If you are still suffering withdrawal symptoms from the lavish ITV costume drama series Victoria, why not put this sumptuous official companion book on your Christmas wish list?
The Victoria Letters, a fascinating side dish to the delicious TV extravaganza, is written by Helen Rappaport, a specialist in Victorian history, and delves into the private writings and copious diaries of the young queen who became one of England’s greatest monarchs.
Through a gallery of gorgeous stills from the TV series, authentic 19th century images and extracts from the queen’s copious diaries and letters detailing her personal life, readers are given a vivid portrait of the tumultuous early years of Victoria’s 63-year reign.
Daisy Goodwin, the acclaimed novelist and screenwriter of the series, provides the Foreword to this beautifully produced book which is not just an illustrated guide to the outstandingly successful television production, starring Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes and Rufus Sewell, but also an exploration of the determined woman behind the throne.
It was on the morning of June 20 1837 that 18-year-old Princess Victoria, a closely watched but rebellious teenager, awoke at Kensington Palace to discover that she had become queen of the most powerful country in the world.
The diminutive royal’s long reign, which began nearly 20 years before the invention of photography, means that our lasting image of her is as a middle-aged matron immortalised in countless statues all over the country, or as a rather severe old lady in a black bonnet.
But as Goodwin notes in her Foreword, Victoria was a passionate, strong-willed girl who had to do her growing up in public, her everyday life and intense love affair with her husband Albert constantly under the scrutiny of her courtiers, the press and the public.
Despite her early years spent in the shadow of her mother and her mother’s adviser, Sir John Conroy, Victoria was determined to do things her own way and grew up to become one of the most memorable, influential and unshakeable women in history.
The extensive writings she left behind document her rollercoaster personal journey, showing how she triumphed over scandal and corruption, and revealing her own thoughts about the love interests and family dramas of her reign.
And beyond the royal apartments, Rappaport delves into the running of the royal household, the upstairs-downstairs relationships and what it was like to live in Victorian England.
So step behind the palace doors, relive some of the most spectacular moments of the TV show… and discover the intriguing girl behind the formidable queen.
(HarperCollins, hardback, £20)