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Victoria The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire

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Alternate cover edition of ASIN B00RKO3UMY The extraordinary story of the world's most influential, intriguing and surprising ruler, Queen Victoria. When Alexandrina Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 20 June 1837, she was 18 years old and barely five feet tall. Her subjects were fascinated and intrigued; some felt sor Alternate cover edition of ASIN B00RKO3UMY The extraordinary story of the world's most influential, intriguing and surprising ruler, Queen Victoria. When Alexandrina Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 20 June 1837, she was 18 years old and barely five feet tall. Her subjects were fascinated and intrigued; some felt sorry for her. Writer Thomas Carlyle, watching her gilded coach draw away from the coronation, said: 'Poor little Queen, she is at an age at which a girl can hardly be trusted to choose a bonnet for herself; yet a task is laid upon her from which an archangel might shrink.' Queen Victoria is long dead, but in truth she has shaped us from the grave. She was a tiny, powerful woman who reigned for an astonishing 64 years. By the time of her Diamond Jubilee Procession in 1897, she reigned over a fourth of the inhabitable part of the world, had 400 million subjects, and had given birth to nine children. Suffrage, anti-poverty and anti-slavery movements can all be traced to her monumental reign, along with a profound rethinking of family life and the rise of religious doubt. When she died, in 1901, she was the longest reigning monarch in English history. Victoria is truly the woman who made the modern world. A fascinating, provocative and authoritative new biography of Queen Victoria which will make us see her in a new light, from one of Australia's most admired and respected journalists and commentators, Julia Baird.


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Alternate cover edition of ASIN B00RKO3UMY The extraordinary story of the world's most influential, intriguing and surprising ruler, Queen Victoria. When Alexandrina Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 20 June 1837, she was 18 years old and barely five feet tall. Her subjects were fascinated and intrigued; some felt sor Alternate cover edition of ASIN B00RKO3UMY The extraordinary story of the world's most influential, intriguing and surprising ruler, Queen Victoria. When Alexandrina Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 20 June 1837, she was 18 years old and barely five feet tall. Her subjects were fascinated and intrigued; some felt sorry for her. Writer Thomas Carlyle, watching her gilded coach draw away from the coronation, said: 'Poor little Queen, she is at an age at which a girl can hardly be trusted to choose a bonnet for herself; yet a task is laid upon her from which an archangel might shrink.' Queen Victoria is long dead, but in truth she has shaped us from the grave. She was a tiny, powerful woman who reigned for an astonishing 64 years. By the time of her Diamond Jubilee Procession in 1897, she reigned over a fourth of the inhabitable part of the world, had 400 million subjects, and had given birth to nine children. Suffrage, anti-poverty and anti-slavery movements can all be traced to her monumental reign, along with a profound rethinking of family life and the rise of religious doubt. When she died, in 1901, she was the longest reigning monarch in English history. Victoria is truly the woman who made the modern world. A fascinating, provocative and authoritative new biography of Queen Victoria which will make us see her in a new light, from one of Australia's most admired and respected journalists and commentators, Julia Baird.

30 review for Victoria The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire

  1. 4 out of 5

    K.

    4.5 stars. Things I learnt from this book: - Queen Victoria was THIRSTY. Like...T.H.I.R.S.T.Y. Homegirl reeeeeeeeally wanted the D. Her main concern when told that she should stop having children was basically "But I can still get laid, right??" - When Albert died, Queen Victoria had marble replicas of his hands made and kept them by her bed. Read into that what you will. - Queen Victoria was totally in favour of progression in society, unless it involved women. And yet she was the mos 4.5 stars. Things I learnt from this book: - Queen Victoria was THIRSTY. Like...T.H.I.R.S.T.Y. Homegirl reeeeeeeeally wanted the D. Her main concern when told that she should stop having children was basically "But I can still get laid, right??" - When Albert died, Queen Victoria had marble replicas of his hands made and kept them by her bed. Read into that what you will. - Queen Victoria was totally in favour of progression in society, unless it involved women. And yet she was the most powerful woman in the world. - Some academics think that Prince Albert was gay because he was nervous around women and had lots of close male friends. Excuse me, y'all? HE HAD NINE CHILDREN WITH HIS SUPER THIRSTY WIFE. THE WORD "BISEXUAL" EXISTS, PLEASE AND THANK YOU. - Queen Victoria's kids went through her diaries and photos after she died and got rid of all the good stuff (including photos of her smiling????) because they thought it wasn't sufficiently regal. Rude. - Albert was...kind of a power-hungry asshat at times. - You will probably learn far more than you wanted to about the impact that having nine children had on Queen Victoria in later life. Although to be honest, learning ANYTHING about Queen Victoria's lady parts probably would have been more than I want to know... So yeah. On the whole, this was FASCINATING and incredibly readable. Just don't try and read it in bed because it's heavy and you'll probably drop it on your face like I did and it hurts.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sean Gibson

