It’s interesting  Queen Victoria’s journals have been made available on line for the first time. I’m really not sure what I would think if someone got hold of mine and published them. Still, I suppose if you have been dead over 100 years it wouldn’t matter too much!

What this development does demonstrate is how important journaling can be.  Queen Victoria was obviously addicted to the process as she wrote 43 000 pages in her lifetime beginning at 13 where she writes: “This book, Mama gave me that I might write the journal of my journey to Wales in it” and finally ending ten days before her death in 1901.

What this development does demonstrate is how important journaling can be.  Queen Victoria was obviously addicted to the process as she wrote 43 000 pages in her lifetime beginning at 13 where she writes: “This book, Mama gave me that I might write the journal of my journey to Wales in it” and finally ending ten days before her death in 1901.

The Bodelian Library in Oxford, the royal archives and a company called ProQuest (who I used to write for years ago and had quite forgotten about) made this a joint venture. It’s the first time there has been a major public release from the royal archives and I am guessing this may well prove to be the first of many.

It is also fitting that Queen Victoria was a great ‘modern’ and was quite taken with photography and in one sense might have actually approved of such an undertaking. Although on the other, considering the private nature of her journals she would probably have been horrified. I wonder what she would have made of the internet, after she was there when the first telegraph messages were sent around the world!

Of course, what we do have now is an intimate portrait of a monarch and can really begin to understand what motivated this woman, who suffered from such negative press after the death of her beloved Albert. Still, reading her passionate need for the man, we can understand perhaps why she allowed her world to collapse after his death.

“I have been unable to write my journal since my beloved one left us, and oh with what a heavy broken heart I enter a new year without him.”

Not only do her journals give us insight into her own thoughts about this marital relationship and love affair,  of course she writes about such fascinating cultural and political history. She too reigned for upwards of 60 years there is much to wonder over including the Great Exhibition for example and other major world events. She writes on 5 February 1885 –

 “a fine day, my cold somewhat better” – she learns “dreadful news, Khartoum fallen, Gordon’s fate uncertain. All greatly distressed.”

We get the lowdown as she describes her own coronation in great detail, a day when she was woken at 4am by celebratory gun salutes from St James’s Park, “and could not get much sleep afterwards from the noise of the people, bands &c”. When she finally travels in the state coach making her way to Westminster Abbey, she says:

 “the crowds of people exceeded what I have ever seen … multitudes, the millions of my loyal subjects who were assembled in every spot to witness the Procession. Their good humour and excessive loyalty was beyond everything.”

The earliest volumes are apparently in Victoria’s own handwriting, but later these change and I guess become more official and as they  were transcribed by her private secretary. Significantly, her daughter Beatrice edited the journals rather heavily as she transcribed them. Maybe this was for the good, although historians would disagree vehemently, she then destroyed the originals.

We all use journaling for different ends and if you have never kept one it can be hard to understand what the fuss is all about. Keeping a journal for me is an opportunity to vent my spleen without losing the plot, I can plan, change my mind and change it again without anyone interfering, I have the opportunity to moan and whine and no one can hear me. Getting those niggling thoughts on paper often solves them and even allows me a chance to review objectively. My journal also allows me charts my dreams and obsessions and finally, understand what is important in my creative life. In fact I cannot imagine living without this writing meditation I undertake every day before I do anything else; it’s my own personal writing retreat where I escape.

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