“[A] shimmering and rather wonderful biography.” —The Guardian (London)
When Queen Victoria died in 1901, she had ruled for nearly sixty-four years. She was the mother of nine and grandmother of forty-two and the matriarch of royal Europe through her children’s marriages. To many, Queen Victoria is a ruler shrouded in myth and mystique, an aging, stiff widow paraded as the figurehead to an all-male imperial enterprise. But in truth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch was one of the most passionate, expressive, humorous, and unconventional women who ever lived, and the story of her life continues to fascinate.
A. N. Wilson’s exhaustively researched and definitive biography includes a wealth of new material from previously unseen sources to show us Queen Victoria as she’s never been seen before. Wilson explores the curious set of circumstances that led to Victoria’s coronation, her strange and isolated childhood, her passionate marriage to Prince Albert and his pivotal influence even after death, and her widowhood and subsequent intimate friendship with her Highland servant John Brown, all set against the backdrop of this momentous epoch in Britain’s history—and the world’s.
Born at the very moment of the expansion of British political and commercial power across the globe, Victoria went on to chart a unique course for her country even as she became the matriarch of nearly every great dynasty of Europe. Her destiny was thus interwoven with those of millions of people—not just in Europe but in the ever-expanding empire that Britain was becoming throughout the nineteenth century. The famed queen had a face that adorned postage stamps, banners, statues, and busts all over the known world.
Wilson’s Victoria is a towering achievement, a masterpiece of biography by a writer at the height of his powers.
*Read the book, then watch the PBS series "Victoria," starring Jenna Coleman (Dr. Who), Rufus Sewell (Pillars of the Earth), Dame Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones), and Tom Hughes (About Time).*
Wilson (The Elizabethans) chronicles the life of Victoria, England's longest-reigning monarch, in all its personal and political complexities. The product of a race to produce an heir after the premature death of Princess Charlotte, the future King George IV's only heir, in 1817, Victoria grows up caught between her German mother's influence and that of the British royal family. Ascending the throne at 18 and "at the mercy of the major political interest groups," her wedding to Prince Albert follows, with their progeny marrying into positions of conflicting interest across Europe. Wilson exhibits a knack for description, his subject in turns "instinctively indiscreet," "an impenitent imperialist," and most notably, "a difficult woman to like, but an easy woman to love" Victoria referred to her eldest daughter's pregnancy as "horrid news," and told her son upon his sister's death, "The good are always taken and the bad remain." Wilson captures the quirks of Victoria's various prime ministers and the "drunken, loud-mouthed Highlander" John Brown, the queen's "constant companion" and object of endless scandalous conjecture. Victorian era politics receive meticulous attention bordering on tedium, including suffrage for a growing middle class; increasing public questions about the utility of monarchy; and the trials of colonialism in India, Ireland, and South Africa. More than a Victoria biography, Wilson skillfully weaves the vast narrative of the Victorian landscape, despite being laden with bureaucratic minutiae.