Censoring Queen Victoria : How Two Gentlemen Edited a Queen and Created an Icon
When Queen Victoria died, two gentlemen were commissioned with the monumental task of editing her vast correspondence. It would be the first time that a British monarch's letters had been published, and it would change how Victoria was remembered forever. The men chosen for the job were deeply complex and eccentric characters.
Viscount Esher was the consummate royal confidant, blessed with charm and influence, but hiding a secret obsession with Eton boys and an incestuous relationship with his son. Arthur Benson, a schoolmaster and author, suffered badly from depression, and struggled to fit in with the blue-blooded clubs and codes of the court. Together with King Edward VII these men would decide Victoria's legacy.
In their hands 460 volumes of the Queen's correspondence became just three. Pressure was high and the editing process fraught as Benson and Esher vied for control - the strain ultimately sending Benson into a nervous breakdown. While promoting their own preconceptions about Victoria and her court, they were to silence scandal, protect the new king, and prop up the politics of the day, obscuring Victoria's role as a wife and mother in the process.
Their decisions - and distortions - would influence perceptions of Victoria for generations to come. Based on unprecedented access to the royal archives at Windsor Castle, Censoring Queen Victoria is a rare and fascinating piece of historical detective work that reveals the story behind this incredible collection.
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