Based on Daisy Goodwin‘s novel of the same name, the new miniseries, Victoria, celebrates the life and loves of Queen Victoria. As the first season comes to a close, we’ve rounded up a mix of fiction and nonfiction books to keep the royal magic alive. Publishers’ descriptions included below.
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin — creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria and author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter — brings the young 19th-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.
Early one morning, less than a month after her 18th birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.
Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.
“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”
Next, people say she must choose a husband. Everyone keeps telling her she’s destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.
On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.
The Wild Princess by Mary Hart Perry
The astronomical success of the historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Christine Trent prove that readers simply can’t get enough of the British royals — and now Mary Hart Perry enters the fray with an exciting, deliciously sensual novel of Queen Victoria’s “wild child” daughter, the Princess Louise. The Wild Princess transports us back to Victorian England and plunges us into the intrigues of the royal court, where the impetuous Louise brazenly followed no one’s rules but her own — even marrying a commoner, which no one of royal blood had done in the previous three centuries. Filled with rich period deal, The Wild Princess is an exciting, enthralling read. The Tudors have gotten the lion’s share of attention in historical fiction; it’s high time Queen Victoria and her family got their due!
The Captive of Kensington Palace by Jean Plaidy
The young Princess Victoria, strictly confined within the boundaries of Kensington Palace, is being moulded for her awesome future as Queen of England. Surrounded by her dolls and closely guarded by her domineering mother and faithful governess, she slowly becomes aware of the bitter conflicts that surround her. The jealous and scheming Duke of Cumberland is a constant threat to her rightful accession… her mother’s sinister friend, Sir John Conroy, makes her uneasy… and the bickering between her mother and the king seems never ending. Growing up is proving difficult for the princess. She longs for her 18th birthday when at last she will be free to rule the nation as she pleases and to re-acquaint herself with the gallant Prince Albert.
I, Victoria by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
A fatherless girl grows up a virtual prisoner in the shabby backwater of Kensington Palace, despised by her relations, bullied and insulted by her foolish mother’s evil genius. Only the core of stubbornness in her nature sustains her as she waits for the day of deliverance — the day she will become Queen of England.
She is Victoria; this is her story, recorded in her own words in the last troubled year of her life.
With humanity and humor the Queen Empress of half the world looks back over 80 crowded years, remembering domestic crisis and public triumph, war, revolution and the fall of dynasties; remembering most of all the great and abiding love that illuminated every aspect of her life.
This is the autobiography Queen Victoria might have written, and reveals the private woman behind the public mask — quick tempered, proud, and incurably honest; shy, vulnerable, and always, indefatigably, amused.
Victoria and Albert by Evelyn Anthony
Drawn from Queen Victoria’s diaries and correspondences, Evelyn Anthony’s novel reimagines the story of how a sheltered 18-year-old girl ascended to the British throne, became a major force in politics, and fell in love with her husband.
When King William dies, his teenage niece Victoria becomes queen. In spite of her youth and lack of experience, the 18-year-old surprises her detractors by taking the reins with poise and grace, vowing to always put the welfare of her realm first. Yet from the moment she meets her cousin, the handsome, fair-haired Albert, she becomes obsessed by love. Homesick for Germany, Albert wishes the petite, birdlike creature would choose someone else. But when Victoria asks him to share her life, he has no choice but to say yes.
Evelyn Anthony’s novel captures Victoria’s passion for Albert, along with the contradictions in her personality and monstrous ego that almost destroyed her marriage. Although she bore Albert nine children, Victoria lacked maternal instinct. In many ways she mirrored the callous indifference of the era: Child labor and grueling 14-hour workdays were commonplace in Victorian England. Spanning the first 21 years of her reign, Victoria and Albert is a love story and a revealing portrait of a marriage.
A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron
The acclaimed author of the bestselling Jane Austen mysteries brings rich historical immediacy to an enthralling new suspense novel centered around Queen Victoria’s troubled court… and a secret so dangerous, it could topple thrones.
Windsor Castle, 1861. For the second time in over 20 years, Irish barrister Patrick Fitzgerald has been summoned by the Queen. The first time, he’d been a zealous young legal clerk, investigating what appeared to be a murderous conspiracy against her. Now he is a distinguished gentleman at the top of his profession. And the Queen is a woman in the grip of fear. For on this chilly night, her beloved husband, Prince Albert, lies dying.
