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Was Anyone Ever this Selfless?
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.