Reading Notes for 'Queen Victoria and the Men who Loved Her'

A Journey through the neo-Gothic landscape of Victorian England

Time of writing
The narrator is refering to an experience some time in the past, with the story itself being told in the form of a recollection of a journey. This obviously takes place at a time after the Victorian era has ended. But when do you think it might have been - what year, approximately?

What was the extent of the relationship between the young Victoria and her Prime Minister Melbourne (William Lamb). Was it just a platonic friendship, a meeting of minds, or was there more?

Do you feel that Victoria's husband was over-protective and over-controlling of others - his children, for example? How much of his policy was based on personal moral conviction and how much on political expediency? In other words, did he realise the importance of reforming the public image of the monarchy in terms of the royal family's survival?

The chapter 'The Widow of Windsor' makes much of the influence that Victoria's widowhood had on the fashions and social trends of the nation, and it provides a few persuasive examples. Can you think of any more?

John Brown
The chapter dealing with the nature of the relationship between Victoria and her Scottish gillie John Brown refrains from drawing any definite conclusion and it remains open to question as to whether it was consumated in any sexual sense. But what do you think? Were they lovers? Was it reasonable for Victoria to seek happiness after her bereavement. And if they were not lovers, then what do you think might have prevented her from taking the plunge?

Do you think it possible, as the story suggests, that Victoria would have considered proposing marriage to her favourite Prime Minister, Disraeli? What was Dizzy referring to at the end of the vignette when speaking about the wandering stars?

The Munshi
To what extent did the Munshi genuinely care for the Queen? Was he an opportunist, or was there a sincere attaction taking place at the time? Do you feel Victoria's children and courtiers were fair in questioning her sanity at the height of the relationship?

What do you think of the character of the Prince of Wales, Bertie? Why do you think so many people - including his wife, Alix, forgave him and his transgressions? Were his parents justified in being so disapproving of him as a young man? Was his mother right in blaming him for Prince Albert's demise? What, if any, were his qualities?

Layers of narrative
Consider the structure of the narration. For example, in the chapter on Disraeli we have a 19th-century prime minister speaking about his experiences, told as a fictional vignette by one of the occupants of the train carriage sometime in the early years of the 20th century - Mable - whose words are, in turn, being recounted to us by the unnamed narrator of the whole story - who is in turn, one has to say, being described to us by the author of the book itself as it was published in May of 2019. Does the imagination of the reader povide yet another layer?

Different kinds of love
From a youthful infatuation to a passionate love match; from unrequited love to the fond romanticism of maturity, Victoria probably experienced all these kinds of love during the course of her life. And more. Do you feel the book adequately describes these, and is it reasonable to conclude, as it does at the end, that Victoria was, indeed, one of history's great Romantics?
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