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The longest reigning British monarch and female sovereign in history, Queen Victoria was a figure of profound paradox who has mystified historians for over a century. Now in this magisterial biography, A.N. Wilson rebukes the conventional wisdom about her life - that she was merely a "funny little woman in a bonnet" who did next to nothing - to show she was in fact intensely involved in state affairs despite a public façade of inaction. More than just the stock image of a stuffy, unsmiling widow in mourning, Wilson's complete immersion in Victoria's countless letters and journals reveals a carefully nuanced portrait of a monarch possessed by family immigrant insecurities, a reluctant public figure who learned to exploit public display, a mother who hated pregnancy, and above all, a political luminary who created and controlled the story of her life, true or otherwise.
Victoria brings to life its subject in all her many moods and phases: her so-called miserable childhood, her early years of political inexperience as a pawn to advisers and statesmen, her passionate marriage to Prince Albert and the incessant public criticism, her famed mourning period after Albert's early death, and finally, the captivating last decades of her rule as Empress of India. After nearly two decades as an eccentric, reclusive mourner, she emerged, self-confident and robust, as an out-and-out imperialist who harnessed royalty with British foreign policy and as the figurehead of military and economic world domination.
Wilson tells a story of victory against painful odds and gives the portrait of a woman battling with demons and overcoming them, largely alone. Despite everything, she came to embody the British people's experience of their own lives.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jean on 03-05-15
Victoria has been a magnet for biographical rereading in the eleven decades since her death. In the 1990s academic scholars got hold of the Queen and the results were a post structuralist Victoria. It is now twenty years since the last serious flurry of biographical interest. Wilson picks up the pieces and puts the jigsaw back together again, creating in the process a Victoria for our own time.
Wilson went to the archives in Sax-Coburg and reconnected the taproot of Victoria and Albert’s plan for a united, moderate German. Wilson shows that after the death of Albert, Victoria continued “the Coburg Project.”
When the Schleswig-Holstein crisis blew-up in the early 1860s, she understood, in a way that her prime minister, Palmerston, did not, that buried in the parochial squabble between Prussia and Denmark were the first signs of the Bismarckian aggression that would eventually rip Europe apart. It was only thanks to the wise Queen, suggests Wilson that Britain did not blunder into war with Germany at the point, fifty years before it was capable of winning.
Wilson had access to Victoria’s diaries and voluminous correspondence, as well as other archival documents. The book is well researched. Wilson covers her life from childhood to death and her relationships with her nine children. The author states Victoria was a prolific writer and if she was a novelist she would have written 700 novels. I was surprised to learn that Victoria was an amateur painter and that she particularly enjoyed working with watercolors.
Wilson explains how Victoria inherited her uncle’s throne when she was a teenager. She was surrounded by warring court fractions. Victoria was faced with a series of fragile coalition governments, labor unrest at home, a famine in Ireland, revolution on the other side of the Channel, a spectacularly mismanaged war in the Crimea and that’s just in the first two decades of her reign. She was unscathed by nine childbirths as she was by eight assassination attempts.
This is a well written and well researched book. If you are interested in British history or Victoria this is an excellent read. Be warned the book is long at 21 hours or about 600 pages. Clive Chafer narrated the book.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By Alexis on 10-29-14
This book has old and new info
What made the experience of listening to Victoria the most enjoyable?
First of all, I have to out myself as a real addict of English history, and I have read all previous books not only about Victoria and Albert, but pretty much everything about the era period. So having said that, I found this book had some really good additions to the genre, lots of personal info and references to actual writings by V etc. If you know nothing about Vic, but are curious, you might not go wrong by beginning with this book.
How did the narrator detract from the book?
This narrator has a sonorous, ominous tone that is entirely repetitious, to the point where some of his intonations actually made me laugh. He sounds like he is announcing something, over and over again. Not much modulation of tone. He is also humorless and his cadence can really get to you, I tried my best to just ignore him and focus on the story, but there is no doubt his delivery can be distracting.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful