So I didn’t expect this book to be what it was. I knew it had been made into a movie back aways, with Irene Dunne as Queen Victoria (ahahaha!) and thought it was something along the lines of the Shirley Temple epic, The Little Princess, but it was definitely not that, and actually not at all a children’s book,.
A definition first. A mudlark was a child who earned his or her keep by scavenging through the “mud” on the banks of the Thames for anything of some value, keeping in mind that the river was, at this time, basically an open sewer. Eight year Wheeler happened to be working near Windsor Castle when, for a lark, he decides to climb up the hill near the entrance to the Castle’s cellars to see what he can see. Which is a load of coal being delivered to the Castle, and as it’s being dropped down the chute, he follows along. He finds himself in a maze of passageways, and manages to pop up in the Queen’s private dining room. He is discovered in the corner as she is sitting down to dinner with Prime Minister Disraeli, among others. She is not in the least amused.
John Brown, the Queen’s Scottish, well, footman, shall we say? is intrigued by the young lad’s sudden appearance, and on a whim, as he is escorting him out, gives him a bit of a tour. Which ends up with the boy sitting, for a brief moment, on the Queen’s throne. (Although not her best one.) The book ends up being more of a study of Disraeli, and the improbability of his ascent as prime minister, than anything to do with the boy. The Queen is justifiably concerned with the strength of her security, but unlike in the movie, is not particularly drawn to consider the plight of her subjects. But Disraeli, as a fellow outsider, can’t help but feeling sympathetic. He really was an amazing fellow, so a bit more of his backstory never hurts. And really? Irene Dunne?