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Jean Plaidy is one of the pen names of Eleanor Alice Burford (1906-1993). She wrote around 100 books under this name. The Captive of Kensington Palace, first published in 1972, is Plaidy's first book of four in her Queen Victoria series. The series is completed with The Queen and Lord M (1973), The Queen's Husband (1973) and The Widow of Windsor (1974).
This book is all about Victoria growing up in Kensington Palace under the strict supervision of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her Household Comptroller, Sir John Conroy. Victoria spends much of her childhood cut off from anyone her own age. As neither of her uncles, the elder brothers of her late father, have any surviving children, it is very likely that Victoria will become queen one day so her mother monitors everyone that she comes into contact with, makes decisions for her and is generally domineering and forceful. Victoria is never allowed to be alone, and is always escorted by her mother or one of her governesses. Her mother even sleeps in the same rooms as her. The story ends at the death of William IV when Victoria comes to the throne at the young age of 18.
The book describes her relationships with many people whilst she is growing up, including her mother, Sir John, William IV and his wife Queen Adelaide, her Governess and her elder half sister whom she adores.
Throughout the book, Victoria becomes more aware of her future position which is initially kept a secret from her. Her mother plans to continue to dominate Victoria upon her accession to the throne and hopes that William IV will die quickly so that she is able to rule as regent until Victoria comes of age. As she gets older she starts to form her own opinions of people and becomes a strong minded young woman who will not be bullied into anything by her mother or Sir John. Victoria's future character must clearly be moulded by the upbringing she had and makes her more determined to be independent after so long spent with no control over her life counting dwon the years until she comes of age and is able to command rather than be commanded.
Her mother comes across as a nasty piece of work! She is terrible to William IV and Adelaide and was not a character that I warmed to at all. Sir John is another such who tries to manipulate situations to suit his own purpose and is a thoroughly selfish individual. Adelaide on the other hand, comes across as a loving and caring queen who is not able to have her own children so showers affection on those around her.
As with all Jean Plaidy books, it was very quick and simple to read. Plaidy repeats things frequently throughout her books which can be useful when getting confused with names and titles etc, but can be frustrating when you have read something similar about this persons character only two chapters ago.
All in all, a great read about the short reign of William IV and the life of the young Victoria. Four stars from me.
Available on Amazon for £6.74 including postage.
Thanks for reading.
This wasn't the Plaidy book I was originally looking for but the title caught my eye and I was intrigued enough to read the blurb.
This is the first book in a series of four following Victoria's reign and this one looks at her life before her assent to the throne.
This is classed as historical fiction as although Plaidy does base the novel on factual dates and events, her primary focus is on the relationships of those close to Victoria which can only remain to be ficticious.
As the title suggests Plaidy focuses mainly on the relationship between Victoria and her mother, the latter becoming almost her jailer in an attempt to keep her safe from her jealous uncle who wants her dead to clear the way for him to inherit the crown but also as a way for her to hopefully be able to control Victoria when she does become Queen. Her mother's main interest is becoming the power behind the crown and expects to be treated as just as important if not more than Victoria herself.
Plaidy has a brilliant way of weaving a number of other characters into the plot as well; The Baroness Lehzen, Victoria's Governess from childhood plays an important role as Victoria's "Mother" figure, Sir John Conroy, The Comptroller of her mothers household and close personal friend of the Duchess with whom Victoria has an enormous dislike is also a main character.
King William IV and Queen Adelaide are also integral characters and spend their time trying to give Victoria freedom from her Mother and insisting that as heir to the throne that she is allowed to socialise at Buckingham Palace.
The books rrp is £7.99 but you can buy it for £5.99 from Amazon.
It is a captivating book that I found hard to put down resulting in me reading it in one sitting!
Beware though if you do read it you will be compelled to read the others to find out what happens as Plaidy very cleverly finishes the book just as Victoria is told she has become Queen!
*** The Author ***
I have enjoyed all four books in Jean Plaidy's Victoria series, which I think is the best that I have read so far from her historical novels.
