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on May 7, 2008
Princess Beatrice gave up her private life, her health and most of her happiness in order to be the secretary, confidante and companion of her widowed mother. Starting with the death of her father, Prince Albert, when she was only four years old, her life was a constant reminder of funereal gloom. As her older sisters married and moved away, Princess Beatrice became the Queen's slave in most matters public and private. Such was the Queen's paranoia that her youngest daughter might grow up and want a life of her own, she forbade all talk of marriage in front of the Princess, and punished the girl by not speaking to her for eight months when she dared to fall in love and announced her wish to wed. The marriage was only allowed to go forward, and the Princess forgiven, when the couple agreed to live with the Queen for their married life, with very limited travel (their honeymoon lasted only five days, and the Queen visited for two of them).

I don't think I'd realized just how selfish Queen Victoria was until I read this meticulously researched volume. Princess Beatrice was a far more forgiving and patient woman than I could have ever been, and I veer between being in awe of her, and pitying her.

Matthew Dennison's writing style takes a while to get used to - sometimes he moves back and forth in eras and you have to go back in order to determine just what time frame he's referring to. The text is at times dangerously close to "scholarly" and for this alone I give the book four stars instead of five. I do recommend it, however, for the insights it gives into this complex, frustrating relationship.
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Princess Beatrice was the youngest and least well known of the nine children of Queen Victoria. Born just four years before the death of her father Prince Albert, she did not experience the full rigour of an upbringing and education under her father's control, the only one of the family to escape what seems to modern eyes less raising a child than overwhelming it. Beatrice also seems to have avoided her parents' well known tendency to over criticize and over correct their other children. But Beatrice, as the youngest child, was the one chosen by her incredibly self-centered mother to be an eternal comfort and assistant after Albert's death and the marriage of her siblings. Forced into the role of secretary/confidante (and at times psychologist) to her mother when barely out of her teens, Beatrice developed a personality which was quiet, patient, and undemanding throughout the years during which her peers were getting married and raising families. She seems to have rebelled against her mother only once, when she fell in love with and insisted on marrying Prince Henry of Battenberg, who fortunately was also patient enough to agree to be part of Queen Victoria's household rather than establishing his own independent life. Prince Henry died after a decade of marriage, and Beatrice continued to be Victoria's secretary/companion until the Queen died in 1901. Even then Beatrice was not free from her mother, because she had been given the task of editing/censoring the Queen's journals, a task which took her many years and probably resulted in the loss of much valuable material about Victoria's true thoughts and activities, since Beatrice loyally destroyed the originals after making her copies.

This nice, self-effacing lady would not have merited a biography had she not been born royal, but its good to have this one because it sheds light on a life which was lived in the shadow of a more forceful personality. Matthew Dennison writes well, if somewhat archaically (I do not recall running across the word "munificent" even once in a modern book, let alone twice!) There are many photos and reproductions of portraits that I had never seen before, and there are some good descriptions of Beatrice's four children: three sons who were to be even more obscure than their mother (one was a hemophiliac, a tragic reminder of the curse genetics placed on Victoria's descendants) and a daughter who became Queen of Spain (and the mother of two hemophiliac sons.) The Last Princess will make an excellent addition to any collection of royal biographies.
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on December 9, 2009
I will not redo the info in the first review. I quite agree with everything in that review. I have always enjoyed reading about Queen Victoria & her era over the years. So I was familiar with some of the information covered. The author does a good job of covering the well known information that Queen Victoria was devoted to Albert. We all know she wrote copiously to her children and grandchildren flung across the globe. It seems like she wrote an especially huge amount to her oldest daughter Vicky, who lived in Germany. In this book, Vicky and her family did not come for the bigger moments in Beatrice's life, like her confirmation or marriage. Which is certainly understandable. It would be a huge undertaking. The author also does a great job of describing how isolated in both age Beatrice was from her sibling and from her peers. Vicky was 17 or 18 years old when Beatrice was born. So literally, her sibling were grown and had their own lives by the time Beatrice was a small child. Beatrice was four years old when Albert died. So, as this book does a great job, her life was overshadowed by the death of her father Prince Albert and by the death of Queen Victoria's mother prior to Albert's death. In this book, we are reminded of how Queen Victoria cloaked herself in grief for literally decades. This book details how different people tried to talk to her and intervene. Crown Princess Vicky and the other sibling every wrote her a group letter, which all signed saying the throne was in danger unless she went into public again. But then as the queen's health declined, they backed out of giving her the letter.

