Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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

Julia Baird's new biography Victoria The Queen was revelatory, bringing the complex woman and queen Victoria to life. Baird has presented an engaging read with enough surprises and conflict to propel the reader.

This is the only biography of Victoria I have read. I knew many stories, such as how Charles Dickens had a crush on the teenage queen and how Victoria long mourned Prince Albert. I'd seen the movie Mrs. Brown and the PBS Masterpiece Theater series about Disraeli. I did not know much about her family life and the lives of her children.

Victoria's family life was complicated from birth; as a girl she chaffed against her overprotetive mother. As a teenage queen she revelled in her freedom and enjoyed dancing and flirtations, yet took her power seriously. The queen who wanted to avoid marriage fell into a lustful love for her cousin Albert and enjoyed 'fun in bed'. The queen lost her surity under Albert's insistent guidance; he did not believe women should rule. Albert was poor in health and after successfully usurping Victoria's governing role, partly by keeping her pregnant, he up and died on her.

The bereaved widow withdrew from society but found other men to lean on for emotional and personal support. First with ghilley John Brown, who became her trusted constant companion and helpmate, and after his death with the Indian charlatan Abdul Karim. The nature of her relationships has long been debated. Baird reveals health issues that likely prevented the queen from taking a lover.

She brought her personal likes and dislikes into her relaitonships with her Prime Ministers; she detested Gladstone's personality and his push for Irish Home Rule, but fell to Disraeli's charm and attention.

There are surprising moments revealing Victoria's rebellious, wild side and heartbreaking stories of her children who married badly or died young. Most surprising was how the Victorian Age mores and values reflected Albert's intellectual, high-minded personality more than Victoria, who was very open minded.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Victoria The Queen
Julia Baird
Random House
Publication Date November 29, 2016
$35 hard cover
ISBN: 9781400069880