This creeps me out, just saying it, but I think it’s something we have to face and accept: Queen Victoria was a bit of a nymphomaniac.
I know, I know, it’s hard to reconcile the public prudery of the woman who gave her name to an age of straight-laced rectitude with the private passion you have to assume is associated with serious lustfulness.
But the facts speak for themselves. And, actually, Victoria speaks for herself too — in private correspondence and in some prurient passages from her diary that weren’t ripped out and burned by one of her image-protecting daughters after Victoria’s death in 1901.
Known as “the secret picture,” this languid, sensual portrait of the 24-year-old Victoria by Franz Winterhalter was a birthday present to Albert from his wife in 1843. Albert kept the painting in his private chambers and it has only recently been seen by anyone outside the Royal Family and their attendants.
Victoria was just 20 (although she had been queen for more than two years) when she proposed to her German cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in the fall of 1839. Yep, Victoria popped the question, not Albert.
They were married in February 1840 and Victoria immediately began popping out the nine children she and Albert would have over the next 15 years.
Now there’s nothing wrong with having nine children (if you can afford them and have the patience to put up with that much cacophony) but there’s ample evidence to show Victoria preferred the act of creation to the process of child rearing.
After her youngest child, Beatrice, was born in 1857 the 38-year-old queen was warned by her doctor, Sir James Reid, that any more pregnancies were too dangerous. “Oh, Sir James,” wailed Victoria, “Am I not to have any more fun in bed?”
Right from the beginning of the marriage, Victoria was enthusiastic in the bedroom and generally considered the sexual aggressor in the relationship. One passage in her private journal rhapsodizes about “heavenly love-making.”
And she wasn’t shy talking about it — even to her prime minister.
Here’s what Victoria had to say in a letter to her first PM, the libidinous Lord Melbourne, about her wedding night:
“It was a gratifying and bewildering experience… I never, never spent such an evening. His excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness. He clasped me in his arms and we kissed each other again and again.”
I just can’t see the present Queen writing such a letter to her first prime minister, Winston Churchill.
As the family grew, Victoria had Albert install a complicated automatic lock system on his bedroom door that could be activated by a bedside switch. Why? So that any impromptu lovemaking would not be interrupted by prying children.
After Albert’s early death at age 42 in 1861, Victoria went into a long period of deep mourning and seclusion.
She only began emerging from that black period when Albert’s gamekeeper ghillie from his Scottish estate at Balmoral was brought to Osbourne, her house on the Isle of Wight, to act as the queen’s personal groom.
Rough, foul-talking John Brown — “fascinating Johnny Brown” to Victoria — had an established, casual relationship with Victoria from their time together in Balmoral but once he was in Osbourne, the two became inseparable intimates.
They spent most evenings drinking Begg’s Best whiskey while Brown told his queen dirty stories. Then they retired for the night to adjoining rooms.
Victoria’s daughters were known to jokingly refer to Brown as “Mama’s lover” and, in the late 1860s, rumours began spreading — with some published in republican journals — that Victoria had secretly married John Brown.
Although Victoria addressed Brown as “darling” in letters, it is unlikely she married the man and even more unlikely — almost impossible — that the queen secretly gave birth in Switzerland to a daughter fathered by Brown, as other gossip of the day suggested.
As for letters, Victoria carried on a very saucy, flirtatious correspondence with one of her later prime ministers, Benjamin Disraeli, who wrote romantic poetry for her.
But there is tantalizing postscript to the Brown marriage rumours.
When Victoria died in 1901, she was buried according to her own precise instructions: In her wedding dress (much let out) with a plaster cast of her beloved Albert’s hand — plus a photo of John Brown, a lock of Brown’s hair, several of his letters … and his mother’s wedding ring in her hand.