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Becoming Queen Victoria

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  1,942 Ratings  ·  206 Reviews
In her lauded biography England’s Mistress, Kate Williams painted a vivid and intimate portrait of Emma Hamilton, the lover of English national hero Lord Horatio Nelson. Now, with the same keen insight and gift for telling detail, Williams provides a gripping account of Queen Victoria’s rise to the throne and her early years in power—as well as the tragic, little-known sto ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by Ballantine Books (first published September 18th 2008)
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Where I got the book: purchased online. Amazon? I've had it for a while.

This is, in a sense, a two-part book, and the blurb is pretty deceptive. Fortunately I do not remove stars for publisher shenanigans. From the blurb you'd think this book is all about Queen Victoria whereas in fact 100+ of the 346 pages of text are devoted to her far less well-known cousin Charlotte, daughter of George IV (better known as the Prince Regent) and, during her short lifetime, heir-presumptive to the British thro
Lady Wesley
Jun 10, 2013 Lady Wesley rated it it was amazing
Note: please click on See Review to see the illustrations.

10 May 2015: With the recent arrival of a new Princess Charlotte, I thought to add to my review of this wonderful biography of the last Princess Charlotte. Also, I ran across this illustration of the couple on their wedding day.  photo Charlotte amp Leopold.jpg

I've already written about her dress, but notice his attire. Regency fashion for gentlemen really was not forgiving of a less-than-perfect figure. (Rather like popular women's fashions today). Those breeches and
BAM The Bibliomaniac
A brilliantly researched book! Great focus not only on the beginning years of Victoria's reign, but also Princess Charlotte's sadly sheltered life.
Jun 05, 2015 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not the book that I expected it to be – it’s more in some ways but less in others.

The title, the image on the front cover, the words on the back cover – they all suggest that this is a book about the early years and the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria. And it is, but there’s a great deal of ground to cover before the story gets there, because this story goes much further back.

It tells the story of two young women who might have been Queen. Each was her presumptive to the British
Dee Kridel
Sep 19, 2011 Dee Kridel rated it really liked it
Most Biographies of Queen Victoria touch only lightly upon the sad and untimely death of Princess Charlotte, which moved Victoria into the position of Heir to the Throne as a teenager. In this highly readable retelling of the story of Victoria's ascension and early reign, neither Princess is idealized. They were both difficult young women, reflecting the stilted nature of their upbringing, yet both longing to live full lives and do their best for their country. Kate Williams doesn't sugar-coat i ...more
Lauren Albert
Anyone who thinks it would be great to be a royal should go see "The King's Speech" and read this book. Take a "normal" dysfunctional family and toss a lot of money, power and jealousy into the mix and you get the childhoods of Princess Charlotte, Queen Victoria and King George VI. If you've ever known someone who was the pawn in their parents' divorce, you can imagine how much worse it would be when there is so much more at stake. Princess Charlotte's story is tragic--dying as she did shortly a ...more
David Eppenstein
I recently found myself in our local independent bookstore in need of some new reading material. Alas the history section of this wonderful store is not very large, at least not as large as I would like. I have repeatedly suggested to the management that they could do away entirely with the children's section and devote the space to history. My suggestion has thus far gone unheeded. Well all I could find of interest was this little biography of Queen Victoria. I've never read a biography of this ...more
May 25, 2016 Gerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kate Williams presents a superb portrait of 18th and 19th century England with the emphasis on the royal line of succession and the tricky path that young Victoria trod to finally ascend the throne. That in itself was quite an achievement for she was quite some way down the pecking order at the time of her birth, her father being the Duke of Kent, the fourth son of the then reigning monarch George III.

With George III going mad and the public becoming disenchanted with him, his son the Prince of
Mar 06, 2011 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before reading 'Becoming Queen Victoria' I had never read a biography about a royal family member. I found the background information of King George interesting because I had just finished reading The Founding Brothers and King George is mentioned for his 'crazy' behavior. The 'crazy' behavior made more sense after reading about his bout with mental illness. It was very well written and I enjoyed it, although I do wish there was a bit more about Victoria's reign in later years. I also thought it ...more
Oct 09, 2016 Negin rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
I adore Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and I know this sounds silly to say, but even talking about them brings me joy. Since I was a child growing up in Britain, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert have been my favourite monarchs. My teachers at school passed on their passion to me.

This is really two books and it’s very well-researched. The first part is about the life of Princess Charlotte, who was meant to be queen. Since she died in childbirth, her cousin Princess Victoria became queen instea
Feb 08, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Victoria was born for the throne, that is, without it; she would never have come to be. The line of succession ended with the death Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate child and heir, among King George III's 57 grandchildren. This set off a courtship scramble among the king's middle-aged and older sons. Victoria's father, the Duke of Kent (fourth in line for the throne) found a royal, protestant, German wife and produced an heir in record time.

