PETTICOAT RULE; OR, VICTORIA IN FURS
IN MEMORY OF CASEY FINCH
It is she, Venus, but without her furs;
the widow again, and yet it is Venus.
—Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs
From childhood Queen Victoria possessed a willful, strong, and tempestuous temperament. When thwarted she raged; always hungry, she devoured her food; very possessive, she presided over her adored playthings. Lytton Strachey interpreted the princess's passionate nature as foreshadowing the queen's sexual liveliness. "The careful searcher might detect, in the virgin soil," Strachey remarked of the princess's conventual upbringing at the time of her confirmation, "the first faint traces of an unexpected vein."1 Whereas after her death Victoria became a symbol of sexual repression, her contemporaries could imagine her as an erotic powerhouse. The specter of a dominating woman with strong erotic desires inflects aspects of Victorian culture and, offering its subversive message to a culture that placed women as a refuge from an aggressive world, Queen Victoria presides as its reigning, though sometimes disguised, goddess.
Throughout her reign, Victoria made no attempt to hide her amorous disposition.2 From the time of her accession, she esteemed men who made her heart beat faster. Serving her apprenticeship as queen with Lord Melbourne, a handsome older man with a past, she acquired a reputation for judging men according to their masculine