency or Victorian periods, this one could help you connect the dots. Will every reader want to connect the dots between real life and fiction? I'm not sure. For me, it was everything I wanted and more!!! The first half of this one is setting the stage for Victoria. This includes focusing in on the royal family a good three to four decades before her reign. It means discussing George III, George IV, and William IV. It means discussing all of the brothers (and some of the sisters) of the royal family. It means focusing in on their dysfunction, their failures, their messes. One big story in this section is the marriage of George IV and Queen Caroline. It was a BIG, BIG, BIG mess. Oh, how these two hated one another! They did have one daughter, Princess Charlotte. She was the heir to the throne, no question about it. She was the future of the kingdom, and she was loved, beloved. She married Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who later became King Leopold I of the Belgians, and their wedding was a HUGE affair. But this fairy-tale wedding, fairy-tale marriage, was not to be. No, they didn't fall out of love. No, they weren't torn apart by scandals. She died in childbirth. Reading about that was truly scary. Why? Well, readers get detailed descriptions of medical treatments, of the art or science of medicine at the time. And not only in the chapter about Charlotte, but in the treatment for the other royals too. And it is scary, scary stuff! So what did Charlotte's death mean to the nation?! It meant EVERYTHING. All of these royal brothers with no legitimate heir to the throne, with no real marriages to speak of amongst them, it meant they had to rush, rush, rush to the altar to marry women almost half their age; it meant that they were in great competition to have children. Of course, it wasn't just a matter of being the first to have a child, their rank mattered too. (Duke of Clarence ranking more than Duke of Kent, Duke of Kent ranking more than Duke of Cumberland, Duke of Cumberland ranking more than Duke of Cambridge, etc.) And this book explores those years, the rivalries, the politics, the scandals, the gossip. But this one is, of course, about Queen Victoria. Readers learn about her father, the Duke of Kent, and her mother, Victoria, the sister of Leopold, a Saxe-Coburg. Readers learn about her earliest years--from birth on. Readers learn details great and small about her upbringing, the big and small events that marked her life and led to the greatest of them all, her inheriting the throne and leading a nation for over sixty years. The last chapters deal with her marriage to Albert, to their relationship--personal and private. Some attention (very brief in comparison with other periods of her life) is given to her having so many children. But this is almost more of an epilogue to the book than a genuine source of information.For anyone who loves history, who loves the details behind history--big and small, gossipy and matter-of-fact, then this one is for you. While I wouldn't say the royal family's dysfunction is celebrated or rejoiced in, it definitely plays a big, big role in this one. And Queen Victoria is seen as saving the monarchy, restoring some sanity to it.

  • James
    2018-11-30 03:33

    Most people have this image of Queen Victoria as this old, depressed and frumpy women dressed in black " we are not amused" etc.This fantastic biography will forever change anyone's perception of Victoria and show her for what she really was, a passionate young girl with a love of the ballet, opera, drawing, painting, singing, going to the theater & riding her horses ( the faster the better), loved staying up late and actually had a terrific sense of humor. Sadly though Victoria's path to the throne was not a happy one, she may not have faced the plots and dangers of some of her female predecessors, but it was certainly no easy path as this book shows us.What is also so great about this book is it shows us another story that is far too often looked over or ignored- that of Princess Charlotte "The Queen who never was", it was Charlotte's unexpected and untimely death in childbirth ( the baby boy was stillborn) that sparked an incredible rush from the other sons of George III and his Queen ( also called Charlotte) to marry and have heirs- at the time of Charlotte's death in 1817 she was the only legitimate grandchild compared to an estimated 56 illegitimate grandchildren from bachelor uncles ( with one at least allegedly from one of her spinster aunts). Funnily enough the lady Victoria's father married was the sister of Princess Charlotte's husband Leopald.The parallels between Charlotte and Victoria's lives are uncanny, both had difficult relationships with their parents ( Victoria of course never knew her father who died only a few months after she was born), both relationships with their husbands was one of love ( although more so in Victoria and Albert's case i'd say) and both where the hope of the Monarchy's future and the hope of the people, who had grown so tired of a Monarchy that only catered to the aristocracy & for their own interests.This book will change any view you may have had on Queen Victoria and show you how she and Albert where the saviors of the Monarchy, it will also introduce you to Princess Charlotte- who would have been our Queen and Empress of India.

