Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Heather B. Moore's In the Shadow of a Queen introduces Queen Victoria's rebellious daughter Princess Louise

Princess Louise, sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, was a trailblazer within the British royal family. Not only did she marry a commoner, a highly unusual circumstance at the time, but she was a talented sculptor who pursued a career as an artist, enrolling in the National Art Training School and attending classes – when her schedule allowed – alongside ordinary people. But getting her devoted Mama’s permission took work. So did essentially everything else in her highly regulated, scrutinized, and isolated existence within royalty’s privileged cocoon.

“Nothing is private when you are the daughter of England’s sovereign,” writes Heather B. Moore in her biographical novel about Princess Louise, succinctly stating her heroine’s predicament and illustrating the difficult path she navigates as she gingerly moves out of Queen Victoria’s shadow and into a role that offers greater fulfillment.

Sadly, Louise’s childhood is dominated by her father Prince Albert’s early death and her mother’s stifling control and refusal to emerge from mourning. Each of Victoria’s unmarried daughters, in turn, is expected to serve as her personal secretary, a role she thinks Louise is too excitable and strong-willed to handle. Louise’s few friendships are supervised, and her associations with outsiders strictly limited.

A good part of the novel involves the husband hunt, a challenging task since there are few good options. Moore nimbly sketches in the political background that overshadows Louise’s choices (many potential fianc├ęs are objectionable to either the Danes or the Prussians, whose families Louise’s older siblings married into, and who are in a territorial dispute). Also, the Queen doesn’t want her to reside abroad. Louise finds the whole process embarrassing, and it’s clear why that is. How could anyone possibly be themselves while dating – to use a modern term – under the view of multiple chaperones?

The standout scenes are those where Louise asserts her independence: perfecting her sculpting abilities to the point where she wears down her mother’s objections to further training; stepping from her carriage into the halls of the art school; daring to visit physician Elizabeth Garrett at her home and pose questions about women in medicine. Queen Victoria’s sense of royal dignity is such that, when Louise does get engaged, she demands that her future husband call her “Princess Louise” all the time – even in private! Louise is her own woman, though, and knows that’s not the type of marriage she wants.

author Heather B. Moore
Following Louise from ages 12 through 23, In the Shadow of a Queen uses excerpts from historical letters to start each chapter, and the author’s prose approximates the same tone and characterizations. Moore has done careful research, and her endnotes – which are so detailed that the actual novel ends at the 90% mark on my Kindle – emphasize her dedication to the source material. Readers hoping to find secret love affairs or other juicy rumors brought to life should look elsewhere. Instead, they’ll find a well-rendered, convincing portrait of a talented young woman’s efforts to balance her royal role with her need for independence.

The novel is published by Shadow Mountain Publishing today, October 4th, and my review is part of the blog tour with Austenprose PR (I read it from a NetGalley copy).



Heather B. Moore is a USA Today best-selling and award-winning author of more than seventy publications, including The Paper Daughters of Chinatown. She has lived on both the East and West Coasts of the United States, as well as Hawaii, and attended school abroad at the Cairo American Collage in Egypt and the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel. She loves to learn about history and is passionate about historical research.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on a very interesting royal daughter. She was a trailblazer and way ahead of her time.