Date posted: 22nd February 2017 / Book Reviews
Walking across the courtyard of Kensington Palace on her way to become companion to one of England’s most important children, the enigmatic Miss V. looks up. There in the window, is the ghostly figure of a little girl who is gone as quickly as see she is seen...
So begins Lucy Worsley’s latest historical novel for children, My Name is Victoria. The reader is introduced to Miss V. Conroy, second daughter of Sir John Conroy, Comptroller to Princess Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, a girl who just wants to do her duty. Used to being known as Miss V., the child is well aware of her place in the world. Suddenly, she finds herself whisked away from her home to the run-down and silent halls of Kensington Palace which has been left to fall into ruin thanks to the Duchess of Kent’s carelessness with money. She must become the companion to the young Princess Victoria, whom it quickly becomes clear, is governed by a strict set of rules termed the ‘Kensington System’.
Miss V. is shocked upon meeting the young Princess, who seems wild and unruly and certainly does not seem interested in making friends with another girl. Worse luck, Miss V. must give her beloved puppy Dash to the Princess as a gift of goodwill… but does Victoria deserve such a gift?
Miss V.’s first impressions of the Princess do not seem to suggest it. However, the more time she spends in the company of Victoria and her governesses and tutors, the more she sees that she is governed entirely by the rules. Not allowed out of the company of adults or even into the gardens for any length of time, Victoria has become a prisoner in her own home and she longs to escape. It soon transpires that Miss V. has been placed at the place to act as a spy for Sir John and whilst she dutifully performs the task she quickly doubts whether her father is really acting with the Princess’ best interest at heart.
This novel provides readers young and old with an alternative history of sorts which shows us what Princess Victoria might have been like as a child and details the long list of rules she had to abide by as part of the ‘Kensington System’. Also what is championed here is the power of friendship, something so strong it can help a little girl grow into a young woman capable of standing up for what she believes in, even when a palace has become a prison.
Other issues explored are those of duty and self-identity, important subjects for young readers trying to mark their place in the world and this is best shown in the character of Miss V. Shy and timid as the novel opens by its end, she has found her voice and grown into a confident young woman, capable of declaring ‘my name is Victoria.’
The novel is split into three section which chart the childhood and teenage years of the young Princess and her companion right up until the moments before she is about to become queen. This is truly a delightful historical novel with an unexpected but brilliant plot twist in the final section that will have you asking questions, long after you have read the closing lines. A thoroughly recommended read!
My Name is Victoria is published 9th March 2017 by Bloomsbury Children’s.