We took the train from London to the beautiful town of Bath. At the town center we found out that each day, apart from Christmas, the town offers free walking tours conducted by kind and knowledgeable retired volunteers. Our tour guide showed us the beautiful Georgian buildings around town and told us their stories. But one particular story was quite unusual.
On our way we passed the Royal Victoria Garden, a small beautiful park facing a formidable building by John Wood the Younger. It transpired that the eleven year old Princess Victoria arrived in Bath especially for the dedication ceremony of the park the. It is unclear what happened exactly, but a vicious comment was made about the young Victoria’s dodgy dress and the fact that the princess had thick ankles. Apparently the young Victoria was deeply hurt and she never once returned to Bath.
The people in Bath believe that it is a real story. In my mind I saw a dejected little girl who, for no fault of her own, and because of her position, was the target of cruelty at such a young age. It also made me wonder about insults and their consequences.
We often make thoughtless remarks, without considering their effects. The name “thoughtless” suggests that thinking would have prevented the whole chain of events. Those who commented on the princess’ appearance clearly didn’t regard her as a person, looking at her only as a product, or as “a celeb.” Moreover, those who made this remark about the princess must have thought that it was funny or even brave to insult the little girl.
Perhaps Victoria heard (or imagined) people laughing at her, which would have augmented the whole unfortunate event and made her feel humiliated. Sometimes children are offended more by the reaction of the people close to them than from random comments by strangers, as they feel betrayed by their loved ones.
Very few women have achieved in their lifetime the power and the stature of Queen Victoria, but she was first a child and then a woman. Today it would take a life-time and hundreds of hours of therapy to erase childhood events that have resulted in traumas. Princess Victoria who grew up to be the Queen never forgot or forgave. According to the story every time she passed through Bath in the train the Queen drew the window shutters.
Since yesterday was Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday, I thought that it was a good opportunity to bring up this story about her as a pre-teen. This seemingly simple anecdote, like any good story, has universal qualities about cruelty, consequences and loneliness. But in light of #MeToo it is alarming to see that even a princess like Victoria suffered from sexist remarks and harassment. Unfortunately she too, like many other girls and women, was not protected from abuse as she stood in the Dedication Ceremony alone.