For as long as I’ve loved history (which is a long time), I’ve been fascinated by the British monarchy. So when I saw this new biography of Queen Victoria by Julia Baird, I was intrigued. I don’t remember the last time I actually read a biography (I’m more inclined to read memoir), and I thought this one would be perfect for me. And it was.
(From Goodreads) Drawing on previously unpublished papers, Victoria: The Queen is a stunning new portrait of the real woman behind the myth—a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience.
When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would begin to threaten many of Europe’s monarchies in the coming decades. In Britain, a generation of royals had indulged their whims at the public’s expense, and republican sentiment was growing. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape, and the British Empire was commanding ever larger tracts of the globe. Born into a world where woman were often powerless, during a century roiling with change, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand.
Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty years old, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.
Drawing on sources that include revelations about Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings vividly to life the fascinating story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning. This sweeping, page-turning biography gives us the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen—a Victoria for our times, a Victoria who endured.
Victoria: The Queen was exactly as the subheading says: an intimate biography of the woman who ruled an empire. I really enjoyed that so much of the book was taken from Victoria’s journals and letters, because they really showed her personality. I’ve read a bit about Victoria prior to this book, but I don’t think any of them demonstrated her wonderful quirks as well as this book. To me, she is no longer a demure, but strong monarch. She is a brilliant and rebellious woman who actually did change the world in a thousand little ways.
There were a lot of things about this book that were unexpected, but wonderful. I liked that it wasn’t just about Victoria, but covered everyone from her husband, Albert, to Florence Nightingale (who I found myself wanting to read more about). It was interesting to see how Albert kind of made a role for himself, especially as a foreigner. I really liked their love story, and how they worked together.
If I had to find one negative thing about this book it would be that it took me so long to read it. It’s dense, but in a good way. I enjoyed every moment of it, but I could only read so much at one time. It was entirely worth it, though, and I look forward to reading Julia Baird’s writing again in the future.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It was a great biography, and left me feeling as if I actually knew Victoria. If you like biographies or British history, I highly recommend it!
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.