This novel by Lucy Worsley is a great way to bring to life the young Princess Victoria before she became Queen. Living in Kensington Palace, Princess Victoria’s childhood was sheltered and regulated by rules known as the Kensington System. Devised by her mother the Duchess of Kent’s comptroller Sir John Conroy, the System meant that the Princess was largely brought up by her German nurse and a governess, and kept away from the public and state affairs. She was allowed to have a young companion, Miss V Conroy, daughter of Sir John, who is a quiet and unassuming character – the exact opposite of the passionate and wilful princess. The story is told from the perspective of Miss V, and it works well to make the history of that period feel real. It is fascinating to learn about the behind-the-scenes plotting, as Great Britain faced a difficult and complex question of succession after the reign of King George IV. This was a time when the public needed to see their royal leaders stepping up to take a serious approach to the role of monarch.
This is still a work of fiction, however, and the departure from the truth at the end of the novel may serve as a useful discussion point for a reading group. A genuine question of ‘What if…?’