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When Queen Victoria died, two gentlemen were commissioned with the monumental task of editing her vast correspondence. It would be the first time that a British monarch's letters had been published, and it would change how Victoria was remembered forever. The men chosen for the job were deeply complex and peculiar characters: Viscount Esher, the consummate royal confidant, blessed with charm and influence, but hiding a secret obsession with Eton boys and an incestuous relationship with his son; Arthur Benson, a schoolmaster and author, plagued by depression, struggling to fit in with the blue-blooded clubs and codes of the court. Together with King Edward VII these men would decide Victoria’s legacy. In their hands 460 volumes of the Queen’s correspondence became just three, and their decisions and distortions would influence perceptions of Victoria for generations to come.
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.