With her future clouded by grief, Fitzgerald can’t help but notice the Queen is curiously preoccupied with the past. Yet why, and how he can help, is unclear. His bewilderment deepens when the royal coach is violently overturned, nearly killing him and his brilliant young ward, Dr. Georgiana Armistead, niece of the late Dr. Snow, a famed physician who’d attended none other than Her Majesty.
Fitzgerald is sure of one thing: The Queen’s carriage was not attacked at random — it was a carefully chosen target. But was it because he rode in it? Fitzgerald won’t risk dying in order to find out. He’ll leave London and take Georgiana with him — if they can get out alive. For soon the pair find themselves hunted. Little do they know they each carry within their past hidden clues to a devastating royal secret… one they must untangle if they are to survive.
From the streets of London to the lush hills of Cannes, from the slums of St. Giles to the gilded halls of Windsor Castle, A Flaw in the Blood delivers a fascinating tale of pursuit, and the artful blend of period detail and electrifying intrigue that only the remarkable Stephanie Barron can devise.
We Two by Gillian Gill
It was the most influential marriage of the 19th century — and one of history’s most enduring love stories. Traditional biographies tell us that Queen Victoria inherited the throne as a naïve teenager, when the British Empire was at the height of its power, and seemed doomed to find failure as a monarch and misery as a woman until she married her German cousin Albert and accepted him as her lord and master. Now renowned chronicler Gillian Gill turns this familiar story on its head, revealing a strong, feisty queen and a brilliant, fragile prince working together to build a family based on support, trust, and fidelity, qualities neither had seen much of as children. The love affair that emerges is far more captivating, complex, and relevant than that depicted in any previous account.
The epic relationship began poorly. The cousins first met as teenagers for a few brief, awkward, chaperoned weeks in 1836. At 17, charming rather than beautiful, Victoria already “showed signs of wanting her own way.” Albert, the boy who had been groomed for her since birth, was chubby, self-absorbed, and showed no interest in girls, let alone this princess. So when they met again in 1839 as queen and presumed prince-consort-to-be, neither had particularly high hopes. But the queen was delighted to discover a grown man, refined, accomplished, and whiskered. “Albert is beautiful!” Victoria wrote, and she proposed just three days later.
As Gill reveals, Victoria and Albert entered their marriage longing for intimate companionship, yet each was determined to be the ruler. This dynamic would continue through the years — each spouse, headstrong and impassioned, eager to lead the marriage on his or her own terms. For two decades, Victoria and Albert engaged in a very public contest for dominance. Against all odds, the marriage succeeded, but it was always a work in progress. And in the end, it was Albert’s early death that set the Queen free to create the myth of her marriage as a peaceful idyll and her husband as Galahad, pure and perfect.
As Gill shows, the marriage of Victoria and Albert was great not because it was perfect but because it was passionate and complicated. Wonderfully nuanced, surprising, often acerbic — and informed by revealing excerpts from the pair’s journals and letters — We Two is a revolutionary portrait of a queen and her prince, a fascinating modern perspective on a couple who have become a legend.
Becoming Queen Victoria by Kate Williams
In 1819, a girl was born to the fourth son of King George III. No one could have expected such an unassuming, overprotected girl to be an effective ruler — yet Queen Victoria would become one of the most powerful monarchs in history.
Writing with novelistic flair and historical precision, Kate Williams reveals a vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations that continued even after the crown was placed on her head. Upon hearing that she had inherited the throne, 18-year-old Victoria banished her overambitious mother from the room, a simple yet resolute move that would set the tone for her reign. The queen clashed constantly not only with her mother and her mother’s adviser, the Irish adventurer John Conroy, but with her ministers and even her beloved Prince Albert — all of whom attempted to seize control from her.
Williams lays bare the passions that swirled around the throne — the court secrets, the sexual repression, and the endless intrigue. The result is a grand tale of a woman whose destiny began long before she was born and whose legacy lives on.
Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird
The true story for fans of the PBS Masterpiece series Victoria, this page-turning biography reveals the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen — a Victoria for our times. Drawing on previously unpublished papers, this stunning new portrait is a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience.