  • kris
    2018-12-06 04:43

    3.5 stars.1. The cover / blurb are misleading. It's not a huge failing, but considering that I was settling in to read a book on the early years of Victoria's reign and instead was plopped down in the middle of George III's reign, the prince regent, and the tragedy that was his daughter Charlotte—I'd say my surprise is justified. 2. That said, I was enamored with the glimpse of Charlotte's life; her temper and her attempt to find independence all culminating in her brief marriage that seemed to be a pinnacle of happiness. Absolutely engrossing and horrifying and sad. 3. But that's only the first third of the book! There's a short jog in the middle where Williams captures the fracas that was all of George III's sons frantically trying to find "acceptable" wives and reproduce ASAP so they could seize the power of parenting an heir. All those poor cast aside mistresses and Catholic wives and what-have-yous! 4. And then there's Victoria and her upbringing as another stubborn, temperamental daughter of England. Which was also engrossing and interesting and by the time she finally married Alfred, there's this sense of just wanting Victoria to have at least one ally because everyone is so clearly in it for themselves. 5. HOWEVER, there really isn't a good reason why Charlotte's story and Victoria's early years are together in this volume. Absolutely there are parallels between two bright princesses who had the hopes of a nation resting on their shoulders, but even that isn't enunciated quite clearly enough. There are attempts, after Victoria is found pregnant with her first child, to link her back to her cousin, but even that falls apart as it is so loosely tied into the narrative. Ultimately, I want to know more about both women, which perhaps isn't the best way to finish a biography.

  • Book Concierge
    2018-11-22 04:29

    This is a book-club selection for me and I don’t think I would have picked it up otherwise. The subtitle gives you all the description you need: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch. I knew some of the history that resulted in Victoria’s ascending to the throne. Williams has given us a long and detailed history/biography covering approximately 50 years of British royals, from 1796 to 1841. I had seen the movie The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blount, so some of this was quite familiar to me, but thank heavens there was a family tree schematic included; I referred to it constantly. Knowing what happened before she was born to put Victoria in such close proximity to the throne did help, but it was really HER story that I was most interested in, and which the title of the book promised. Yet we were 150 pages into the book and she hadn’t even been born yet! So while I enjoyed reading about all the intrigue and politics involved as various royals (major and minor) realized the possibilities of ascension to the throne and jockeyed for position, I grew first confused, and then bored with the detail and intricacies of all those relatives and mingling of family trees. As a result, I found myself skimming certain sections. However, once Victoria reached majority and became Queen, I was fully involved. It’s clearly well-researched, and Williams even includes quotes from diaries and letters to support the text. On the whole I read the book much more quickly than I had anticipated, despite getting bogged down and having to refer to the family tree so often.

  • Happyreader
    2018-11-26 23:45

    This page turner begs the question why the British didn’t overthrow the monarchy for a second time. Mad, profligate, immoral, and boorish in a county with vast grinding poverty and during a time of revolution, why were these useless figureheads allowed to remain in power? At the same time, haven’t I just described many of today’s CEOs and corporate boards? The title of this book is misleading. Most of the book deals with the leeches on the taxpayers who were the sons of George III. George III had 56 illegitimate grandchildren and only two legitimate heirs, Charlotte and Victoria, who lived to adulthood. Victoria was only conceived because her cousin Charlotte died at 21 after birthing a stillborn son and the ducal brothers, now in their 50s, realized it was time to get serious, abandon their mistresses, and birth some legitimate heirs. Both girls were political pawns just waiting to reach their majority. Victoria triumphs simply because her uncle William IV, through sheer spite to prevent the regency of Victoria’s mother, clings to life until just after Victoria’s 18th birthday. Not clear on what Victoria achieves as queen during the first couple of years of her reign but she flirts with the eligible royals, finally marries Albert to kick her mother out of her house, and has her first two babies – and then the book ends. So much maneuvering for not much payoff. While fun to read, this biographical fluff is stripped of any real substance leaving me hungry for more thoughtful, hearty fare.

