I had just watched the film "The Young Victoria" (above) when I discovered "Victoria's Daughters" at a neighborhood garage sale. Jerrold M. Packard's biography of the British Queen's family turned out to be very readable given that she had nine children. Though it ostensibly concentrates on the girls of the Royal Family, you can't really tell this tale without devoting space to the sons and everyone's spouses and children. Then there are assorted royals, politicians and court personalities across Europe who take the stage.
Packard thankfully includes a detailed family tree of the children, along with a list of other principal players, a critical addition given all the various Victorias and Alberts, Williams and Leopolds who appear in each generation.
I found Queen Victoria's first child, also called Victoria and known as the Princess Royal (above), the most fascinating. She was intelligent, lively and stubborn and her parents saw her marriage to the Prussian Crown Prince as a way to bring an English style government to that fragmented and militaristic part of Europe.
Like her parents, Vicky made a love match. Like her mother, she had a contentious relationship with her son — the future Kaiser Wilhelm II. Vicky and her husband were usually at odds with the intensely militaristic state that eventually became a unified Germany under Bismark. Her husband only ruled the country for three months before he died of cancer; their reign between two war-mongering monarchs was too short and too late to change the nation's mind set. Indeed, it was their son who plunged Victoria's heirs — along with everyone else — into World War I.
Packard details the background of the families that Victoria's children married into since that played an important role in what happened to each of them. He also looks at the strong Germanic history of the Queen's family and how that — including their name — changed over time.
Among the most fascinating side shoots of the story is Packard's tracing of the genetic path of the hemophilia that ran through Victoria's family and descendants; where it likely came from and how it was passed along. Victoria's youngest son, Leopold, was a hemophiliac who married, had two children and lived until age 31. Apparently only a few female hemophiliacs have ever been recorded. Packard points out that they were daughters of marriages between first cousins — and none of them would have lived past puberty because they would have bled to death when they began to menstruate.