The Captive of Kensington Palace


Victoria is virtually a prisoner in Kensington Palace. Her mother and her chamberlain, Sir John Conroy, are her guards. They will not allow her to associate with anyone that has not been thoroughly and critically checked to make sure Victoria is not harmed by their very presence. Even her governesses are under scrutiny.

Her best friends are her sister Feodora, married and living in Germany; her Uncle Leopold, the King of the Belgians; Lehzen, her faithful governess; the King and Queen, whom she is rarely allowed to see; and her cousins that she is also rarely allowed to see.


The Captive of Kensington Palace (1972) is the first novel in the Queen Victoria series which also includes The Queen and Lord M (1973), The Queen’s Husband (1973), and The Widow of Windsor (1974), all telling the story of Queen Victoria at different stages of her life.

This first volume concentrates on the young Princess Victoria at Kensington Palace where her life is strictly controlled by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her household comptroller, Sir John Conroy. At the beginning of the story, Victoria is eleven and beginning to understand her place in the royal family and the fact she may be queen one day. Over the next seven years, we experience the rigours of the Kensington System devised to keep Victoria isolated from the rest of the court and pliant to the wishes of her mother and Conroy. However, as Victoria grows older, she begins to display the stubbornness and iron will that fortify her against their maltreatment.

The story is mainly told from the point of view of Queen Victoria, however there is also input from most of the other characters, such as the Duchess of Kent, Conroy, King William and Queen Adelaide. One of my biggest peeves with the narration though was the constant head-hopping within the same paragraph which meant you started off with one’s character viewpoint and ended up switching to another’s a few sentences later, and so on. Personally, I find this irritating, however it does give you an insight into how everyone else is feeling. The dialogue is a very stilted at times but I did enjoy William’s loud blustering, especially when it is aimed at the Duchess of Kent. The Duchess of Kent fast becomes the most hated character for her imperious attitude and you can certainly understand why she is banished when Victoria becomes queen.

The research is impeccable and it recounts those seven years of Victoria’s life quite faithfully, however nothing much happens and things start to drag. There is a lot of foreshadowing too as we are teased about Victoria’s marital aspects and her desire to please Uncle Leopold has her dutifully looking in Albert’s direction. Victoria is very much seen as a pawn by many different people in this book, some are malevolent while some are more friendly, but it is fun watching her escape their clutches.

When Victoria finally reached eighteen, I breathed a huge sigh of relief because I was willing for her to break free and it meant I was reaching the end of the book. I will probably continue with this series.