When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would threaten many of Europe’s monarchies in the coming decades. In Britain, a generation of royals had indulged their whims at the public’s expense, and republican sentiment was growing. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape, and the British Empire was commanding ever larger tracts of the globe. In a world where women were often powerless, during a century roiling with change, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand.
Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At 20, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping conventional boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security — queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.
Drawing on sources that include fresh revelations about Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings vividly to life the fascinating story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning.
Serving Victoria by Kate Hubbard
During her 63-year reign, Queen Victoria gathered around herself a household dedicated to her service. For some, royal employment was the defining experience of their lives; for others it came as an unwelcome duty or as a prelude to greater things. Serving Victoria follows the lives of six members of her household, from the governess to the royal children, from her maid of honor to her chaplain and her personal physician.
Drawing on their letters and diaries — many hitherto unpublished — Serving Victoria offers a unique insight into the Victorian court, with all its frustrations and absurdities, as well as the Queen herself, sitting squarely at its center. Seen through the eyes of her household as she traveled among Windsor, Osborne, and Balmoral, and to the French and Belgian courts, Victoria emerges as more vulnerable, more emotional, more selfish, more comical, than the austere figure depicted in her famous portraits. We see a woman who was prone to fits of giggles, who wept easily and often, who gobbled her food and shrank from confrontation but insisted on controlling the lives of those around her. We witness her extraordinary and debilitating grief at the death of her husband, Albert, and her sympathy toward the tragedies that afflicted her household.
Witty, astute, and moving, Serving Victoria is a perfect foil to the pomp and circumstance — and prudery and conservatism — associated with Victoria’s reign, and gives an unforgettable glimpse of what it meant to serve the Queen.
Victoria by A. N. Wilson
When Queen Victoria died in 1901, she had ruled for nearly 64 years. She was the mother of nine and grandmother of 42 and the matriarch of royal Europe through her children’s marriages. To many, Queen Victoria is a ruler shrouded in myth and mystique, an aging, stiff widow paraded as the figurehead to an all-male imperial enterprise. But in truth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch was one of the most passionate, expressive, humorous, and unconventional women who ever lived, and the story of her life continues to fascinate.
A. N. Wilson’s exhaustively researched and definitive biography includes a wealth of new material from previously unseen sources to show us Queen Victoria as she’s never been seen before. Wilson explores the curious set of circumstances that led to Victoria’s coronation, her strange and isolated childhood, her passionate marriage to Prince Albert and his pivotal influence even after death, and her widowhood and subsequent intimate friendship with her Highland servant John Brown, all set against the backdrop of this momentous epoch in Britain’s history — and the world’s.
Born at the very moment of the expansion of British political and commercial power across the globe, Victoria went on to chart a unique course for her country even as she became the matriarch of nearly every great dynasty of Europe. Her destiny was thus interwoven with those of millions of people — not just in Europe but in the ever-expanding empire that Britain was becoming throughout the 19th century. The famed queen had a face that adorned postage stamps, banners, statues, and busts all over the known world.
Wilson’s Victoria is a towering achievement, a masterpiece of biography by a writer at the height of his powers.
A Magnificent Obsession by Helen Rappaport
As she did in her critically acclaimed The Last Days of the Romanovs, Helen Rappaport brings a compelling documentary feel to the story of this royal marriage and of the queen’s obsessive love for her husband — a story that began as fairy tale and ended in tragedy.
After the untimely death of Prince Albert, the queen and her nation were plunged into a state of grief so profound that this one event would dramatically alter the shape of the British monarchy. For Britain had not just lost a prince: during his 20 year marriage to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert had increasingly performed the function of King in all but name. The outpouring of grief after Albert’s death was so extreme, that its like would not be seen again until the death of Princess Diana 136 years later.
Drawing on many letters, diaries and memoirs from the Royal Archives and other neglected sources, as well as the newspapers of the day, Rappaport offers a new perspective on this compelling historical psychodrama — the crucial final months of the prince’s life and the first long, dark 10 years of the Queen’s retreat from public view. She draws a portrait of a queen obsessed with her living husband and — after his death — with his enduring place in history. Magnificent Obsession will also throw new light on the true nature of the prince’s chronic physical condition, overturning for good the 150-year old myth that he died of typhoid fever.
Which of these books do you plan to read? Tell us in the comments!
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