Review: Victoria: The Queen

Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird

Random House, 2016. Hardcover, 704 pages.Cover: Victoria the Queen

Written by a journalist and by using many previously unpublished papers, this new biography of Queen Victoria sheds light on the woman behind the popular image.  This means that Baird not only provided straight, known facts, but also provided evidence for or against the many rumors that have been speculated on for over a century.  That said, the rumors are not always proven true or tossed out, but the evidence is there for the reader to draw their own conclusions either way.

When she was born in 1819, Victoria was 5th in line to the British throne.  Through a series of deaths, she became Queen of Great Britain at the age of 18.  Prior to that, Victoria lived a regimented, sheltered childhood overseen by her overbearing mothers since her father died when she was an infant.  Therefore, becoming queen was both taking a heavy responsibility for her people on her shoulders while personally liberating.  Victoria never shirked from her duties, often working long hours. Early in her career, she made many difficult choices, including whether or not to marry, and worked in great collaboration with Lord Melbourne, the prime minister at the time.  Once Victoria married, Prince Albert was very influential in the British government as Victoria’s right hand man and well as seeing to his own projects to benefit British society.  Her relationships with both men are covered in great detail as is Albert’s life before marrying Victoria.  Readers will also learn about her relationships with other government officials throughout her reign.

Victoria was also more than just queen; she was a dedicated family woman.  Besides their working relationship, the marriage of Victoria and Albert was filled with true love.  They would have nine children which they ensured they spent time with daily.  When Albert died young, Victoria mourned for years.  This biography does a great job of showing this side of her life as well as her complicated companionship with her servant John Brown in the years after Albert died.

This latest biography of Queen Victoria does more than just depict her life.  It also takes the time to discuss Prince Albert and the era in which they lived.  By showing life in 1800s England as well as within Europe as a whole, it helps to better understand many of the choices Victoria made (and I say this having taken coursework specifically on Victorian England in undergrad).  Additionally, the text is very readable.  It was written for all to understand, not just for the academically minded.  Throughout the book. Baird selected relevant quotes from Victoria’s letters and diaries to share with readers.  There were also excerpts from others prominent people discussed, such as the Prince and their children and other government officials.  Overall, a worthy read whether you wish to learn about Victoria or the era in which she lived.

Do you think you will read this biography? Have you read any other books on Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and/or the era in which they lived to recommend?

I based this review on an advanced reader edition provided by the publisher.

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