There were five of them: Vicky, Alice, Helena, Louise, and Beatrix, as well as four sons. For all her reputation as a prude, Queen Victoria was a person who enjoyed the pleasures of the marriage bed. Not so much the resulting children. All her love was reserved for Alfred with very little left over for the children.
Packer’s book is fascinating in spite of his bias against independent, intelligent women. He blames Vicky for the problems in Prussia, in spite of her efforts to head off the worst of Bismarck’s efforts to form the country and turn her son, the eventual Kaiser Wilhelm, against her.
All five of them attempted each in her own way to break away from Victoria’s overwhelming personality. Louise, a gifted sculptor, was the most successful. She was allowed to attend a public art school and married, not a German prince, but a Scottish noble. Still, even she felt her mother’s approval or disapproval shaping her life.
Life as a princess wasn’t easy. They were under constant scrutiny, and expected to put their mother ahead of their own family when their mother needed them. Beatriz acted as her private secretary most of her life, until her mother’s death released her.
This book isn’t an easy read unless you stop trying to follow the author as he bounces around from daughter to another. Then there’s the question of names. In addition to her birth name, each princess has at least one family nickname, and after her marriage, another title. It’s virtually impossible to track them, and when it came to granddaughters, I gave up. It seemed every one of them carried Victoria as one of her names. Not for nothing was Victoria called the grandmother of Europe. She had 42 grandchildren, 20 grandsons and 22 granddaughters.
In spite of its shortcomings, I enjoyed this book, even if it didn’t have enough pictures. A very scanty picture of each daughter, most of whom unfortunately took after their mother, and one or two of the granddaughters and/or their husbands, left me bouncing back and forth between the book and the Internet.
Actually the girls and their husbands weren’t worth looking at, but the book itself was very entertaining.