    Queen Victoria was a zombie warlord who ruled Great Britain for more than 1,000 years and whose favorite beverage was Coke Slurpees. There are those who will suggest, perhaps even insist, that the foregoing is not a factual statement. In fact, they may even label it impossible, or at least absurd. To those smug individuals, however, I would pose this unanswerable question: do YOU know what was in the countless letters Victoria received and sent that her family and biographers destroye Queen Victoria was a zombie warlord who ruled Great Britain for more than 1,000 years and whose favorite beverage was Coke Slurpees. There are those who will suggest, perhaps even insist, that the foregoing is not a factual statement. In fact, they may even label it impossible, or at least absurd. To those smug individuals, however, I would pose this unanswerable question: do YOU know what was in the countless letters Victoria received and sent that her family and biographers destroyed in an attempt to keep certain potentially embarrassing or compromising details out of the hands of the general public? No—you most certainly do not. It’s entirely within the realm of plausibility that she was a Slurpee-guzzling undead general. And that is, undoubtedly, one of the most fascinating aspects of Victoria and the body of literature that has grown around her and the era in which she ruled (which, I’m given to understand, people briefly thought about calling “The Ham Sandwich Era” before settling on “The Victorian Era” as a more sensible alternative). Baird’s masterful biography explores this and other equally interesting aspects of Britain’s now-second-longest-serving monarch, who oversaw an era of change unlike any king or queen before her (though one could quite convincingly argue that her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II has seen even more radical change in her lifetime). As you’ll note from my status updates while reading the book, there are any number of fun facts we might conjecture about in the absence of that destroyed correspondence. Putting those aside for the moment, however, there is still ample material of interest for Baird to cover, from the challenges Victoria conquered in ascending to the throne and her controversial relationships with her prime ministers (too close in some instances; disrespectfully not close in at least the case of William Gladstone) to her relationship with her husband and later reliance on male servants (strapping Scot John Brown being the most prominent) for companionship (platonic, certainly, but also perhaps of the giggleberries-go-spelunking kind) and simple friendship. The duality of the Victorian age has been covered exhaustively by historians and literary critics alike, but it really is a fascinating study in contrast, and Victoria herself is a prime example. She was, by turns, a long-suffering but devoted daughter, a mercurial but doting mother, an assertive but conservative ruler, an adoring and dutiful wife who insisted on maintaining her independent power, a champion of the people and bastion of racial tolerance who thought little of women’s right to vote, and a conservatively clad lady of decorum who most likely enjoyed more than an occasional ride on John Brown’s mighty caber. If you’re interested in Victoria—either as a ruler or as a person, or both—or simply want a better understanding of the interplay between government and the monarchy in Victorian Britain, this is essential reading. If you like small old ladies in drab mourning garb guzzling sugary beverages through spoon straws while slaying ghouls and ghosts with a glowing laser sword, well, it may or may not be for you—it all depends on what you read between the lines. (Need more Victorian goodness? I highly recommend Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    As Canada prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday, I felt it high time to look back and explore the life and times of our first monarch, Queen Victoria. Much of the country was either shaped or influenced by this British monarch, whose reign was only recently surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II. Julia Baird offers a thorough and thought-provoking biography of Victoria, exploring and dispelling many of the key events and stories that history have attributed to this 19th century wonder. Baird's prese As Canada prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday, I felt it high time to look back and explore the life and times of our first monarch, Queen Victoria. Much of the country was either shaped or influenced by this British monarch, whose reign was only recently surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II. Julia Baird offers a thorough and thought-provoking biography of Victoria, exploring and dispelling many of the key events and stories that history have attributed to this 19th century wonder. Baird's presentation sheds Victoria in three distinct lights that the reader will notice throughout the narrative: Victoria the woman, the politician, and the monarch. Striving to provide a clear understanding of Victoria and the influence she had over much of the world, Baird provides the reader with a stellar piece that opens the door to further exploration. While her enduring reign over Britain and the British Empire may have made Victoria seem super-human, she proved to have common concerns, like many of her subjects. Born in 1819, Victoria arrived amidst an ascendency crisis in Britain. Fifth in the line of succession after the recent death of her grandfather, George III, Victoria was vilified by some of her uncles, all aged and without legitimate heirs to the Throne. Baird attributes this to George III's Royal Marriages Act, which required the monarch to approve of all unions before they could be officially accepted by Parliament. A few deaths and no heirs to take their place left Victoria in a position to rule at a young age. Victoria ascended to the Throne at nineteen, without a husband or significant love