25 Sep

Worsley scotches scandalous tale of Victorias late love affair with servant John

The relationship was brought to life in the film Mrs Brown, with Dame Judi Dench nominated for a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Victoria. The actress recently reprised the role in the film Victoria and Abdul. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. A Royal commissioned portrait of Queen Victoria`s manservant John BrownCredit:PA A Royal commissioned portrait of Queen Victoria`s manservant John Brown Victoria said Brown’s death was as cataclysmic as losing a husband and she wrote in her diaries how the shock left her so weak she could barely stand. Queen Victoria’s alleged affair with her Scottish servant John Brown was a myth, dreamt up by a generation who believed menopausal women were sex-starved nymphomaniacs, the historian Lucy Worsley has claimed.After the death of Albert, Victoria grew close to her trusted ghillie, praising him for his devotion and intelligence and awarding him the special title Queen’s Highland Servant in 1865, raising eyebrows in the establishment.Rumours reached fever pitch the following year when a Swiss newspaper reported they had secretly married. Victoria herself later fuelled gossip by publishing a book of highland life after Brown’s death in 1866, which she dedicated to him. She also asked to be buried, upon her death, with his picture. But Worsley claims in her new book Queen Victoria: Daughter, Wife, Mother, Widow that the scandal was largely driven by a belief that middle-aged widows were sexually insatiable.Speaking at the Hay Festival, Worsley said: ‘I don’t believe they were ever swinging from the chandeliers at all. There was some thought that menopausal women would become sex maniacs. I think it’s this nymphomania that drove the obsession with her and her Scottish servant John Brown.”I think what he did offer was unconditional support in the sense they had something like a partnership. He was always there to help and take her side. When he died, Victoria made one of her big missteps and she commemorated him in the same way she had done her husband by writing a book about him, and perhaps in the book there are too many references to John Brown and his kilt, and to his sexy legs. Rumours swelled of a secret marriage but I don’t think it ever happened.” In the queen’s book More Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands, she described life with Brown almost like queen and consort, saying she allowed him to dry her signature on official documents, as Albert had. Victoria had planned a memoir of Brown but it was deemed a step too far by Henry Ponsonby, her private secretary.The whiff of scandal was compounded as her diaries were transcribed by her daughter Beatrice, who left out many details before burning the originals, causing historians to suspect she had concealed an affair or even a secret marriage.Brown had been unpopular with the royal children, who resented his place in their mother’s affections, nicknaming him “Mamma’s Stallion”.After her death, a blackmailer with Balmoral connections claimed to have 300 love letters from Victoria to Brown. The Royal family gained the letters and it is thought they were destroyed.However, Worsley claims there was never a “torrid affair”. In her book she writes: “She did indeed find herself desperately missing the touch of another human. ‘I am alas not old,’ she wrote, ‘and my feelings are strong and warm’. But human touch need not have been sexual to give her comfort… It was an important relationship even if it wasn’t the full-blown torrid affair some modern historians may have hoped for.”

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