  • Freda Lightfoot
    2018-11-27 00:23

    I’ve just finished reading Becoming Queen by Kate Williams, and can thoroughly recommend it. I saw her give a talk at the Writing Festival at York, and she was fascinating to listen to so I bought her book. It’s a biography that reads like a novel. Televised as The Young Victoria it tells how she came to be Queen. It begins with the story of Charlotte, only child of George IV, and her descriptions of the way that poor girl was treated makes you glad you’re not a princess. What a jealous, controlling freak he was. She, poor girl, having finally found happiness with Leopold, died in childbirth, and so all the royal brothers suddenly had to ditch their long-term mistresses and seek a bride in order to produce the next heir. The Duke of Kent was the lucky one. He married Victoire, sister of Leopold and together they produced Victoria. We move then on to Victoria’s childhood, her tantrums, her governesses, her teenage years, meeting Albert, falling in love and the early days of her marriage. Her character comes over beautifully, and although she obviously wasn’t an easy person, she was strong and loyal, and if sometimes she fought too hard you understood that was the result of a young life blighted by a controlling mother. If you love historical biographies, you’ll love this one. But even if you’re more used to fiction, don’t be put off. The narrative moves along at a cracking pace and you can’t help getting completely caught up in Victoria’s life. A five star read.

  • Anna Kļaviņa
    2018-12-16 23:48

    Becoming Queen: How a tragic and untimely death shaped the reign of Queen VictoriaISBN: 9780099451822Arrow Books, 20092.5 Very entertaining but the summary and the title is misleading. This book is not only about Queen Victoria (1819-1901) but also about Princess Charlotte (1796-1817). Part One: 1796-1817 Charlotte: The Queen Who Never Was page 3-116Interlude: 1817-1820 Drunken Dukes page 127-143Part Two: 1820-37 Little Victoria page 155-254Part Three: 1837-41 The Young Queen page 263-335In the Part Two: Little Victoria most chapters are about Duchess of Kent (Victoria's mama) and her confident Sir John Conroy's machinations, unsurprisingly as Victoria then is a little girl.

  • Chloe Pryce
    2018-11-23 22:47

    By the title one would think this was a bio about the early years of Victoria, and maybe a small background on Victoria's extended family. Instead it was 175 pages of bio on Princess Charlotte and George III's family. Though this would have been fine if it was a few pages, or even a chapter or two on the brief explanation why Victoria might have been so strict and prudish, but it turned into 15 chapters of back story on her Aunt, Grandfather and extended family. Indeed, it was almost half the book. When the title is Becoming Queen Victoria one thinks the book would focus on Victoria. I found the book to be hurried and crammed. You cannot go into the convoluted history of the royal family in 15 chapters. The royal family at that time was a mess. It is the subject of many, many books, who do a through job of bringing to light the Regency area. I didn't buy a book about Victoria and expect it to be half of a book. Only 200 of the 440 pages are devoted to her. Terrible job, misleading and SHORT. This book was a waste of my hard earned money. I would not recommend this book to anyone interested in the Regency or Victoria.

  • Jess
    2018-12-01 03:42

    I started this a few months ago. Historical biographies always seem to take me much longer to get through than fiction. However, I wanted to finish this book over the holidays (along with Theodore Rex... well one out of two isn’t bad, right?). I am really glad I persevered with this book, it turned out to be a cracking read. Having seen The Young Victoria and then a TV special by Kate Williams, I was thoroughly inspired to buy this book. It tells the story not only of Queen Victoria by also her ill fated cousin, Princess Charlotte, who had she not died in childbirth, would have been queen of England. For me what made the book so interesting was that it spanned the transition period from one age to another in British history, from the extravagant Georgians to the forward thinking Victorians.This was really well written and I am definitely going to keep my eye out for anything else Kate Williams writes, as well as getting my hands on a copy of her book, England’s Mistress, about Emma Hamilton.