Queen Victoria's Secrets

Queen Victoria's Secrets

Queen Victoria's Secrets

Queen Victoria's Secrets

Synopsis

Drawing upon feminist, anthropological, and postcolonial approaches, Munich searches out the myriad, often contradictory incarnations of Queen Victoria in the minds of her subjects.

Excerpt

The King of the Belgians to Queen Victoria, January 16, 1838:
Monarchy to be carried on requires certain elements, and the
occupation of the Sovereign must be constantly to preserve these
elements, or should they have been too much weakened by
untoward circumstances, to contrive by every means to strengthen
them again. You are too clever not to know, that it is not the being
called Queen or King, which can be of the least consequence, when
to the title there is not also annexed the power indispensable for the
exercise of those functions. All trades must be learned, and
nowadays the trade of a constitutional Sovereign, to do it well,
is a very difficult one.

—Letters of Queen Victoria

A visitor to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, a state founded the year before Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, might be sufficiently intrigued by its name to consider a hike down the three-quarter mile, self-guided Queen's Garden Trail. What queen would have a garden in the far reaches of a democratic republic? Catching a possible allusion to John Ruskin's "Of Queen's Gardens," a student of the Victorian age might guess that the royalty honored was not a person of royal blood but womanhood itself at its most nurturant and domesticated. The student would be wrong. At the end of the trail, Queen Victoria, a "lovely natural limestone sculpture" in the words of the guidebook, dominates the horizon. Crowned, her monumental body unmistakable in the bright, un-British light, the craggy queen presides over a garden of stone pinnacles, ridges, and spires in a land that her grandfather, King George III, neither claimed nor ceded. Shaped by elemental forces, the massive stone lump imparts a seeming inevitability to Victoria's awesome queenliness.

Taking accident for artifact, the travel writer calls the formation a "statue," as if it were wrought by a reverential human subject rather than by wind and rain. The configuration is in fact a "hoodoo," a word . . .

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