interest. Enter Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who boldly presented himself to his cousin and determined to convince her that they should wed. Hesitant at first, Victoria soon acquiesced and they married, beginning what some have called the strongest romantic relationship of any English monarch. Victoria soon began a period of almost constant pregnancy, giving birth to nine children in total while still running the country (and Empire). Interestingly enough, while she held much power Victoria willingly handed the reins of power to Albert, as women of the time might have done, without a second thought. Baird amply illustrates the long and devoted marriage that Victoria and Albert shared, growing stronger with each passing year, during which time Albert was able to make many of the household (and monarchical) decisions without Victoria's protest. Equally shocking, as Baird presents it, Victoria remained a devoted mother as well, tending to the nine children and her subjects as effectively as possible. To bestow so much onto the shoulders of one woman is, in my opinion, more than can be expected, but Victoria did it all masterfully. When Albert fell ill and eventually died in 1861, Victoria was beside herself with grief. Baird supports what many have said that Victoria continued to reign, but never passed out of her period of mourning. Much speculation arose as John Brown soon appeared on the scene, Victoria's manservant, which Baird addresses as being rumoured to be her lover for the years before his death. (The reader can make their own decision after reading Baird's curious discovery surrounding Victoria's requirements during her preparation for burial.) Surely the friend and support that Victoria needed in her time of despair, Brown, too, succumbed earlier than one might have expected, dealing Victoria another blow. As a mother with grown children, Victoria sought to ensure her daughters married well and history proves that this was surely the case. With her son 'Bertie' (the future Edward VII) in the wings, Victoria offered as much affection to her family as possible, while remaining in a state of grief for the loss of Albert all those years before. Even when the Crown bore heavily upon her, Victoria emerged as a woman of power and significance throughout her life. At her death in 1901, Victoria had lived a life full of remarkable joy and dreadful sorrows, the weight of the latter at times self-imposed. Interestingly enough, while Victoria did little at the time to bolster the role of female emancipation or women in a position of authority, the world looked to her after her death and lauded much praise and ceremonial titles that had otherworldly connotations. While a remarkable queen, Victoria's qualities as as a woman cannot be forgotten. While surely not a member of either of Britain's Houses of Parliament, Queen Victoria played a significant role in the political machinations throughout her reign. Soon after she ascended to the Throne, Victoria forged a strong friendship with her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne. Baird presents him as a father figure that Victoria lacked in her formative years, though some may also speculate a strong affinity or 'crush' on Victoria's part.Needless to say, Victoria did not hide her sentiments and tried all she could to keep him and the Whigs in power. From this point forward, Baird presents Victoria as having a strong and lasting influence over her prime ministers and their cabinet choices, as well as messages she presented in the numerous Openings of Parliament. Victoria's strong-headedness becomes apparent as she clashed greatly with William Gladstone, Prime Minister on four occasions. Baird illustrates the dynamic between these two and how they could not find common ground on much. These were formative years for England and the British Empire, a time in which Victoria sought to have her voice heard. Issues of Irish famine, steep grain tariffs, Irish Home Rule, and imperial expansions into Africa fill the narrative, areas in which Victoria offered her own opinions, though she was happy to help shape solutions through her actions as a part of the political machine throughout the time all ten of her British prime ministers led governments. In exploring Victoria's hands-on approach, Baird discusses something that is taken for granted in Canada, the role of a constitutional monarch in the larger process. Baird refers to writings by Walter Bagehot, who sought to explain the loose English Constitution and the place in which the monarch rests. Advice differs from influence and acceptance from determination, though much of the process was steeped in precedent and not firm law. Victoria played a much more active and quasi-partisan role than might have been expected (or allowed?) today, on either side of the Atlantic, though it was surely interesting to see her interpret and play such a transparent role in her choice of engagement at the top of the parliamentary process. Victoria may never have faced the ever-growing electorate at the ballot box, but her political influence could surely be felt throughout her time on the Throne. Until recently, Victoria held the record for the longest-serving monarch in English history, surpassed by the current Elizabeth II. During that long period on the Throne, Victoria saw not only the Empire transform, but also her own family, as well as herself. From the early years as a young queen, Victoria was more apt to get in the middle of things, playing the role of innocent monarch, ignorant of her larger ceremonial role. However, as mentioned above, Victoria soon became a monarch that sought to steer England in a specific direction, at least to the best of her ability without facing a parliamentary election. The Empire grew significantly during her time, turning her from English monarch to that of numerous countries all over the world. For as regal as she was, Baird presents Victoria as a monarch who took her own family life to heart and