Hand-Annotated Biography That Ruffled Queen Victoria Goes on Sale at Sotheby’s London

Queen Victoria's annotations included "nonsense" and "not true."

The rare book contains the Queen's handwritten annotations. Photo: Sotheby's via AFP
Queen Victoria was unimpressed by the inaccuracies in her biography. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Queen Victoria was unimpressed by the inaccuracies in her biography.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A rare copy of a Queen Victoria biography, complete with hand-written annotations by the monarch, is going under the hammer at Sotheby’s London on November 24 with a presale estimate of £10,000-£15,000 ($15,343-$23,014)

Judging by the corrections and notes that she penciled in Queen Victoria From Her Birth To Her Bridal , Queen Victoria was far from impressed by Agnes Strickland’s account of her life, despite the writer being a highly regarded historian at the time of writing. Strickland was commissioned to write the book to mark the occasion of the Queen’s wedding, when she was 21.

AFP reports that although the book, published in 1840, gave a very flattering portrait of the Queen, over 100 pages contained corrections and highlighted errors. The Queen’s dismissive annotations include remarks such as “quite false,” “not true,” and “nonsense.”

The rare book contains the Queen's handwritten annotations. Photo: Sotheby's via AFP

The rare book contains the Queen’s handwritten annotations.
Photo: Sotheby’s via AFP

Queen Victoria was clearly a perfectionist with a keen attention to detail. She changed names, dates, and places. In one passage she even corrected the historian’s account of her hairstyle from “parted” to “in plaits.”

Elsewhere, the monarch crossed-out entire paragraphs that she deemed inaccurate or unfavorable. Her childhood encounters with Prince Albert were frequently amended.

When Strickland received Queen Victoria’s corrected version, she was so upset that she had the remaining copies destroyed.

The sale is due to take place at Sotheby's London in November Photo: courtesy Sotheby's

The sale is due to take place at Sotheby’s London on November 24
Photo: courtesy Sotheby’s

“The sale was stopped and wherever Miss Strickland was able to do so, she bought those already out and destroyed them,” the historian’s younger sister Jane remembered. As a result the book is very rare, even without the Queen’s hand-written notes. It is the only copy to go on the market in recent years.

The book hits the auction block as part of Sotheby’s Library of an English Bibliophile Part V Sale, which includes over 100 first-edition books. Estimates of individual copies included in the auction range between £700 and £150,000 ($1,074-$230,146), with an expected combined total of over £5 million ($7.6 million).


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