Everyone thinks royal families live happily ever after. In their portraits, they present perfect lives. But that’s not always the case. Looking at portraits of Queen Victoria and her family (with husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg), they present a facade of happiness. The Queen is often wearing a crown with an elegant gown, and she’s surrounded by her nine children. This would be the ideal life, right?

Unfortunately, the portraits were far from reality. Historians have determined Queen Victoria wasn’t a doting mother. In fact, many believe Queen Victoria’s children were baseically despised by their mother who was overly critical of their every move.

Enjoying married life

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert married on February 10, 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace in London. The daughter of Prince Edward, the fourth son of King George III, had already assumed the royal throne before the marriage. But once she married her prince, she was completely devoted to him. She was consumed with happiness.

She wrote in her diary, “My dearest, dearest, dear Albert…His excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again. His beauty, his sweetness, and gentleness—really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a husband! This was the happiest day of my life!”

Queen Victoria loved being married, but she became pregnant with their first child shortly after their wedding. The honeymoon phase had ended, and Queen Victoria was far from happy.

Despising her pregnancies

Queen Victoria despised being pregnant. She often compared herself to a guinea pig giving birth to litters. She bore nine children (four sons and five daughters), which meant she was pregnant for a considerable number of years.

Helen Rappaport, historian and author of Magnificent Obsession, said, “She hated being pregnant. She had prenatal and postnatal depression.”

Meanwhile, while most mothers are nurturing and loving toward their newborns, that wasn’t Queen Victoria. She refused to breastfeed her children who she thought were “horrible dribbling little things.” In fact, when her daughters grew up to have babies of their own, she called them “cows” for trying to breastfeed their babies.

Critical instead of loving

Most mothers love their children more than themselves. They would do anything for them and risk their lives to save their children. Unfortunately, Queen Victoria wasn’t one of those mothers. Instead, she was critical of her children, often writing in her letters that her babies were “nasty objects” and even the “prettiest is frightful.”

Queen Victoria continued by describing her children as having “big bodies and little limbs and that terrible frog-like action.” She especially despised her eldest son, Albert Edward, who was “unattractive” and had a “painfully small and narrow head.” When Prince Albert died after visiting Albert Edward, Queen Victoria resented her eldest son and never forgave him, even though he was not involved in his father’s death.

The favorite of Queen Victoria’s children

Mothers aren’t supposed to choose a favorite child, but it seems Queen Victoria ignored all of the rules of motherhood. She adored her third son, Prince Arthur, who later became the Duke of Connaught. She favored him because he resembled Prince Albert, obeyed her at all times, and completed a successful military career.

Because of her poor mothering, Queen Victoria’s children (especially the daughters) eventually fought back. They became early champions of female independence, hoping others would learn that the family inside Buckingham Palace suffered from many tensions.

While many would agree Queen Victoria wasn’t nurturing, her eldest son, the future King Albert Edward VII, continued to show his support to his mother until her death. This might seem bizarre, but maybe he was able to find it in his heart to forgive her for the years of resentment.