In Becoming Queen, Kate Williams tells the astonishing story of Queen Victoria's passionate youth, her bitter struggle with her mother - and how her life was shaped by the life of her forgotten cousin, Princess Charlotte, the Queen who never was.
'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. 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.
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 protege 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.
"Becoming Queen showcases an oustanding talent, from which we can expect much more."
MATTHEW D'ANCONA, THE SPECTATOR - BOOKS OF THE YEAR
"The amazing untold story of Victoria before she was Queen...Kate Williams reveals a passionate young woman beloved of her future subjects but at war with her family."
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
"Kate Williams has excelled herself. One is engaged from the very first line. She has perfected the art of historical biography and her pacy writing is underpinned by the most impeccable scholarship. This fresh and vivid portrayal of the young Queen Victoria is deserving of the highest praise. I cannot recommend it highly enough."
"History as exciting and tempestuous as you are ever likely to find"
"Passionate, exuberant and entertaining, a treasure trove of royalty, intrigue and politics, Becoming Queen vividly and sensitively brings to life not just the girl who would be Queen but also the entire decadent, ruthless and grotesque world of the late Hanoverian court."
SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE
"An illuminating biography"
TATLER, BOOKS OF THE YEAR
"A great example...rollicking, but very well informed. The gorgeous courtly descriptions decorate a fascinating parallel portrait of two young women whose private lives were lived in the public eye. Williams brings them to life."
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
"Kate Williams takes us back to Victoria when she was young, beautiful and yet to succeed the throne."
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH ★★★★★
"Full of authentic and original detail...well researched and highly readable."
"Original and intimate"
EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS
"Kate Williams does an excellent job of counterpointing the overindulgence of the Regency era with the conscientiousness of the young Queen, just as she draws more intimate parallels between Victoria's and Charlotte's familial situation....Williams's story may be a royal one, but it is also very human, and especially tragic, as it was only by one young woman's death that the other came into being."
THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY ★★★★
"Enchanting and enlightening....Williams brings to life this most enigmatic of queens – passionate, determined and full of surprises. Written with the flair and readability of a novel, this is an absorbing and dramatic story of secrets, sexual repression and endless conflict. Wonderfully entertaining!"
LANCASHIRE EVENING POST
"Kate Williams applies a novelist's eye for detail to this fascinating, dramatic tale of familial intrigue, deception and ambition."
''Dashing and vivid"
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
"Detailed and sympathetic"
"A bracing investigation"
SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY