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Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  793 ratings  ·  133 reviews
A sparkling, vivid portrait of Queen Victoria and her court, viewed from the perspective of those closet to her every day: her household staff.

"Your first duty is to God; your second to your Sovereign; your third to yourself."

During her sixty-three year reign, Queen Victoria gathered around her a household dedicated to her service. For some, royal employment was the defini
Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Harper (first published October 1st 2012)
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Kim Ess She was so prim and proper that I would guess, absolutely not! No way it could have happened. Emotionally though? I think she loved Brown just as much…moreShe was so prim and proper that I would guess, absolutely not! No way it could have happened. Emotionally though? I think she loved Brown just as much as she did Albert.(less)

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3.48  · 
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 ·  793 ratings  ·  133 reviews

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Alice Paterra
Interesting idea, but not what I thought it would be based on the reviews or cover flap. There was more gossip and fluf than real, new, information. I was hoping for more about what the servant ladies actually DID. Why were they necessary at court? What did they actually do to earn their salaries? What were their duties? Oh well. If you are an Anglophile or in love with Victoria or her times, you will most likely enjoy at least part of the book. If you are a social or cultural historian, maybe n ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's closer to a 3.5 star non-fiction undertaking, but of all 3 or 4 Queen Victoria cored I've read in the last year- this one "gets" the person herself the best. Because it comes from the practical applications of her reign within her own household. Many, many years of length and ending with nearly every single foundation upon which she leaned that was a human having passed before her. For some reason, the others. a couple within better writing/ prose flow and often intense nailing the core of ...more
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
To a certain degree, Queen Victoria's reign cannot be compared to any other in British history, except perhaps that of Elizabeth I. Victoria utterly defined her age, not just as a convenient label for a period in time, but as a symbol, an institution, an enduring pillar of British life. It was under Victoria that the enduring bond between the monarch and the people was cemented, when the monarch came not just to head the government and reign over the people, but to serve as an emblem of Britishn ...more
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Naive moi. I was under the assumption that this was an expose to the kitchen and eating habits of chubby Queen Victoria and kin as I had heard the author interviewed on a national radio cooking show -- "serving" actually translates to six household servants, three men and three women, and their tedious, to put it mildly, lifestyles in not intimidating the royal egos.

Each page is an amazing collection of research, who went where, who was present, the weather, the clothing, the children, etc. Hou
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
If you love all things British, this book may be just the ticket for you. With information gleaned from diaries and letters of Queen Victoria's staff, it is full of details about everything having to do with the Victorian court.

From linen room women, to ladies of the bedchamber, surveyor of pictures, chimney sweeps, the stove and fire lighter, all the way to the royal rat killer - the hundreds of servants of the court are brought to life. Queen Victoria was what we would refer to today as a micr
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I quite enjoyed this. It was an interesting read, and took a different look at Victoria than many other biographies use, although it uses many of the same sources (the diaries and letters of her servants and attendants, primarily.)

This covered 6 major figures of Victoria's life - 3 from early in her reign, and 3 from late in her reign. It also delved into Victoria's personality, through the lenses of those who attended her most closely - ladies-in-waiting, maids-of-honour, her physician, the De
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful idea: the story of the sixty something years when Queen Victoria reigned, told through the experiences of the men and women who served her. The experiences of high-ranking courtiers, who were close enough to see how the queen and her family lived, who were not overawed by the world they found themselves in, and who, of course, left letters and diaries to speak for them.

And from those documents Kate Hubbard has built a wonderful story, vividly written, chock full of details, and
Kilian Metcalf
May 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Kilian by: Mary Ronan Drew
If you think there is a sheen of glamour around living at court and serving royalty, this book will open your eyes. Queen Victoria was a dull, humorless, demanding and thoughtless woman. She was totally devoted to her husband and family, but thought nothing of depriving her household staff of contact with their families for months at a time.

Most of them served her out a sense of duty and could not wait for their periods of service to come to an end. The atmosphere at court was claustrophobic, m
Merry Farmer
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating read! Does it make me a total dork if I cried all through the description of Queen Victoria's death?
E.M. Powell
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Queen Victoria presided over a vast household of servants but this is not a book about the drudgery of scullery maids and stable boys. Instead, Hubbard concentrates on the top tier, the ladies and gentlemen (often minor aristocracy) who were closest to the Queen. Hubbard’s unusual focus makes for fascinating reading. She follows the lives of six of members of the royal household in detail. Through their diaries, journals and letters, Hubbard shows us the often tedious and claustrophobic life the ...more
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain, non-fiction
Enormously researched yet lacking in clarity, at least for those not well-versed in the life of Queen Victoria and her court, this is an interesting and rare take on a life and time of which so much has been written. The book paints portraits of many important members of the Queen's court, and highlights the extraordinary dullness and tiresome lack of logical order with which they had to put up.

To make things difficult for novices to Victoria's court, the book leaps right into its chronicling wi
Elizabeth K.
May 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Book Beast Review
Shelves: 2013-new-reads
This is collection of letters and diaries pieced together from various members of Victoria's household - the middle and upper class people who filled administrative and personal aide type positions. It's strongest point is that it provides a great look into daily life, both at court and generally of the era.

The picture it gives of Victoria herself is as a generally endearing, but sometimes annoying, great big whiner. The view, at least from these folks, who did know her quite intimately and in
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book about Queen Victoria's household, started off a little slowly. Once Victoria came into her own as queen, it picked up. Victoria emerged as a sort of beady eyed headmistress who was obsessed with household rules and regulations. Albert managed to keep her somewhat under control, but once he died, she became really obsessive.
Her need to have her servants near at all times led to them calling their time with her "incarceration". Victoria worked her titled ladies so hard that many of them
Jul 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I have a wish list of 10 people I would most like to meet and Queen Victoria is at the top. Lord Rosebery (briefly one of her Prime Minister's, said that only two people frightened him...Bismarck and Victoria. It is said to be a fear shared by the Queen's children and most of her household. Interestingly enough, the Queen considered her quite large household as family and went out of her way to micromanage and care for them all. She had to be busy...remember this was the time of "the sun never s ...more
Shawn Thrasher
Jun 23, 2014 rated it liked it
I can't remember the last time I read a book about Queen Victoria and her brood that I didn't enjoy, and this one was no different. That said, Serving Victoria was kind of all over the place. Nominally about life in the royal household, the book occasionally skated into biography and politics before skating back. This is a sharper, more pointed book than some others I've read, particularly towards the queen's children, who don't come out of this looking particularly nice. I suppose Hubbard's acc ...more
Jan 11, 2014 rated it liked it
I think this could be a pretty good book. However, I am reading a 'free, uncorrected Chatto and Windus proof' and it's driving me nuts.
I thought I could cope with it, but sentences and passages keep repeating, the punctuation is all over the place, and it's no good, I can't carry on with it! There are no illustrations either as there would be once it was published properly.
I'll recycle this edition and return to a proof read one at a later date.
May 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Didn't go into nearly as much detail as one could wish. Felt more like six mini-biographies joined together than a description of the workings of Victoria's Court. Which may be what it was supposed to be, but not what I was looking for.
Dec 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Another one I didn't finish. Got through just one chapter, truth be told. My interest in the functioning of royal households isn't as keen as I thought it was, it turns out. (Really, the only thing about royal households that interests me is Queen Elizabeth's corgis.)
Jan 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
Did not finish. I did not like it.
Mary Jo
Jun 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Struggled with this one. So many names & so much info.
Dec 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Dry, but still fascinating.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
A slow read, but a fascinating one. The author's weaving together of "known facts" from published history, together with stories from letters and journals written by the people themselves, gives a wonderfully detailed feeling for a time long gone by but still very much with us in important ways. A good antidote to the PBS version of Victoria.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Don't be misled by the "Upstairs, Downstairs" references on the cover. This book is based on letters, journals, and reminiscences of members of Victoria's "household"--Ladies in Waiting, Physician in Ordinary, etc., not servants.

Nothing super new here, but an interesting perspective. My favorite nugget was an account of the Prince Consort saying he would have to do Scottish dancing (I.e., hop about to keep warm) while reading some papers in a very cold room in Balmoral. Much more playful than th
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I wish I could give this a better rating. I was looking forward to reading this book since I find it interesting to read about the people who was in service to Royalty. For me this book could be a bit boring and read like a text book. I thought it was supposed to be through the eyes of the persons who was in service to Queen Victoria. Although the writer took some of her writing from diaries and writings of the persons who worked for the Queen it read nothing like what I thought.
It writes abou
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Lacking the juicy, insider-only details and clear narrative organization that come with a truly engrossing nonfiction book, Serving Victoria is a dry account of Queen Victoria's staff throughout her sixty-plus year reign. Author Kate Hubbard tediously portrays six staff people, from the ladies-in-waiting to the royal doctor based off of their private correspondence but fails to link together the story in a compelling way, leaving just the facts, and to be honest, they are pretty boring.

Several t
Oct 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Not bad, although Hubbard's narrative proceeds in fits and starts. It's generally a linear history of Victoria's reign, but it will help if the reader is familiar with the larger outline and the important personages, especially toward the latter part, when royals multiply --- as do servants. Her problem is that the servants she has chosen, Lyttleton (royal governess), Canning (lady-in-waiting), Ponsonby (Private Secretary), Reid (physician), her chaplain and her mother's legacy, Augusta Stanley, ...more
Priscilla Herrington
Drawing heavily on diaries and correspondence of members of Victoria's household, Kate Hubbard lets readers see the Queen up close and personal," as her ladies-in-waiting, doctors and secretaries knew her. She was autocratic, determined to have her own way, interested in the lives of others, especially the lives of her servants. She was clearly maddening to work for and yet inspired great loyalty.

One thing Hubbard makes clear is the very different circles around the Monarch. In the center, of co
Oct 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Being a courtier sounds glamourous, but in Victoria's time it consisted largely of keeping the Queen, her family, and visitors entertained, writing and carrying messages, and serving as go-betweens to deliver rebukes because Victoria avoided direct conflict. Ladies-in-waiting and maids-of-honor served rotating terms of a few months at a time and were paid. One might be required to write down the events of the day for the Queen, make sketches for her or teach her to draw, accompany her on drives ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, victorian
This was a more interesting servants' biography than others I've read of home servants in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. These "servants" were more upper-born ladies and gentlemen who were named to positions of confidence and proximity to Queen Victoria. Attendance on the queen was a long, often boring and thankless task. Maids were rung for at all hours of the night, preventing their getting any true rest; ladies-in-waiting were not allowed to sit at functions, nor in the presence of the que ...more
Julie Ferguson
Jan 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs with an interest in Victoriana
'Serving Victoria' by Kate Hubbard puts paid to the myths surrounding Queen Victoria and her court that are predominant in many books and movies.

Here we have the author using primary sources written by six top courtiers who served her for many years. From the pens of her doctor, a private secretary, a superintendent of the royal nursery in the early years, and a couple of titled ladies-in-waiting, we see the truth in their letters and diaries. Queen Victoria was self-indulgent, selfish, over-emo
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