Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain's Greatest Monarch
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Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain's Greatest Monarch

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  900 ratings  ·  130 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...more
Lady Wesley
Note: please click on See Review to see the illustrations.

The so-called Regency Romance is a popular genre of historical romantic fiction. Usually the story is set roughly in the first twenty years of 19th century Great Britain, when the Prince of Wales served as regent for his insane father, King George III. They are populated by dukes and earls going to ton balls and Vauxhall Gardens. Occasionally, the Prince Regent, commonly called “Prinny,” makes a cameo appearance. Even his gang of drunken,...more
Dee Kridel
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
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
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...more
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
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...more
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.
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...more
Chloe Pryce
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
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...more
Anna  Matsuyama
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...more
Freda Lightfoot
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
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...more
May 25, 2012 Becky rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
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
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...more

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...more
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...more
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:
Nicole N.
This is the second biography I've read of Queen Victoria, and I'm a bit baffled that Goodreads has a different title than my book, which is titled "Becoming Queen Victoria."

The first half of the book is dedicated to the life and death of Princess Charlotte, the "queen who never was." I did feel quite bad for her. She was caught between her parents, Princess Caroline and George IV, who had such a hatred towards each other that it affected Charlotte and her actions. It was quite shocking. I did, h...more
Caroline Mcphail-Lambert
Tough slogging through some of the historical bits of personal writing at times, because I had little interest or reference for them, so they seem kind of tedious like this one where Charlotte "decided to end her correspondence with Hesse and wrote asking him to return the ring she had given him and other keepsakes. (75)

"It is a subject not a little unpleasant to me to have to think of & recur to, & at the same time not a little anxious for me, as I have several trinkets wh. I should b...more
The Library Lady
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.
This is my favorite kind of book -- a biography that reads like a novel. I had never heard of Princess Charlotte before, and at first I just wanted to get through that section and on to Queen Victoria. It turned out to be my favorite part of the book. I learned that being a princess wasn't all it was cracked up to be!
Excellent, thorough biography that added new information and sometimes contradicted previous biographies that I've read regarding certain things about both Charlotte and Victoria. A good chunk is devoted to the Hanoverians. Gave very solid pretext for the world Victoria was born into.
This misleadingly entitled historical offering was long, and with its many pages of endnotes, seemed like a scholarly dissertation - one that required this American reader to frequently refer to the family tree provided at the beginning. Becoming Queen Victoria was mainly about Queen Charlotte, daughter of mad King George. Charlotte died young. Her family was a dysfunctional mess, but, for that matter, so was Victoria's. After reading about the rafters of do-nothing royals who populated the Brit...more
Willow Brook
An interesting, solid read about Charlotte whose untimely death led to Victoria becoming queen. Both had difficult childhoods with idiot parents and both became difficult, strong willed but well meaning women. I am always amazed at how inbred that royal bunch was with cousins repeatedly marrying cousins and also all the petty fighting and rivalries. I like the short chapters that moved the story along though at times all the pettiness and fighting grew dull. Overall, this was a good biography th...more
Easy to read and informative. Queen Victoria was a bit of a whiner.
After finishing Jane Ridley's book on Edward VII, where Victoria and Albert take a lot of heat for some of their more unusual approaches to parenting, I decided to revisit the young Victoria. This was a delightful way to do so - Kate Williams sets the scene by exploring the life and legacy of the tragic Princess Charlotte. While several reviewers fault the book for spending time on Charlotte's upbringing and short life, I found that section fascinating and believe that an understanding of Charlo...more
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Kate studied her BA at Somerville College, Oxford where she was a College Scholar and received the Violet Vaughan Morgan University Scholarship. She then took her MA at Queen Mary, University of London and her DPhil at Oxford, where she received a graduate prize. She also took an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. She now teaches at Royal Holloway.

Kate's book, with Alison Weir, Sarah Gristw...more
More about Kate Williams...
The Pleasures of Men England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton Young Elizabeth the Making of Our Queen Josephine: Desire, Ambition, Napoleon The Storms of War

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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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