Princess Beatrice has obviously been a neglected, but important part of Queen Victoria's life. It is through the queen's treatment of Beatrice we see how truly self absorbed and bullying she truly was to all around her. The queen actively set out that Beatrice would never be allowed to have friends or to be married. She wrote this in letters to the family. The queen did not mean for Beatrice to meet her future husband. And after he asked for her hand in marriage, Queen Victoria literally did not speak to Beatrice for many months. The queen finally reluctantly agreed to the marriage if the happy couple agreed to live with Victoria and the husband agreed to give up his career. They agreed and lived happily for ten years until his death. I enjoyed reading of this forgotten part of history.

My few disagreements with the book are small. The book goes into detailed accounts of many paintings. Queen Victoria commissioned paintings of all her children on many occassions. She commissioned paintings for special occassions like weddings and battles. The author goes into detail describing paintings that are not listed in the book. Beautiful paintings of Beatrice as a baby. And some he describes as tacky and hideous. But the reader is left to either find the paintings elsewhere or just imagine what these paintings might have looked like, which annoyed me greatly.

It's always interesting to see how history books & biographies arrange the information. Some of the author's arrangements were confusing. Some clumps of information were arranged chronologically and some clumps were arranged more by subject matter. For instance, he covered the fact that Victoria disliked hot weather & loved cold bracing weather. So many quotes were pulled from different times to cover this for several pages. Various servants, included John Brown are covered for several pages. And then the book might go back to covering things by year. At times I was confused as to what time period we were dealing with. Some spans of Beatrice's life were very well covered and then it just seemed to skip ahead many years, but I wasn't sure of how exactly old she was.

It's a well written book I enjoyed reading. The author has a very appealing style of writing. I also appreciated that there were no made up conversational quotes. I find these very annoying in history books.
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on August 18, 2011
I purchased this in Kindle format on a whim. The story itself about Princess Beatrice is very interesting and not the view one would expect of Victoria and Albert. The book is obviously well-documented, as the last 1/3 of it is all the references. The writing style is mostly straight-forward, except for several instances of foreshadowing that don't make any sense in context and leaves the reader wondering what the hell they are talking about!

As for the Kindle format: there are multiple, multiple spelling errors and typing errors. Someone didn't proofread very well. As I said above, the last 1/3 of the book is all references and documentation of Victoria's reign and Beatrice's life. I began to wonder at that point how long her life really did go on, when all of a sudden it was over and the annotations began.

Overall a good book: typos & foreshadowing do detract from the story, but neither is insurmoutable. I would read it again.
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on February 28, 2013
This is a detailed portrait of Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Beatrice. Victoria had nine children, including a daughter who became the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm of WW1 fame, a son with hemophilia, a daughter who became the mother of Czarina Alexandra who was murdered with her whole family in Russia. But this daughter is something of a shadowy figure and this book really tells her story. Essentially Beatrice LIVED to be in service to her mother, yet at an older age she stepped out and successfully became her own person. The book has two or three areas of repetition but is overall fascinating.
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on April 12, 2013
It definitely showed at the very end how devoted she was to the memory of her mother by rewriting all her mother's journal and taking out vital information. I would've liked it that she left the journal the way it was and never destroyed it for future generations and references, but since that was her mother's wishes, she was obedient to the very end. The life of Princess Beatrice seems very uneventful and very sheltered. Something that I do not envy, but despite it all she never really rebelled against her mother except for that time that she met the love of her life. It showed that the last of the princesses had the will to stand up to her overwhelming and controlling mother. This book is a good read about Princess Beatrice. Not much is known about her depression when her husband died, but in this book it tells that she did what she did to move on. Just like her mother she's not motherly, but did the best she could. She's nothing compare to her sisters' who had better standing in life as far as marriage and status is concern. When her mother died, she was basically put on the back burner and never really participated in the court like she used to. It seems like her eldest brother, King Edward VII had some animosity towards her. I suppose due to the fact that she is her mother's favorite and she was the "baby" of the family, not really knowing her "dear papa".

