Kensington Palace, June 20th, 1837
When she opened her eyes, Victoria saw a faint sliver of light coming through the shutters. She could hear her mother breathing in the big bed on the other side of the room. But not for much longer. Soon, Victoria thought, she would have her own bedroom. Soon she would be able to walk down the stairs without holding Lehzen's hand; soon she would be able to do whatever she pleased. She had celebrated her eighteenth birthday last month, so when the moment came, she would reign alone.
Dash lifted his head and then Victoria heard her governess's quick footsteps. If Lehzen was coming now, it could only mean one thing. She got out of bed and went to the door, opening it just as Lehzen was putting out her hand to knock. The Baroness looked so comical standing there with her hand outstretched that Victoria started to giggle, but checked herself as she saw the expression on her governess's face.
"The messenger from Windsor is downstairs. He is wearing a black armband." Lehzen lowered herself into a deep curtsey. "Your Majesty."
She felt the smile spread across her face before she could stop herself. Reaching out her hand, Victoria pulled Lehzen up to face her, and was touched by the devotion she saw in the older woman's worried brown eyes.
"Dearest Lehzen, I am so glad that you are the first person to call me that."
The governess looked over towards the sleeping figure in the bed, but Victoria shook her head. "I don't want to wake Mama just yet. The first thing she will do is to call Sir John and then they will start telling me what to do."
Lehzen's lips twitched. "But you are the Queen, Drina." She stopped, realising her blunder. "I mean, 'Majesty.' There is no one who can tell you what to do now."
A door opened at the end of the corridor, and Brodie the hall boy hurtled through it, slowing himself down to a more respectable pace when he saw the two women. As he drew near, Victoria noticed him hesitate and then commit himself to a deep bow. She felt herself wanting to smile; he was almost as small as she was, so the gesture seemed droll, but she knew that it was her duty now to keep a straight face. A queen could laugh, but not at her subjects.
"The Archbishop is here," he announced, then hastily added, "Your Majesty." Brodie's small freckled face was suffused with relief at having addressed her correctly.
Lehzen looked at him sharply. "And you have told no one else?"
The boy looked affronted. "I came straight to you, Baroness, as instructed." There was a slight pause until Lehzen took a coin out of her reticule and gave it to the boy, who scampered away, all pretence at dignity obliterated by his delight with his prize.
"You should go now, Majesty, before " Lehzen glanced over Victoria's shoulder at the figure in the bed.
Victoria pulled her shawl down over her nightdress. Although she would prefer to get dressed first, she knew that by the time she had arranged herself, the rest of the household would be awake and her mother and Sir John would start to interfere. No, she would go now; she would start as she meant to go on.
Victoria followed Lehzen through the picture gallery, past the portrait of Queen Anne, who as Lehzen never ceased to remind her was the last woman to sit on the English throne. Passing Anne's sulky, disappointed face, Victoria hoped that she would never look so unfortunate. She caught a glimpse of herself in the looking glass. Her cheeks were pink, and her blue eyes were sparkling with excitement. She was not dressed like a queen, in a nightdress with her hair loose across her shoulders, but she thought that today she looked like one.
When they reached the top of the great staircase, Lehzen put out her hand, as she always did.
Copyright © 2016 by Daisy Goodwin Productions
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