It is no secret that Queen Victoria loved to write. In 2012, her journals were made public, and the over 40,000 pages of writing gave an insight into The Queen’s life as a wife, a mother and a ruler. Now, a children’s story, which is one of the Monarch’s earliest works, is set to be published for the first time since it was written nearly 200 years ago.
The Adventures of Alice Laselles was written by Princess Victoria of Kent when she was only ten years and nine months old. It tells the story of 12-year-old Alice, who is sent a boarding school and comes across all sorts of adventures and mysteries while she’s there. Victoria herself was tutored by a governess, but imagined what it would be like for a young girl to go off on her own. She writes: “‘Oh do not send me away Dear Pappa’, exclaimed Alice Laselles, as she threw her arms around her Pappa’s neck; ‘don’t send me away, O let me stay with you.’ And she sobbed bitterly.”
The story initially called “The School” was later changed to “Alice” in honour of the main character. It will be published this summer as “The Adventures of Alice Laselles by Alexandrina Victoria, Aged 10 and ¾”. Alexandrina Victoria was the actual name of the young Princess, who chose to adopt her middle name as her regnal name when she came to the throne.
While Alice, is the protagonist of the book, there is a whole host of intriguing characters. Worth mentioning is Barbara, the clever but proud daughter of a rich London banker and Ernestine Duval, a one-eyed French orphan who suffered from smallpox. An additional character Diana O’Reilly is described as a “tall girl of a most uncouth appearance”, who spoke in an “unintelligible” brogue.
The story was written by the young Princess, as a part of her studies with her governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen. Originally written in a little red notebook and bearing the inscription: “To my dear Mamma, this my first attempt at composition is affectionately and dutifully inscribed by her affectionate daughter, Victoria,” it is now safely kept in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle.
The book is set to be published by the Royal Collection Trust on June 8. In addition to being written by Princess Victoria, it features illustrations that come from her collection of paper dolls, which she drew along with her governess as a child. The paper dolls were digitally reproduced by Felix Petruška, with etchings by Cristina Pieropan.
“Queen Victoria is well known for the journals she wrote as an adult, but this composition, which she produced as a child, has never been published before,” said Jacky Colliss Harvey, a publisher at the Royal Collection Trust. “I am delighted that for the first time this beautifully illustrated story, written nearly 200 years ago by a real Princess, is now available for today’s little princesses to enjoy.”
Jacqueline Wilson, the author of a number of popular children’s books, gave the foreword to The Adventures of Alice Laselles. “If Victoria hadn’t been destined to be Queen, I think she might have made a remarkable novelist,” she wrote.
After it has been published, The Adventures of Alice Laselles by Alexandrina Victoria, Aged 10 and ¾ can be purchased online here.
Photo credit: Royal Collection Trust