For those who likes to read about the life of Queen Victoria's children, this is a good book that I recommend looking into. I found this book by a chance / suggestion. Glad I took the chance and read it.
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on March 10, 2011
So many new biographies seem to spend their time showing off the author's style and opinion rather than concentrating on the subject. This book is nominally about Princess Beatrice, but is almost a dual biography of Beatrice and her mother Queen Victoria.

Specifically it seems that the Queen didn't have friends or even trusted retainers that could help her with some of the titanic struggles she faced. As a result she used Beatrice as a foil against the tragedy of Albert's loss and the pressures of ruling the country. The relationship between mothers and daughters is often strained and this one was no exception. Combine this with the hemophilia being passed along in the family and it makes for a fascinating story.

Mr. Dennison's writing style is that of journalistic background, covering the details and expressing his own opinions but only when they help to explain the story. This makes it an easy read but still conveys the needed information.
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on March 29, 2010
One of the two solo biographies of Princess Beatrice and the only one recently written, The Last Princess is a wonderfully researched, excellently written book that provides an interesting look at a forgotten Princess, the child of Queen Victoria who spent the most time by her side, but is glossed over in biographies about her mother. The reader gets a picture of the bright child slowly submerged in her mother's grief until the woman emerges as a shadow of her former self. She was separated from most of her family and grew up in a silent and lonely schoolroom and nursery. It is heartbreaking to read how Beatrice watched life pass her by as her siblings, nieces and nephews were married and living independently while she was stuck tending to her mother's every need. Yet when she found love, she clung to it with a tenacity that one would think would have been destroyed during her long servitude to the Queen.
Though the book is well-written, it focuses almost exclusively on the relationship between Beatrice and Queen Victoria, to the extent that the reader is left wondering how most of the people in her family dealt with Beatrice. Her relationship with her children is glossed over, as is those with her siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. It is stated that Beatrice saw all of the relatives who came to visit Queen Victoria, and that she cared deeply for them, but very little more. And there is little on how she managed to raise four children after the death of her husband and then her mother, the two people who were her mainstays. In fact, the last 43 years of Beatrice's life are covered in only 50 pages, and a good deal of that is devoted to the marriage of her daughter Ena to Alfonso XIII of Spain. While Beatrice the child and young adult is well-chronicled, Beatrice the independent middle-aged woman is left to the imagination. Additionally, Dennison has the annoying habit of describing pictures and photographs without their inclusion in the pictures section of the book. Hence the 4/5 star rating.
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on November 10, 2009
Heavy on opinion and repetitive (just how many times and in how many ways could the author express his feelings about Queen Victoria's mental instability after the Prince Consort's death and his opinion of the unhealthy relationship between her and Beatrice?) This is less a biography than it is a character analysis, which seems odd since there's such a wealth of documentary resource available on Victoria's family...I would have preferred a more factual approach--events in chronological order with a little less amateur psychoanalysis. Maybe Flora Fraser will write a biography of Victoria's daughters some day as a companion to her excellent bio of the daughters of George III...one can hope.
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on December 18, 2008
This biography might be informative if you've never read any other biography about Queen Victoria or her daughters. If you have any sort of interest in the Royal family, this is a disappointing effort. There wasn't much new in this book except for a short examination of Beatrice's troubled relationship with her brother Leopold, which I found interesting.

There is one major mistake in this book that is repeated 5 or 6 times: it is stated that Queen Victoria was an only child. In fact, she had a half-brother and half-sister. What makes the mistake more mysterious is that Princess Feodora is mentioned several times in this book, in one instance on the same page as it is mentioned Queen Victoria was an only child.
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