Queen Victoria inherited the throne at 18 and went on to become the longest-reigning female monarch in history, in a time of intense industrial, cultural, political, scientific and military change within the United Kingdom and great imperial expansion outside of it (she was made Empress of India in 1876). Overturning the established picture of the dour old lady, this is a fresh and engaging portrait from one of our most talented royal biographers.
Jane Ridley is Professor of Modern History at Buckingham University, where she teaches a course on biography. Her previous books include The Young Disraeli; a study of Edwin Lutyens, The Architect and his Wife, which won the 2003 Duff Cooper Prize; and the best-selling Bertie: A Life of Edward VII. A Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature, Ridley writes for the Spectator and other newspapers, and has appeared on radio and several television documentaries. She lives in London and Scotland.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
JANET MASLIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES • ESQUIRE • THE CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY
“Victoria the Queen, Julia Baird’s exquisitely wrought and meticulously researched biography, brushes the dusty myth off this extraordinary monarch.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would 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. In a world where women 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, 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 conventional 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 fresh 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.
Praise for Victoria: The Queen
“In Baird’s deft portrayal, Victoria lives, breathes, and struts before us in all her complexity. . . . On a geopolitical level, Baird’s sweeping historical portrait also illuminates just how interconnected the European royal families were during this time. . . . Historical astuteness aside, the pages gallop along enhanced by titillating morsels of info.”—Esquire
“A vivid portrait of one of England’s longest-reigning monarchs.”—Entertainment Weekly
“[A] success from start to finish . . . [Baird’s] Victoria is a vivid, visceral creature.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Like the best biographers, Baird writes like a novelist, and her book is crammed with irresistible detail and description.”—The Seattle Times
“Kate Williams has perfected the art of historical biography. Her pacy writing is underpinned by the most impeccable scholarship.”—Alison Weir
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 after the 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.
Praise for Becoming Queen Victoria
“An informative, entertaining, gossipy tale.”—Publishers Weekly
“A great read . . . With lively writing, Ms. Williams [makes] the story fresh and appealing.”—The Washington Times
“Sparkling, engaging.”—Open Letters Monthly
BONUS: This edition contains a reader's guide.
It was the most influential marriage of the nineteenth century–and one of history’ s most enduring love stories. Traditional biographies tell us that Queen Victoria inherited the throne as a naïve teenager, when the British Empire was at the height of its power, and seemed doomed to find failure as a monarch and misery as a woman until she married her German cousin Albert and accepted him as her lord and master. Now renowned chronicler Gillian Gill turns this familiar story on its head, revealing a strong, feisty queen and a brilliant, fragile prince working together to build a family based on support, trust, and fidelity, qualities neither had seen much of as children. The love affair that emerges is far more captivating, complex, and relevant than that depicted in any previous account.
The epic relationship began poorly. The cousins first met as teenagers for a few brief, awkward, chaperoned weeks in 1836. At seventeen, charming rather than beautiful, Victoria already “showed signs of wanting her own way.” Albert, the boy who had been groomed for her since birth, was chubby, self-absorbed, and showed no interest in girls, let alone this princess. So when they met again in 1839 as queen and presumed prince-consort-to-be, neither had particularly high hopes. But the queen was delighted to discover a grown man, refined, accomplished, and whiskered. “Albert is beautiful!” Victoria wrote, and she proposed just three days later.
As Gill reveals, Victoria and Albert entered their marriage longing for intimate companionship, yet each was determined to be the ruler. This dynamic would continue through the years–each spouse, headstrong and impassioned, eager to lead the marriage on his or her own terms. For two decades, Victoria and Albert engaged in a very public contest for dominance. Against all odds, the marriage succeeded, but it was always a work in progress. And in the end, it was Albert’s early death that set the Queen free to create the myth of her marriage as a peaceful idyll and her husband as Galahad, pure and perfect.
As Gill shows, the marriage of Victoria and Albert was great not because it was perfect but because it was passionate and complicated. Wonderfully nuanced, surprising, often acerbic–and informed by revealing excerpts from the pair’s journals and letters–We Two is a revolutionary portrait of a queen and her prince, a fascinating modern perspective on a couple who have become a legend.
This is a fascinating portrait of the queen, both before and during her reign, by one of the 20th century's most influential women writers. Making extensive use of Victoria's Letters and journal, Edith Sitwell brings alive the queen's relationships with her family and those surrounding the court. She also provides a vivid record of social conditions in Victoria's England.
"One of the best biographies of this or any other year...it is a work of literary art, exquisitely written, and interesting from beginning to end." -The Washington Post