Sunday, March 29, 2009
You may have noticed that I've neglected the blog, but I do have a good reason and I'm getting back to it now---and have stacks of to be read Queen biographies piled high. First off, I decided to go back to work full time and also got a promotion and so the job needed my undivided attention, as you can imagine. And you know how that is. There was much to learn and it's been exhausting. I was also offered a contract for "Royal Watercolors" which is a romantic historical--with many true details of the life of Young Queen Victoria in it-- and I've been busy working on that. Edits, edits and more edits. But it came out beautifully...and will be released soon in A DANCE OF MANNERS, by Highland Press. It's a Regency Romance Anthology. The cover is up at the top right, and it came out beautifully. There will be four other regency romances in the anthology by some very talented authors. If you haven't heard the term regency, it simply refers to a period of time in England from about 1800 to 1830 approximately (that's the long regency period).
It came as a shock to me---this whole book thing!---but, as you know some of the best things in life come unexpectedly.
You may have heard that the movie "Young Victoria" was released in England this month. I've been following this closely. Queen Elizabeth seemed a bit disappointed in some of the details of the movie, but overall I think she liked it. Sarah Ferguson, the former Duchess of York, was instrumental in getting this movie made due in part to her fascination with Queen Victoria---alas---I am fascinated with her too. I've got a copy of the screenplay which I hold dear. And I've even dashed off some emails to some VIP's involved with the movie. The United States hasn't yet announced a release date, if any, but I hear there are negotiations underway. No one has even done a movie on her young life. I think people will be surprised when they see that Victoria had a thrilling young life and she isn't the Queen in black widow's weeds as they'd been lead to believe. That's only part of her life.
In my novella, you'll get a feeling of what it was like for her living in Kensington Palace---alone, with only her governess and her "Mamma" for company. She was shielded, lonely---and many of her relatives simply couldn't bear to be near her German mother. And did you know that Victoria was conceived in a race to have a new heir for the Crown after her cousin Princess Charlotte died unexpectedly during childbirth? It was a terrible shock to the nation. It threw the royal family into a tizzy, and quite frankly things were never the same.
Much has been said and written about Victoria's mother---the Duchess of Kent. She was a minor royal in Germany when she was introduced to the King's son, the Duke of Kent. He was looking for a wife in the race to produce an heir. She had two other children from her first marriage---a girl, Feodora and a boy, Charles. She was a widow. She took to the Duke of Kent. He was kind to her...very kind. He took care of many of the details and worries which concerned her. She genuinely cared for him and he genuinely cared for her too. The Duke had given up his long time mistress---which hurt him---but he knew that he must produce an heir. In order to do that he needed to marry and have any future child on English soil.
Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as all of that. His brother, the Prince Regent who had recently lost his own daughter Charlotte, didn't care for his brother at all. He wouldn't lend a hand to help his brother establish a residence in England for his future wife or help him with his mountain of debts. He didn't care less that his brother had married this minor German royal and that she was soon expecting a baby. The Duke of Kent reminded his brother that his wife might be carrying the future sovereign of England. The Prince Regent couldn't care less.
The reason the Prince Regent was called "Regent" was because his father, the King of England, was locked away in Windsor Castle and had been declared insane. Therefore, the King needed a regent, someone to make the decisions for the crown. The Kings eldest son did that and was therefore known as the Prince Regent...and that's where you get the term "regency" from. From the time the King went insane until the time the Prince Regent became King was known as the "regency" period. (Actually, the time until the death of the Prince Regent who was King at the time of his death is known as the long regency period.)
Enough of that. Here we have the poor Duchess of Kent....expecting. She has two other young children and she needs to leave her beloved home in Germany...and travel to England which was an uncomfortable and long trip for someone in her condition. And did anyone care? Did anyone help her? No. And she didn't even know how to speak English.
Some of the Duke of Kent's sisters intervened and spoke to the Prince Regent about preparing a place for the new couple who would be arriving in England, but the Prince was simply not interested. Did he hate the fact that his own daughter had died and that someone else would be succeeding him as sovereign?
Many letters flew back and forth from Germany and England. The Duke and Duchess of Kent knew they weren't being welcomed with open arms. It must have hurt the Duchess to know that. She had done nothing wrong. Her whole life was being turned upside down with this move to England and she was even having a baby. No one would give her husband the respect he was due, as one of the King's sons. The baby was due in May. The Duke and Duchess of Kent knew they needed to set off well in advance of that date so that the baby was born in England. It had to be. They could not take a chance that if the baby was born early they were not in England.
It was a long and tiring journey and one of the Duke's most trusted servants came with them. His name was Sir John Conroy, and he was very helpful to the Duke and Duchess. But one day...none of them could have known...Sir Conroy would be involved in a bitter dispute with Victoria and the cause of much misery. But, none of that had come about yet.
When they arrived in England, they were given apartments in Kensington Palace. The Duke of Kent was appalled. The apartments were in a total state of disrepair. (OH, and let me say that these apartments are not what WE would think as apartments....several bedrooms, a small drawing room...a library.....NO. They were massive apartments with at least two floors. There were servants rooms, a kitchen, libraries, bedrooms and sitting rooms, drawing rooms...even small ballrooms in some....) Still though, there were terrible drafts coming in through the windows, much of the wood was rotted in the window frames, it smelled damp, the rugs were threadbare, paint peeling and it was generally run down. Although the Duke of Kent was stretched for money, he somehow made arrangements for the interiors to be fixed adequately and he and the Duchess ordered furniture---even nursery furniture. Although ignored by the royal family by the most part, they were supremely happy when they moved into the apartments only several days before Princess Victoria was born in the middle of May.
The Duke of Kent was simply overjoyed! He doted on his wife and the baby Princess and spent much time in his new library which had been decorated elaborately. It was a happy time for the couple, although the Prince Regent treated them terribly on the day of Victoria's christening. He treated them so harshly that the Duchess of Kent was forced to hold back her tears. The Regent would not even agree to the parents choices of names for their child. She was to be known as Alexandrina.
Several months later, the family traveled to Sidmouth, near the sea. It was to be their Christmas holiday. It was the coldest winter there in many years...at least as far as anyone could remember. They were excited to be there, but I suspect that with the wind, the terrible cold and snow they were hesitant to stay... and what happened there not only will chill you to the bone...you will never forget it as long as you live.
And I'll write about that next time.