cover image The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria’s Youngest Daughter

The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria’s Youngest Daughter

Matthew Dennison. St. Martin?s, $27.95 (302pp) ISBN 978-0-312-37698-7

After the death of her beloved Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, an only child with a pathological fear of being alone, turned her ninth child, Beatrice, into her permanent companion, infantilizing her and robbing her of any chance of a normal life. The consequences for Beatrice were difficult: as Dennison shows, over the years the spunky young Beatrice turned docile and acquiescent. Some of her siblings resented her proximity to the seat of power. Victoria even determined never to let her companion marry, a vow she abandoned only when Beatrice, at age 27, fell in love with the German Prince Henry of Battenberg, who agreed to abandon his home and career and move in with his wife and mother-in-law. He died 10 years later, in the Ashanti War in Sierra Leone, where he had traveled with British forces in an effort to exert some personal independence. Beatrice mourned, then resumed her duties as her mother’s companion. Dennison, a British journalist, does a fine job of laying out facts, but he doesn’t spare readers his opinion. Though he’s not impressed with Victoria’s parenting skills and lack of consideration for Beatrice’s emotional well-being, his compassion for his subjects is obvious. That, as much as his detailed portraits, will keep readers engaged. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Feb.)