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Surrey, United Kingdom

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Becoming Queen by Kate Williams

My first non-fiction read of 2010 is one I have had on the shelf for a while: Becoming Queen by Kate Williams Of course, being an avid fan of all things Victorian, I had seen the film Young Victoria, which used this book as a basis for it's depiction of the early years of Queen Victoria. Having not researched the book anymore than hearing its name in connection to the film, my first reaction on reading it was surprise. There is much more to this work than the early years of Victoria. One thing I love about reading is those times when a whole new area of interest is opened up for you. Strangely I have never been a huge fan of the Regency or Georgian period, much prefering the Victorian and Edwardian era. This book however really piqued my interest. The Prince Regent and his many brothers and sisters are all given distinct personalities and really brought to life. The story focuses on Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent (William IV) and Caroline of Brunswick who was heir to the throne and adored by the British public. Kate Williams suggests that it is partly because of Charlotte's tragic death in childbirth that the British public was so ready and willing to take Victoria to it's heart.
I really enjoyed this book and the easy, familiar style in which it was written. I love a book with a family tree and it is well illustrated with some striking portraits and, my favourite, a photo of Princess Charlotte's memorial in St George's Chapel, Windsor. I was also interested to read that Princess Charlotte had lived at Claremont, near Esher. My husband and I visited their only recently for a cobweb-blasting walk just after Christmas and I can completely see why the young princess (and Victoria after her) fell in love with the beautiful countryside and landscape garden.
So, a great read with a captivating story. My only question is what to read next? Is there a good biography of Princess Charlotte and/or Caroline of Brunswick? Can you recommend any non-fiction books for a new-comer to Regency history? Are there any good historical fictions of the era? I'd love to hear what books about/set in this period you have read and enjoyed.


  1. I have had this book on my want to read list for a while, but haven't got round to it yet. I am really interested in the Victorian era, but surprising haven't read too much around this. I can recommend the first three books written by Sarah Waters, which were set in the Victorian era. You may also enjoy the Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy by Flora Thompson and Molly Vivian Hughes' memoirs.

  2. Thanks for you comment! I'd had this book for ages before reading it as well - think I was worried it would be a bit 'heavy' but it's not at all. I LOVE Sarah Waters' novels and have just started The Little Stranger.
    Think I will try both your suggestions - never got into the TV version of Lark Rise to Candleford, so maybe the book is the way to go. I've also heard great things about the Molly Hughes' memoirs; are they easy to get hold of?

  3. I tend to think non-fictions books can be quite heavy too, which is why I mostly read fiction. Although once I start a n-f I'm fine. Oh snap on the Sarah Waters thing. She is one of my favourite authors and I am also reading The Little Stranger at the moment! I never watched the TV version of Lark Rise, although from what I have read it bears little resemblance to the books. Although though this is fiction, there is little dialogue and it is quite descriptive rich. I hope you won't be put off though as I found these books wonderful. I wrote about these last year if you are interested to read more: http://abookishspace.blogspot.com/2009/12/lark-rise-to-candleford.html. I adored Molly Hughes' memoires and could recommend them enough. The first in the trilogy is printed by Persephone. The other two are out of print, but all books can be bought very cheaply through Amazon marketplace. I do hope that you enjoy them!