Saturday, November 19, 2016

Queen Victoria Comes to Life as a Real Woman

For a scholarly biography, this book reads more like fiction than a dry historical text. Victoria was a head-strong, decisive woman who enjoyed life and took her job of ruling the British Empire very seriously. Although this book covers her role as a monarch, it also shows her as a woman who was madly in love with her husband, Prince Albert, gave birth to nine children, and as an elderly widow had a relationship with another man, John Brown.

I have read several biographies of Queen Victoria, but this one is my favorite. I particularly enjoyed seeing the difficult relationship she had with her mother and her mother's lover. Some biographies skim over her early life, but getting a good look at how Victoria was treated by the pair who wanted to remain in power is illuminating.

The book is quite long, around 500 pages, but it's so well written and entertaining it keeps you reading. Another bonus in this book comes from the author's use of previously unpublished sources. Victoria kept extensive diaries and copies of her correspondence. Her youngest daughter, Beatrice, came into possession of these documents and was horrified. She felt they presented her mother in a bad light, so she rewrote as much as possible and destroyed parts she felt were particularly bad. However, before the archivists gave the material to Beatrice they photographed the pages. The author was lucky enough to get permission to use this material in the biography. The result is that Victoria is much more real than the picture of a chubby, stern-faced, woman dressed in black.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.