Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Victoria Rebels

Victoria Rebels

Carolyn Meyer
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2013   ISBN: 978-1416987291

Though she is the daughter of a German princess and an English Duke, and the niece of England’s King George IV, Victoria has a very unhappy life. Her mother Victoire is under the thumb of Sir John Conway, and Victoria cannot stand the man. As far as Victoria is concerned Conway is an evil and wicked man who is bent on taking control of her.

    After the death of her husband, the Duke of Kent, Victoire turned to John Conway, her husband’s equerry, for help. This he gave, and over time he slowly but surely took control of every aspect of Victorie’s life, including making decisions about her youngest child’s upbringing. Everyone knows that his hope is that he will be able to use both Victoria and her mother to secure power for himself. At first Victoria does not full appreciate Sir John’s motives, but when she finds out that she will one day be queen of England, she realizes what the man is up to.

   While she is still a child there is little that Victoria can do. She has to abide by her mother’s wishes. She has to share a room with her mother; she has to allow an adult to hold her hand when she goes down stairs; and she cannot make any decisions regarding her maids, teachers, or governesses.

   In 1830 King William comes to the throne. He has very decided ideas about what Victoria should do as is heir, and most of the time his ideas clash with those belonging to the princess’ mother. Poor Victoria wants to please her uncle, whom she is fond of, but her mother is constantly doing things to antagonize the king, and the young girl is “caught between opposing armies.” On one side is King William and Queen Adelaide, and on the other is her mother and Sir John.

   Thankfully, Victoria has allies who see what is going on. They encourage her to bide her time and to go along with things as peaceably as she can. Though she is frustrated, isolated, and feels desperate, Victoria copes, hiding her anger and frustration in her heart. Then, when she is sixteen, only two years away from the time when she will come of age, Victoria puts her foot down. Her mother tries to get her to sign a contract naming Sir John as her private secretary. King William is not well and there is a chance that he will die before Victoria is eighteen. If this should happen, Victoria’s mother will rule as regent, and if Sir John is Victoria’s private secretary he will have control over everything. This Victoria knows, and she refuses to sign the document no matter what her mother and Sir John say and do. Somehow she has to hold on just a little longer. When she is over eighteen, and when she is queen, she will finally have control of her life.

   Many books have been written about Queen Victoria’s reign and her life. What makes this book special is that it explores the life of Victoria when she was young, when she could not call her life her own and when she was helpless against those who wanted to use her for their own purposes. Drawing on Victoria’s journal entries and letters, Carolyn Meyer helps us to see what this young Victoria was like. She was passionate and emotional, sometimes giving into despair when she did not feel in control of her fate. She was also stubborn and determined, qualities which stood her in good stead during hard times. In spite of everything, Victoria prevailed and it is fascinating to see how she grew and changed.

   Carolyn Meyer presents Victoria’s ‘voice’ beautifully, giving readers a very real picture of the princess and then the young queen. 

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