It’s no secret that I’m a bit of an anglophile. I majored in European History in college, and spent most of that time studying British History. And one of the most intriguing figures I’ve read about is Queen Victoria. Having recently read another biography about her (review here), I became even more interested particularly in her younger years. (And yes, I own The Young Victoria and watch it all the time.) The politics during this period are fascinating, and I was on the lookout for another book to read on this topic. Turns out, I didn’t have to look all that hard, because Random House reached out to me and asked if I’d like to read a copy of Kate William’s Victoria biography, which is the inspiration for a new PBS series, Victoria, airing Sunday. Obviously, I said yes.
(From Goodreads) In 1819, a girl was born to the fourth son of King George III. No one could have expected such an unassuming, overprotected girl to be an effective ruler yet Queen Victoria would become one of the most powerful monarchs in history. Writing with novelistic flair and historical precision, Kate Williams reveals a vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations that continued even afterthe crown was placed on her head. Upon hearing that she had inherited the throne, eighteen-year-old Victoria banished her overambitious mother from the room, a simple yet resolute move that would set the tone for her reign. The queen clashed constantly not only with her mother and her mother s adviser, the Irish adventurer John Conroy, but with
her ministers and even her beloved Prince Albert all of whom attempted to seize control from her. Williams lays bare the passions that swirled around the throne the court secrets, the sexual repression, and the endless intrigue. The result is a grand tale of a woman whose destiny began long before she was born and whose legacy lives on.
As I’ve mentioned, I have read a bit more about Queen Victoria than the average person, much of which I really enjoyed. That said, this book definitely stands out for me. I love that this book delved into the events that put Victoria in the direct line of succession, because that was one of the topics I wanted to learn more about. I think it was really comprehensive and Williams did a great job covering exactly what led Victoria to become queen. Because it was a bit more concise than a comprehensive biography, there was still some information that was new to me, which I liked.
But what really set this book apart, in my opinion, is the way in which it’s written. I’ve read a few biographies before, and they tend to be a bit dry. I think that’s just the nature of history books, and I generally don’t mind it. This book, though, was like reading a tabloid about the British royal family in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was so fun, and I read it much more quickly than I’d expected.
I’ve had a few questions about Victoria biographies, and I would definitely recommend this one! I wouldn’t say it’s better than the previous one I reviewed, but I do think it’s a great book to start with if you’re not used to reading biographies. It’s entertaining and engaging, and presents the facts in a way that makes it feel like you were there. I think it focuses on facts modern readers might find a bit more interesting, and was organized very well.
Be sure to tune in or record Victoria this Sunday. It looks amazing!
This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.