The first 1/3 of the book is the story of Charlo
Oct 28, 2016 Diana rated it really liked it
I love books on Queen Victoria, mainly due to the fact that they really remove the myths about her. My four-star rating on this book, however, is due to all of the information on Princess Charlotte and finding out how her death and the life of Queen Victoria were linked. I really wonder now if Princess Charlotte hadn't died if the girl who would become Queen Victoria would have ever been born. Since none of George IV's brothers seemed inclined to marry or have legitimate children until disaster ...more
Mar 26, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biographies
A really interesting account of the early life of Queen Victoria and also of her cousin, Princess Charlotte, whose untimely death in childbirth in 1817 left a big gap in the royal succession. It is an intriguing fact that at her death, King George III, though the proud father of 6 grown up sons and 5 daughters, had an astonishing 56 grandchildren - none of whom was legitimate! This sent all her feckless uncles scurrying to find wives in a desparate attempt to beget the next heir to the throne. T ...more
Sep 05, 2010 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well written account of Princess Charlotte life and tragic death and of the early years of Queen Victoria's reign. The author has a wonderfully dry sense of humor. I just wish this would have gone into the later years of Victoria's reign, but of course that would have been outside the parameters of this book.

This was also my first Kindle download of a commercially published book. I found the book very easy to read on Kindle.
Feb 20, 2017 Sara added it
Shelves: bailed
Well-written and funny in parts, but this book is just so DENSE. I didn't make it very far. Williams is brilliant and thorough and for long-time fans of Queen Victoria, I imagine reading this would be a delight. Unfortunately, I was instantly bogged down by the minutiae and found it difficult to stay focused on the slim thread of story throughout. I will be moving on to a more accessible non-fiction in order to actually learn something about Victoria, a historical figure who intrigues me greatly ...more
May 20, 2012 Becky rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this book!!! In fact, I think it's a true must-read. I should probably add some clarification: I LOVE history, I LOVE literature or classics, I love historical novels and historical romances. For anyone who reads classics written or published during nineteenth century--from 1800 on--this one could prove to be oh-so-enlightening! For anyone who reads historical novels (or historical novels with a touch of romance) set during this time period, this book could prove quite interes ...more
Dec 13, 2012 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most people have this image of Queen Victoria as this old, depressed and frumpy women dressed in black " we are not amused" etc.

This fantastic biography will forever change anyone's perception of Victoria and show her for what she really was, a passionate young girl with a love of the ballet, opera, drawing, painting, singing, going to the theater & riding her horses ( the faster the better), loved staying up late and actually had a terrific sense of humor. Sadly though Victoria's path to th
Mar 11, 2014 kris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

1. The cover / blurb are misleading. It's not a huge failing, but considering that I was settling in to read a book on the early years of Victoria's reign and instead was plopped down in the middle of George III's reign, the prince regent, and the tragedy that was his daughter Charlotte—I'd say my surprise is justified.

2. That said, I was enamored with the glimpse of Charlotte's life; her temper and her attempt to find independence all culminating in her brief marriage that seemed to
Jul 25, 2015 Happyreader rated it really liked it
This page turner begs the question why the British didn’t overthrow the monarchy for a second time. Mad, profligate, immoral, and boorish in a county with vast grinding poverty and during a time of revolution, why were these useless figureheads allowed to remain in power? At the same time, haven’t I just described many of today’s CEOs and corporate boards? The title of this book is misleading. Most of the book deals with the leeches on the taxpayers who were the sons of George III. George III ha ...more
Freda Lightfoot
Apr 13, 2011 Freda Lightfoot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve just finished reading Becoming Queen by Kate Williams, and can thoroughly recommend it. I saw her give a talk at the Writing Festival at York, and she was fascinating to listen to so I bought her book. It’s a biography that reads like a novel. Televised as The Young Victoria it tells how she came to be Queen. It begins with the story of Charlotte, only child of George IV, and her descriptions of the way that poor girl was treated makes you glad you’re not a princess. What a jealous, control ...more
Anna Kļaviņa
Becoming Queen: How a tragic and untimely death shaped the reign of Queen Victoria Becoming Queen How a tragic and untimely death shaped the reign of Queen Victoria by Kate Williams
ISBN: 9780099451822
Arrow Books, 2009

Very entertaining but the summary and the title is misleading. This book is not only about Queen Victoria (1819-1901) but also about Princess Charlotte (1796-1817).

