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Tuesday 5 January 2010

"Beloved & Darling Child" Edited by Agatha Ramm

Agatha Ramm's collection of the later letters between Queen Victoria & her eldest daughter, Vicky, (Empress Frederick), is such a touching book. After reading all of Roger Fulford's editing of the earlier letters, this books is at once a continuation and yet quite different. From the Queen's Golden Jubilee and the decline and death of Vicky's beloved husband, through the death of several other members of Queen Victoria's family and her concerns for the soldiers in the Boer War, the letters are obviously not so light as some of the earlier ones. But there are brighter moments - the Jubilees and the little reminiscences of holidays etc. It is terribly moving to read the final words of the letter written only a week or so before the Queen's passing, when Vicky herself was already approaching her own end: "God bless you, dearest child."

Of all the biographies, autobiographies and memoirs I have ever read, there are few I return to so often as the letters between Queen Victoria and Vicky or her second daughter, Alice. If anything ever spoke from the heart, these letters do and they are beautiful. All life is there - the gossipy bits, the prying, the family concerns, the jokes, the descriptions of art and nature and many places, the wonderful descriptions of different characters who, too often, appear as little more than names in history books. These beautiful books really bring these people alive again...and on a snowy night like tonight, what a pleasure to be surrounded by them!

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