I love the idea of the 10-year-old future Queen Victoria writing school stories :-). It’s something that I should imagine a lot of 10-year-old girls do. I seem to remember that I was always wildly over-ambitious and used to make long lists of characters, planning a full-length book and preferably a series, but never finish the stories. I remember planning one, on a little pad of paper that my dad had got free from a pharmaceutical rep, during an episode of Coronation Street involving the feud between the Duckworths and the Claytons – why do I remember that?! Google informs me that that would have been in 1985, so I’d have been 10 at the time, the same age as Victoria was when she wrote this. Victoria, who evidently had a lot more sense than I did J, stuck to something relatively short and simple!
It is very obviously written by a child – the story is short and simple, and some of the syntax and punctuation are in dire need of correction – so don’t be expecting the sort of school story you’d get from Elinor M Brent-Dyer, Elsie J Oxenham, Dorita Fairlie Bruce or Enid Blyton J, but it’s really pretty good for someone so young. There are some lovely descriptive passages in it. And what’s particularly fascinating is how this story, written by a 10-year-old c.1830, would, if expanded, fit right into the classic age of girls’ school stories a century later.
Alice Laselles is packed off to boarding school when her mother dies, her father remarries, and her new stepmother takes a dislike to her. That’s very Brent-Dyer! She’s then wrongly accused of something she didn’t do, but the truth comes out in the end. That’s pretty Blyton-esque – although Alice’s response, that she knows she’s innocent and so she’s not going to get upset about it, is more reminiscent of the attitude taken by Susan Coolidge’s Katy Carr. Two of the eight girls at the school are twins – a trope beloved of both Elinor M Brent-Dyer and Elsie J Oxenham. There’s also a wild Irish girl – classic Angela Brazil. And this is in a book written by a young princess in 1830.
Queen Victoria’s own childhood sounds like the start of a school story, really. Her mother and Sir John Conroy kept her practically kept locked away in Kensington Palace for much of the time. If her life had been a book, and a century later, someone would have made sure that she was sent away to school, where she’d have made lots of jolly friends, as happened to various princesses who appear in school story novels. Maybe it was something she liked the idea of? We’ll never know. But this is a sweet little story. It’s only been published because it was written by the future Queen Victoria – it’s the sort of thing that gets passed round proud grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends at Christmas or birthday gatherings, rather than the sort of thing that you’d usually expect to find in a published book – but it’s interesting because it was written by the future Queen Victoria, and, which I wasn’t really expecting, it’s also interesting to see how all the classic elements of the school story already seem to have been in the mind of a young girl as far back as 1830. Worth a look!