Part One: 1796-1817 Charlotte: The Queen Who Never Was page 3-116
Interlude: 1817-1820 Drunken Dukes page 127-143
Part Two: 1820-37 Little Victoria page 155-254
Part Three: 1837-41 The Young Queen page 263-335

In the
Chloe Pryce
Jan 12, 2012 Chloe Pryce rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
By the title one would think this was a bio about the early years of Victoria, and maybe a small background on Victoria's extended family. Instead it was 175 pages of bio on Princess Charlotte and George III's family. Though this would have been fine if it was a few pages, or even a chapter or two on the brief explanation why Victoria might have been so strict and prudish, but it turned into 15 chapters of back story on her Aunt, Grandfather and extended family. Indeed, it was almost half the bo ...more
Sep 25, 2010 MAP rated it really liked it
This book begins with the short, somewhat tragic, and often overlooked life of Princess Charlotte, the only child of George IV, and follows through after her death to the scramble of her uncles to get married and pop out some kids. The Duke of Kent wins the race, and Victoria is born.

The book does a good job of setting up how the people felt about Charlotte (and her father and uncles) and how Victoria in many ways took over that role (the hope of the people) after Charlotte's death. Although dry
May 02, 2011 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this a few months ago. Historical biographies always seem to take me much longer to get through than fiction. However, I wanted to finish this book over the holidays (along with Theodore Rex... well one out of two isn’t bad, right?).
I am really glad I persevered with this book, it turned out to be a cracking read. Having seen The Young Victoria and then a TV special by Kate Williams, I was thoroughly inspired to buy this book. It tells the story not only of Queen Victoria by also her
May 05, 2014 Lorna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is the story of the forgotten Princess Charlotte, her tragic early death that occured whilst she was in childbirth, and her cousin Victoria's ascendancy to the throne.
It's refreshing to have a glimpse into the life of the young Queen Victoria. Different from the sombre image in black that is normally conjured up. It reveals a fun loving, boistrous and flirtatious young woman, who, because she was not expected to ascend the throne, didnot have the strict regulations of a regular heir apparen
Sep 10, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it
I loved this double biography of doomed Princess Charlotte and the young and surprisingly unruly Victoria, heirs to the throne that their mad grandfather, George III, and dissolute uncles, George IV and William IV, nearly cost England. It was an easy read, a trifle repetitive in sections, but Williams gives us sympathetic portraits of these two girls, heirs to the throne, alternately oppressed, neglected and lauded by their terrible parents and aunts and uncles. And I enjoyed reading about young ...more
I bought this book after watching the superb film "The Young Victoria" (starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend) because I wanted to know more about the young queen Victoria.

When I started reading "Becoming Queen" I was a bit afraid that it would be very dry and textbook-like, but I needn't have worried --- Kate Williams managed to write a book that is vivid and interesting, and feels more like a novel than a work of non-fiction.

She brings her characters to life in a very engaging way, and tells
Jan 19, 2014 Madeleine rated it really liked it
Shelves: history

I accidentally posted this under my mom's account.....

I FINALLY FINISHED THIS!!!!!! Oh my God! Really interesting dual biography of Princess Charlotte and Queen Victoria. There were lots of very interesting insights into such a collection of characters including a much more well-rounded portrait of the Duchess of Kent than I expected. I loved reading about Charlotte who I knew very little about before I read this. Really good, really criticism from off the top of my head is tha
Rebecca Huston
A very good biography contrasting two granddaughters of George III -- Princess Charlotte of Wales and Princess Victoria of Kent, -- and how similar their lives where. Very well written, lots of details, and some very charming reproductions of clothing and personal items as well as paintings and etchings. Recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
The Library Lady
Sep 30, 2010 The Library Lady rated it really liked it
There are tons of impeccably, exhaustively researched works of adult history that overwhelm you with their information, so much so that you cannot get lost in the story.
This isn't one of them.
It reads almost as well as a novel. I'm a skim reader and I didn't skim this book, I read it and savored it and will be looking forward to what Williams will decide to write next.
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Hello! Thank you for visiting my page. It's a great privilege to be on here - and to say hi to readers. Thank you very much for all your support and interest in my books! My twitter account is @katewilliamsme and I have a facebook page for Kate Williams author, come and say hello! I'm always thrilled to hear from you and your thoughts about my work.

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“Albert liked to play the stoic, and he embraced the opportunity to do over the negotiations about the marriage. He insisted that Uncle Leopold know what a great sacrifice he was making for the Saxe-Coburg family and Germany. As he gloomily lectured his uncle, 'troubles are inseparable from all human positions and…therefore if one must be subject to plagues and annoyances, it is better to be so for some great or worthy object than for trifles or miseries.'

Unfortunately for Albert, Leopold was deaf to self-pitying emotional blackmail and remained determined on his course.”
“It is calculated that George III had an astonishing fifty-six grandchildren. He did not have one legitimate heir. The vision of Charlotte had sustained the people through the direst years of the regency. Without her, all hope seemed gone.

From "Becoming Queen Victoria”
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