Saturday, December 10, 2016

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

I received this book free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

These long books are making it hard for me to blog as much as I’d like. I finally finished Victoria The Queen. An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird. As interested as I am in the Victorian time period, it’s embarrassing that I knew so little about Victoria. This book seemed the perfect way to remedy that.

In 1837, at the age of 18, Victoria inherited the throne of England and ruled for sixty-three years. Not content to be a mere figurehead, she made her political views known and manipulated the ministers from behind the scenes. She was devoted to her husband, her cousin Prince Albert, who did much of the work of the monarchy in the early years of her reign, largely because she was busy bearing nine children. After his death, she mourned deeply for an extended period of time, until drawn back into public life by her interest in what was happening in England and because her grief was assuaged by her scandalous relationship with a commoner, John Brown.

This detailed biography pulls extensively from primary sources to give the reader a picture of the woman as well as the queen. Baird strikes a good balance between lauding Victoria’s accomplishments, explaining her popularity, and discussing her faults and where she fell short. Often, snippets in the queen’s own words are her own worst critiques, showing Victoria’s self-absorption, her complete conviction of her own infallibility, and her neediness. Yet she mastered the art of winning the adoration of her subjects.

In addition to presenting Victoria’s life history, this is a fascinating look at the policies and tactics of the British Empire of the times. It’s lengthy and, at times, a bit repetitive, but overall well-organized and informative, with an extensive bibliography.

For those interested in the Victorian Era and Victoria herself, this is superb biography.