DURING the years since my biography of the Prince Consort and my other books describing Queen Victoria's reign were published, many letters have been found in Germany, and some in England; enough to justify my writing another full-length book, blending the old material with the new.
There were other reasons why this was desirable. During the war the English stocks of most of my books were destroyed by bombing. They included my biography of the Prince Consort, my book covering the latter half of Queen Victoria's reign, and some volumes of Victorian letters which were almost out of print. The books had become inadequate because they were written many years ago, when stores of letters in Germany and elsewhere had not been found, or were not available to biographers. My own estimates of many aspects of the period have developed or changed because of facts in these new documents and, I hope, through the growth of my own judgment. Also, the death of the last of Queen Victoria's children made me free to express opinions and publish material which would have been an ungracious intrusion while they were alive. Other sources of new information helped me to realize that there was room for a further book. After my early biographies were published many old Victorians came forward, some of them retired members of Queen Victoria's court, with letters and criticisms, and recollections, going back to the eighteen-sixties. I made notes of these at the time and have used them in this new record of Queen Victoria's reign.
When I began my search for fresh material, some surprising documents and facts came to light. The story of the relationship between the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, and his "mistress," Madame de St. Laurent, has always been misunderstood and wrongly told.
I found a descendant of Madame de St. Laurent and, through him, material which has made it possible for me to tell the story of her life, before and after her relationship with the Duke, proving her to be different from what gossip would have us believe. I have to thank this