Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine 
Words by Gloria Whelan 
Pictures by Nancy Carpenter
Format: hardback

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Copyright: 2014
Pages:  40

Genre: Historical fiction picture book
Source: library

Summary paraphrased from Amazon:
Poor Queen Victoria! She loves to swim, but can’t quite figure out how to get to the water without her devoted subjects glimpsing her swimming suit. (Because, of course, such a sight would compromise her regal dignity.) Fortunately for the water-loving monarch, it’s Prince Albert to the rescue with an invention fit for a queen!

This quirky tale about the longest reigning monarch in British history is as fun as it is authentic, and the book includes a picture of the actual bathing machine Prince Albert created
[Except he didn't create it!].

I have to say that for the most part this is a pretty cute book. It is based (sorta) on historical events - Queen Victoria really did have a bathing machine but Albert did not design it. They existed prior to Victoria becoming Queen - possibly even as far back as 1750. For example, here is an 1829 engraving by William Heath ...

Right - so this is what is really known ... 
"Drove to the beach with my maids and went in the bathing machine, where I undressed and bathed in the sea (for the 1st time in my life)… I thought it delightful till I put my head under water, when I thought I should be stifled." Queen Victoria's Journal 30 July 1847

Prince Albert believed that sea bathing was beneficial to health, and a bathing machine was installed at Osborne in 1846 at his request, so that Victoria could enjoy the waters. 
See it fully restored on the beach that Victoria enjoyed with her family. This curious object was used by the queen to preserve her modesty. It has a veranda at the front where curtains concealed her from view whilst she bathed. 
Inside is a changing room and a plumbed in toilet. The whole contraption was run into the sea from the beach along a long ramp, and pulled back using a wire rope and winch!
So the story is not actually historical - but still fun. Plus it is written in rhyme (and mostly works). So it is, for the most part, quite cute. The artwork is well done, though Victoria's nine children keep making me think of the Maurice Sendack's Nutshell Kids stylistically. Not a problem - just took some getting used to.

So - I was very much enjoying it and thinking of taking it home to share with my daughter - then I hit the fat joke and stopped liking it. Seriously why the heck was that necessary. Not funny. Not even remotely.  My daughter is only six, 6, for Pete's sake and she is already asking me questions like "Am I fat?" I have no desire to explain to my daughter why the Queen is being compared to a skiff. The only saving grace, I suppose, is that the term whale didn't enter into things. There was absolutely NO REASON to go there. None at all.

I went from quite liking the book (especially the endnotes) to being pretty much disgusted.

1 comment:

  1. We visited Osborne House on the Isle of Wight last year. We couldn't go inside the bathing machine but enjoyed viewing the outside of it. The house is fabulous, well worth a visit.


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