Kate Williams looks at the life of not one princess but two in this engaging and fascinating historical book that examines how the death of Victoria’s cousin Princess Charlotte put her close to the throne.

Starting with the tragic life of Princess Charlotte, a life that is not familiar to many people given the antics of the various members of her family – in particular her own mother and father (King George IV and Caroline of Brunswick).

Williams tells us how tragic Princess Charlotte’s life was – from being used as a pawn in her parent’s marriage (which was by no means happy) to her tragic death in childbirth at the age of 21. What makes this an engaging book to read is the way in which it is clear that Williams is writing with emotion – not staying disengaged from the princess’s feelings. But she is also balanced in the way in which she writes – stating all the flaws in both the characters and situations she mentions.

It is a very focused book and is a great starting point for anyone wanting to know the background to Victoria and Charlotte’s families, and makes it clear how very different the royal family could have been if Charlotte had lived.

Another interesting element about this book is the fact in the second half it concentrates on Victoria as she grew up right up until the first few years of her reign as queen. This is fascinating for the modern day reader as not much is made of Victoria’s younger years but many books tend to concentrate on her as queen and her relationships with Prince Albert and in later years with John Brown.

The book is written with ease and flows from one topic to the next easily and is consistent throughout with its dedication to the topic without becoming lost in information. There is plenty of focus on what both princesses were like as people, making them feel real and flawed in comparison with other history books which can be a little more distant with their subjects.

Fascinating, detailed and humane, this is a a great starting point for anyone who wants to know more about the background of Victoria’s family and the life that people lived at the time. Beautifully written and takes a different perspective of what it meant to be royal in the 1800’s.

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