serving-victoriaReviewed by Jax Kepple

Lacking the juicy, insider-only details and clear narrative organization that come with a truly engrossing nonfiction book, Serving Victoria is a dry account of Queen Victoria’s staff throughout her sixty-plus year reign. Author Kate Hubbard tediously portrays six staff people, from the ladies-in-waiting to the royal doctor based off of their private correspondence but fails to link together the story in a compelling way, leaving just the facts, and to be honest, they are pretty boring.

Several times during the book, Hubbard tells the movements of the court but lacks the additional information to connect the dots. They go from Windsor to Osborne and back again, but nothing different really happens each time and it’s a lot of noise while trying to describe the particular chapter’s employee. The day-to-day activity was glossed over or not explained leading the reader to want for some basic descriptions of life in the 19th century. Occasionally there was an interesting tidbit, but I would’ve liked if at least a “day in the life” of the Queen was detailed or if just a few points were focused on throughout the whole book. Hubbard tries to cover the Queen’s entire reign, and rushes past key events, leading to a confusing timetable. It seemed like some of the staff were redundant, but I would like to have definitive differences between the ladies of the bedchamber and the ladies-in-waiting, or the dressers and the wardrobe maids.

I did enjoy the details about how much people got paid, but I wasn’t able to see how money was connected to the Queen – did she have to ask Parliament for money whenever she needed it? Or was she allowed a certain amount? Also, the chapter on the Munshi was probably the best one, but again, it was hard to truly focus on why everyone hated him when there wasn’t a true narrative. At the end of the book, it’s glossed over that Munshi goes back to India, but after reading how he was so upset about not getting to sit with the Queen, how did he take it? That would have been an fitting closure to that chapter, but it was buried in the end.

The Queen kept a pretty tame court, without a lot of intrigue or scandal, but there probably was something worth writing about. The employees the book follows are very boring in their own way, occasionally making a snide comment about the Queen or her husband, Prince Albert, but the way they were presented lacked the emotional depth. The entire book could have been reorganized and edited down and I think the point would have come across in a lot more of an interesting manner.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.