I will have to explain why reading a history like this can be so comforting. It is when you are dealing with present day hard problems and there is a lot of controversy and disagreement. It was exhausting to write about Michael Jackson when there are so many different reactions to his personality. I was afraid my black friends would think I was being too harsh. After all, history is being made when a superstar dies young and many are affected. It is unbelievable how many in Los Angeles are expected to surround the scene of his memorial today. There is no question that people are running the gamut of reactions to his death and to his personality, his history, and biographers will be sorting out what happened to cause his early death for years to come, just as they did for years with Elvis Presley.
So it is comforting to go back in history when all the hoopla has died away and read about famous figures then who were talked about all the time, so much was known about them in their time.
I am sure Queen Victoria's daughters were almost as famous, say, as Princess Diana in her time. What I get out of a book like this is a close look say at the times and what those people had to suffer from not having our modern inventions and conveniences. Take the immunizations we take for granted for our children. In this book diptheria hits the families of the daughters with devastating results. One child dies in one daughter's family and then it hits daughter Alicia's family. She nursed one child through it, but her youngest little girl dies. When her little son recovers somewhat he asks for his beloved little sister and is so grieved when his mother has to tell him she has died, that his mother takes him in her arms to comfort him. Unfortunately he was still contagious and she comes down with the diptheria in due time and dies at the age of 35.
I am so glad I don't know her as I would if she lived now days so I would have to grieve over hers and the child's death. I don't think I could take it.
Also the dread hemophilia plagued this large family and caused a number of deaths. Victoria was a carrier, and daughters are the ones who might pass it on to their sons. Queen Victoria had a bleeder son and four of her daughters also had sons with hemophilia. It is a condition that afflicts males. Enough of these sons died young that they must have lived in considerable dread that any little accident or mishap would cause uncontrollable bleeding and these sons would and did die.
Then this was the horse age, and I was reminded once again of how accidents can occur with riding horses as well as horse drawn carriages. Victoria's oldest daughter Vicky was thrown from a horse after riding for 50 years and her neck was twisted and badly hurt. So she lived in misery after, but worse still while she was down and was examined closely by doctors, it was discovered she had advanced breast cancer. Not much cancer awareness then! When she was dying, the doctors would only give her enough opiates to relieve the pain a short time on the grounds that she would die faster if she was over medicated. They were quite heartless in those days when it came to pain. I was sure glad I did not know her well while she was going through her final years of suffering which must have been well documented at the time, because I have hardly ever read such a harrowing account of a painful death. Having gone through nursing Pierre who died of lung cancer, I compared the attitude of her doctors to the hospice doctors he had at the end, who kept him well medicated. But he only found out he had cancer a month before he died, so all the pain he experienced in the months previous he would just grit his teeth and bear with only light painkillers, advil when he ran out of that. This book gave me renewed awe over his toughness in going through cancer pain with such stoic silent strength.
Another big problem this author, Jerome M. Packard, is able to deal with in depth is that of these girls and their daughters marrying men who were even suspected of being homosexuals. In the present day, there is still so much controversy and reaction surrounding this subject, that gay men marrying women cannot be talked about freely. In those days girls did not have as much freedom to choose who they wanted to marry, especially royalty who had to be paired up with some kind of eligible royalty. One grand daughter describes her husband as a lover of boys in letters to her family saying that no boys were safe from him, that he chased after and involved every boy he saw in sexual activities. She even added, 'he does not miss a one.' Needless to say, her horrified family supported her divorce. Access to all the family letters, of course, gave this bio much of its authenticity. The thoughts of these private letters probably were not made public in those days either.
Another of the daughters, Louise, was not so lucky. Her husband was described as being very close to his uncle, a known homosexual, suggesting that he and the uncle were involved. Good Lord, you could not say that now in a book about our times. But she somehow could not get out of that marriage but was never happy. They appeared to have nothing but a distant companionship, but she was constrained not to do anything else by her very proper mother, Queen Victoria, who did not want her to go through the disgrace and scandal of divorce.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book which is very well written. I did not know a thing about Queen Victoria's 8 children, so this was a great find in the thrift store.
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