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Imprint: Oneworld Publications

Subject: History

Censoring Queen Victoria

How Two Gentlemen Edited a Queen and Created an Icon

Yvonne M. Ward

When Queen Victoria died, two gentlemen embarked on a monumental task: sorting through and making sense of her vast written legacy. For the first time, a British monarch’s letters – carefully edited of course – were going to be published.

The men chosen for the job were complex and peculiar characters. Viscount Esher, the consummate royal confidant, was blessed with charm, but he hid a secret obsession with Eton schoolboys and preyed upon his own son. Arthur Benson, schoolmaster and author, was plagued by depression, and he never felt at ease among the blue-blooded swells of the royal court. Together with King Edward VII, these men would decide how Victoria would be remembered. In their hands hundreds of volumes of the Queen’s correspondence were whittled down to a mere three, and their decisions – and distortions – would influence perceptions of Victoria for generations to come.

Based on unprecedented access to the royal archives at Windsor Castle, Censoring Queen Victoria is a rare and fascinating piece of historical detective work, revealing aspects of the Queen-Empress that we were never meant to see.


  • Publication date: March 5, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781780746548
  • RRP: £8.99
  • Pages: 224


‘a brilliant piece of literary detective work, based on unprecedented access to the original archives’

The Good Book Guide

‘An unusual and fascinating book… Yvonne Ward has the perceptiveness to present in a new light what at first sight might seem a well-trodden subject, deploying her own knowledge and archival research to make a fascinating read by re-editing the editors’ 

Literary Review

'Four stars - Yvonne Ward tells a complicated story clearly and simply, which is the reverse of the normal academic procedure.'

Mail on Sunday

‘Yvonne Ward’s exposure of the motives and the men behind this skilful piece of powerfully persuasive and permanent Edwardian political spin is astonishing’

The Times


BBC History Magazine

'Remarkable and clever'

New York Times

‘Ward argues convincingly that Esher and Benson's radical pruning of Queen Victoria's early correspondence has had a profound effect on her posthumous reputation… a timeless reminder of how important it is for biographers to find the time, space and will to battle back to the primary sources.’


'Rich in intrigue.'

Kirkus Reviews

'Enlightening... earnest, thorough.'

Publishers Weekly

‘Original and engaging’


'Original and important, this book represents a major contribution to our understanding of the modern British monarchy.'

Sir David Cannadine

'Hats off to Yvonne Ward... who has exposed the gentlemanly networks that tried to hide the truth about Queen Victoria'.'

Robert Lacey

Yvonne M. Ward

Yvonne Ward is a historian with a doctorate from La Trobe University. Her publications include the lead essay in a special edition of The Court Historian, published to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. This is her first book. She lives in Victoria, Australia.

Author page

More books by Yvonne M. Ward

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