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.”