Excerpt from Victoria by Daisy Goodwin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Victoria

by Daisy Goodwin

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin X
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2017, 416 pages

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She kept her face as still as she could as the two men bowed and proceeded to walk backwards out of the room. There was something irresistibly comic about the sight of these two old men retreating as if pulled by invisible strings, but she knew that she must not laugh. Being the Queen gave her the right to dismiss but not to ridicule. The thing every monarch needed was dignity. She remembered how embarrassed she had been when her uncle had started to sing a song about a drunken sailor in the middle of a state banquet. He had, she thought, been quite drunk, and as he sang, little strings of saliva had formed at the side of his mouth. She had looked down the table at the faces of the courtiers to see how they would react, but to a man they had kept their faces smooth and impassive as if nothing untoward was going on. The only sign that anyone had noticed the King's drunken antics was a young footman whose shoulders were shaking with laughter until an older colleague nudged him to stop. She had resolved then that she would never let this happen when she was Queen. The idea that her courtiers might be laughing at her behind those smooth faces was not to be borne.

Victoria looked about her, but as there was no one in sight she picked up the hem of her nightdress and started to run up the stairs, Dash barking at her heels. Running was forbidden under the Kensington System, the rules set up by her mother and Conroy to govern every aspect of her existence. Running upstairs would have been unthinkable only yesterday, but today she could do whatever she liked.

Jenkins, her dresser, was waiting for her. The black silk dress, the one that had been ordered last week when it had become clear that the King would not recover from his illness, was laid out on the chaise longue. Jenkins had wanted to order several dresses, but Sir John had said that it was a needless expense. That was another thing that would have to change now she was Queen.

Jenkins was looking at her curiously. Victoria realised that she was clenching her fists.

"You must order the rest of my mourning clothes now, Jenkins. I see no reason for further delay."

"Yes, ma'am." Jenkins's round face was split by the width of her smile.

Victoria put her arms up, and the dresser pulled the black dress over her head. She turned to face herself in the cheval glass. The black silk dress with its caterpillar sleeves was quite different from the simple muslin dresses in pastel colours that her mother deemed suitable. The mourning dress made her look older, and the crenellated sleeves gave her outline a sharpness that she found pleasing. She smoothed the folds of silk at her waist.

Hearing a sound somewhere between a sigh and a gasp, Victoria turned to see Lehzen standing behind her.

"Oh … forgive me … Majesty. I am not used to seeing you in black, you look so … grown up."

Victoria smiled at Lehzen. "I am glad. It is time that people stopped seeing me as a little girl."

The door from the bedroom burst open. The Duchess of Kent rushed in, her hair still in curling papers, her paisley shawl flapping around her.

"Mein Kind, where did you go?" The Duchess's voice was, as always, reproachful. But then Victoria saw her mother register the black dress, and watched as her expression changed from injury to shock.

"Der König?"

Victoria nodded. Her mother put her arms around her, and she allowed herself to relax into that lavender-scented embrace.

"Mein kleines mädchen ist die Kaiserin."

Victoria pulled herself away. "No more German, Mama. You are the mother of the Queen of England now."

The Duchess nodded, her curl papers shaking. She put a trembling hand to Victoria's cheek. Her pale blue eyes were wet.

"Oh, my little Drina, have I ever told you about my journey from Amorbach across France when I was carrying you in my belly?" She mimed the bulk of an eight-month pregnancy.

Copyright © 2016 by Daisy Goodwin Productions

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