Sunday, September 18, 2011

A final volume of royal letters

Beloved Mama: Private Correspondence of Queen Victoria and the German Crown Princess, 1878-1885, Roger Fulford, ed.

This completes my self-imposed challenge of reading through the five volumes of published letters between Queen Victoria and her eldest daughter.  I am wondering now, though, why this is the last volume of letters published, when both women lived until 1901, presumably writing to the end.  Beloved Mama was published in 1981, and Roger Fulford, the editor, died in 1983.  Perhaps no one else wanted to take on the tremendous effort of deciphering and transcribing the letters?  Apparently Queen Victoria's handwriting was a particular challenge, as was her habit of slipping in German words.  I do see, though, that the Folio Society has a new one-volume compilation of this correspondence, including letters up to 1901.  I may look for a copy of their book at some point, because I feel like I've been left hanging in 1885.

I said in my post about the fourth volume (covering 1871-1878) that I thought it was a very sad book, with many disagreements between mother and daughter, leading to snappy responses and hurt silences.  This final volume feels much less sad, though it chronicles many tragic events, including the deaths of two of the Queen's children.  Her second daughter Alice died in 1878, on the anniversary of Prince Albert's death and shortly after the death of her own daughter Marie.  The Queen's youngest son Leopold died in in 1884, leaving an infant daughter and an expectant wife.  At the time of his death, the Queen was still mourning the loss of her beloved servant John Brown in 1883, and though her children sympathized, they did not share or even understand her devotion to him. The younger Victoria lost her favorite son, Waldemar, in 1879, and she found herself increasingly alienated from her oldest son, Prince William (the future Kaiser Wilhelm), and from her other children.  It is difficult to understand why from these letters, which are in many cases only excerpts and of course present her side of the story, but the Crown Princess freely expresses her hurt and confusion to her mother.  At the same time she remains alienated from the Prussian court, with strongly liberal ideas that are unwelcome in Berlin.  I feel that I need a biography of the Crown Princess to fully understand her life, especially in the years after 1885.

After spending so much time reading these very frank letters, written over so many years, I do feel that in a small way I have gotten to know these two women, behind the public facades of Queen and Princess, as well as having an eye-witness view of some of the major events of English and Prussian history in the 1800s.

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Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!