Good morning, I was reviewing my documentary list and my previous blogs and discovered that I never did a documentary on Queen Victoria. That changes today as I will do both episodes of Queen Victoria: A Monarch Unveiled with A.N. Wilson. A.N. Wilson examines what remains of her diaries. He had been exploring Queen Victoria’s life over the years and admits that she felt like a friend. The first episode of this documentary discusses her childhood. The run time is 58:34.
Queen Victoria was a prolific diarist and she had documented everything from childhood until adulthood. Writing in her diary was always something she made time for and these diaries are kept in the royal archives in Windsor Castle. It is clear from the record that the pen was Queen Victoria’s constant companion. However, at the time of her death, her daughter Princess Beatrice took a wicked pen to everything and edited the diary. Additionally, quite a few of Queen Victoria’s writings were also destroyed. What remains of those writings show a picture of a woman who ruled the world.
A.N. Wilson meets up with the Royal Archivists and examines Queen Victoria’s diaries. If her works were bound together, they would fill up to seven hundred volumes. She wrote over seven million words in her life. Her words are found in archives around the world. She was a woman who was never afraid to speak her mind. A.N. Wilson felt like Queen Victoria would not have wanted her diaries edited, however, the Royal Archivist disagrees. He points out that Queen Victoria wrote in the heat of the moment. So if these diaries were to be published, many things would be misunderstood and offend people. The diaries were meant for Queen Victoria herself. Queen Victoria asked Princess Beatrice to edit the diaries for public posterity. What remains of the diaries stokes our imaginations.
Queen Victoria’s diaries start with her childhood. The diaries show that Queen Victoria had an unhappy childhood. Her relationship with her mother was the foundation of Queen Victoria’s future relationships. One would believe that the death of Prince Albert had a huge impact on Queen Victoria. A.N. Wilson believes that it was the relationship between the Duchess of Kent and Queen Victoria that had a bigger impact.
When Victoria became queen, she shunned her mother. However as Queen Victoria grew older and when her mother died, she had second thoughts. Going through the Duchess of Kent’s things, Queen Victoria discovered letters that her mother had written to her. It slowly dawned on Queen Victoria that her mother deeply loved her. So she had the letters bound together in a book. Queen Victoria had convinced herself that she had an unhappy childhood, but these letters showed that her childhood was happy. So what would have made Victoria come to this conclusion?
Queen Victoria grew up in Kensington Palace. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent had been widowed and fell into the machinations of Sir John Conroy. Perhaps it was Sir John Conroy and his bullying tactics that shaped Queen Victoria’s view of her mother. Sir John Conroy and the Duchess of Kent developed a system to control Victoria. The Duchess of Kent was vulnerable, she was isolated from the English Court and had had no choice but to rely on Sir John Conroy. By controlling the Duchess, he hoped that he could control Victoria. He hoped that Victoria would become Queen young and therefore become the power behind the throne.
Queen Victoria was isolated from other children and her uncles. Her companions were dolls and her dog Dash. She was allowed to go to the theater, opera, and plays. Queen Victoria went to the opera three times a week. Eventually, Sir John Conroy would organize tours of the country. For the first time in her life, Queen Victoria was exposed to the world beyond Kensington Palace. She wrote about the tours in her journal. These were read by her mother. During these tours, she had to memorize the important people she met and would recite who she met back to her mother. Later in life, Queen Victoria would hate appearing in public. During one tour she came to hate Sir John Conroy and loathe her mother.
What else do these diaries reveal about Queen Victoria? Tune into the rest of this episode to find out more!
This documentary would fall into the fun and frivolous category in terms of showing a documentary in a history class. If a student is doing a biography on Queen Victoria then this would be a good resource to start with. Additionally, if you have an independent study student, then you could recommend this documentary as well.
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