My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Publication date: 09 March 2017
Miss V. Conroy is a quiet, honest, and dependable girl who knows how to act like a proper lady. Her father John Conroy whisks her away on a Very Important Mission — Miss V. is to be the companion to Princess Victoria. She will befriend the headstrong princess and report what Victoria says and does to her father. But Miss V. has misgivings about her new role in Kensington Palace, and as she grows up, Miss V. must decide if she is loyal to her father and his Kensington System or to her friend and future ruler Victoria.
We so rarely get to see what Queen Victoria’s tragic, lonely childhood was like — popular culture and history books tend to focus on her reign or the period immediately before she ascended to the throne. In this children’s novel, we get to catch a glimpse at what Victoria’s secluded childhood might have been like. Most of the characters are real people; Miss V. and John Conroy, Baroness Lehzen, The Duchess of Kent, Victoria herself, and many others were real, historical figures both inside and outside of Kensington Palace. The Kensington System, which plays a major role in the book, really was an incredibly strict system devised by Victoria’s mother and Conroy. It was intended to isolate the princess and make her dependent on them so they could wield power through her if and when she became Queen. There are a lot of fictional occurrences throughout the book, however so much of the history is just as fascinating as the fiction. Lucy Worsley, a well-known and well-respected historian and BBC presenter, is the perfect person to write this book — her knowledge of the inner workings of Victoria’s Kensington Palace and the history therein blends beautifully with the story.
My Name is Victoria is told in the first person and is split between Miss V.’s childhood entry into the Kensington System and her later teenage years at Victoria’s side. While it draws upon a lot of history, the story is a fictionalised account of how Victoria grew up and how she felt about her childhood companion. Victoria’s diaries don’t have many positive things to say about Miss V., who she considered a spy for her father, but this is explained away and the girls are close friends in the novel. We see how Victoria could have felt about her strict and lonely upbringing and how she may have rebelled against it. This is the story of how a stubborn and willful girl transformed into the strong monarch.
This is a children’s book, but it is a great, quick read for adults who, like myself, are fascinated by Queen Victoria. It reminded me of the beloved Royal Diaries spin-off of the Dear America series, which I was completely obsessed with as a child. This is a great book for young historians and it is full of the strength of female friendship, the lessons of history, and the power we hold over our destinies.