This is the pen name that Eleanor Burford used when writing her historical novels. This prolific writer used other pseudonyms for different styles of books. These included Victoria Holt, Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow, Ellalice Tate, Anna Percival and Philippa Carr
*** The Captive of Kensington ***
Out of over a hundred historical fiction books written by Jean Plaidy, few monarchs have warranted more than one book, in her opinion. However, despite skimming over most of the wide-ranging historical events of the time, the author still writes more about Queen Victoria and her family than any other monarch, with the exception of Henry VIII.
Although the series does contain some historical background, there is only enough to help the reader understand Victoria the person, and her relationships with the people who were the most important influences on her.
This first book, THE CAPTVE OF KENSINGTON, deals primarily with her poor relationship with her mother, which contrasts sharply with the strong affection between her and her Governess. Victoria is a captive in Kensington Palace in the sense that her domineering mother is very restrictive about outings and people she is allowed to meet.
If her mother had allowed her to spend more time with her uncle King William IV and his family, she would have had a broader experience of life to draw on, but Mama didn't like their morals. I will leave readers to decide whether they think Mama really had superior values to King William, and whether the bickering with him is justifiable.
The author also shows how Uncle Leopold, her mother's brother, is the main father figure to her in her younger years. (Her real father died when she was a baby.) The respect she has for Uncle Leopold's opinion later affects her choice of husband, which leads on to her children and grandchildren being spread throughout many of the royal families of Europe.
Sinister ambitious characters include her mother's "friend" Sir John Conroy, plus Victoria's uncle and aunt the Duke of Cumberland and his wife. Rumours of murder make Mama fear for Victoria's life.
The great characterisation, together with the lack of repetitive story-telling which has been a minor niggle for me in most of her other series of books, make this and the rest of her books about Victoria, five star reads for me.
I will summarise the other books in the Victoria series in case one part of her story is more important to you than the others.
*** The Other 3 Books in the Queen Victoria Series ***
The second book, THE QUEEN AND LORD M, illuminates her relationship with Lord Melborne, who was the Prime Minister when she first came to the throne, and guided her through territory unfamiliar to the teenage queen.
The third book, THE QUEEN'S HUSBAND, shows the love and power struggle between her and her husband, and is probably the one that most readers will find the most fascinating, as I did.
The fourth book, THE WIDOW OF WINDSOR shows a sad widow Queen, despite her Empire being at its peak. Her most appreciated servant John Brown lightens Victoria's mood and therefore the storyline though. The fact that her many offspring are now spread across the royal families of Europe can be both a cause for concern, when there is trouble, and joy when they find happiness in their new roles.
*** Comparisons with Other Series by Jean Plaidy ***
Jean Plaidy was obviously extremely fascinated by Victoria Saxe-Coburg, and this comes through in her detailed and compelling writing of her life. The only other monarch in her 100+ historical fiction books that vies for so much attention from her is Henry VIII. Though her books in which he features, incorporate much more about wider life in those times. In contrast, most of her writings in this series are directly about Victoria.
I have read all of her British Plantagenet and Tudor books, plus the French Revolution series. I enjoyed all of these and they would average four stars each from me, but I appreciate the Victoria series the best so far.
There is only one of Jean Plaidy's books that I couldn't get into. I started to read the first book in the Medici series but didn't get very far. Although written in English, the manner of the speech was foreign to me. Also it may have be a disadvantage not knowing a bit of background to the characters. Maybe despite my first boring impression of this series, I will give it another go, if nothing more demanding of my attention is available.
*** Recommendation ***
This series is primarily about Victoria and her large family. Readers principally wanting to know about major events in Britain and the wider world should look elsewhere. Perhaps books about political or armed services leaders might be more relevant to them.
Although I think all of the four books in the Queen Victoria series are equally well written, the most entertaining for me was the third one, because of the subject matter at the author's disposal. So if you only have the time to read one of these books go straight to The Queen's Husband. (This is the book most relevant to the time portrayed in the recent film release The Young Victoria.)
For those who have the time, as well as the inclination, to read all four books in Jean Plaidy's Queen Victoria series, start at the beginning with The Captive of Kensington and follow with the other books in order. I hope those that do read them all, enjoy them as much as me.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd (2 Oct 2008)