did not espouse the stoic nature to which many are accustomed with today's queen. Victoria's decades-long mourning for Albert and reclusiveness for a significant period may, for some, lessen the impact of her reign. However, using her Jubilee celebrations as any measurement for her support, Victoria was loved by many and adored by her subjects. Longevity cannot be the sole factor in the praise she received for her Golden Jubilee, nor the deference paid to her around the world and especially throughout Europe. Truth be told, she had her bloodline running through many of the significant monarchies of Europe, but even still, she was not one to hold back her opinions when it suited her. The British Empire expanded and many could feel the Victorian impact, a legacy that has long outlived her reign. Victoria kept the Empire together, which was surely no small feat, and left England ready to face the 20th century by the time she died. Influential without being dictatorial, Victoria's influence as a monarch lasted throughout her long life. Baird has taught us much in this biography, though many questions remain. Through her powerful narrative abilities, Baird takes the reader on a winding journey through the life of Victoria and the creation of a firm Empire, which continues in the form of the British Commonwealth. Born at a time when the English Throne was still seen as as despotic seat, Victoria sought to soften the blow in her own way. Baird effectively argues numerous points of contention in the book, which may leave some readers somewhat distraught, though the supporting arguments are strong and prove convincing. While I might show some bias, I would have liked to have seen a little more on some of the monumental aspects of the Empire's growth, particularly the formal addition of Canada as a country in 1867 or Australia's lobby and eventual inclusion in 1901. True, Victoria remained in mourning during the Canadian build-up, which might limits Baird's ability to track down sentiments and strengthen the narrative, but as the largest Dominion in the Empire, one might have expected it receive some place in this biography. On the flip side, Victoria's waning years occurred as Australia set to formally distinguish itself as an independent country, leaving little Victorian influence. Tackling such a large project may have been daunting, though Bard synthesises Victoria powerfully, getting detailed when needed but not drowning in the minutiae that was surely tempting over such a long reign. The reader can sail through the biography with ease, seeing Victoria as an influential (and influenced) woman whose love for family trumped all else. Any who are curious about this wonderful woman ought to give Baird a chance to offer formal introductions in this stellar piece of writing. Kudos, Madam Baird for such a powerful biography. I did learn a great deal about Canada's first queen. I can only hope to find more of your work and marvel at the detail you add to the narrative. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  4. 4 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    Queen Victoria's story has been well defined in this fascinating, well-rounded and researched biography by Julia Baird. Victoria Regina Imperatrix was the petite queen whose feet did not reach the bottom of the throne on the day of her coronation. Her daughters saw her beautiful smile, her husband enjoyed her strong libido and to her dismay she found herself in a cumbersome pregnant body for eight out of nine years running. Prince Albert was the man of the relationship and Victoria deferred in t Queen Victoria's story has been well defined in this fascinating, well-rounded and researched biography by Julia Baird. Victoria Regina Imperatrix was the petite queen whose feet did not reach the bottom of the throne on the day of her coronation. Her daughters saw her beautiful smile, her husband enjoyed her strong libido and to her dismay she found herself in a cumbersome pregnant body for eight out of nine years running. Prince Albert was the man of the relationship and Victoria deferred in the marriage, but she was always the Queen. In a time when revolution threatened monarchies in Europe, to her country she was both the symbol of the British aristocracy and an English mother, entrusted with her nation's safety and wellbeing. Victoria's history is fairly well-known, especially that of her courtship and marriage to Albert. Julia Baird had access to previously inaccessible documents which further enriched the biography, adding insight and balance to former accounts. Their youngest daughter Beatrice between 1933-1943 had taken upon herself to whitewash her mother Queen Victoria's diaries, rewriting them, and burning the originals "in one of the greatest acts of historical censorship of the century". As a result, we know about "The Queen" but her interior self has been poorly represented. Baird has filled in that picture, giving context and softening the more familiar grim biographical portrait which has represented Victoria. I appreciated her life, it's hardships, her joys and felt great compassion for the working mother, wife and widow that the author has brought to life. The global style of this biography is very satisfying. Baird's writing brings us closest to Victoria and then as her timeline is followed, so too is that of Britain, the Commonwealth and the fully expanded Empire. She was actively knowledgeable about Parliament, hard-working and opinionated and at times meddlesome when politicians would have preferred to ignore her mature good advice. Though she insisted that everyone who met with her must always walk away backwards and never show their backside to her, she was surprisingly free of racial prejudice. Interestingly, the prim attitudes toward sex which characterized the Victorian Age were Prince Albert's, not Victoria's! There is such a broad range of information in this biography: history, anecdotes, interesting trivia, fashion, a theory of the psychology about extended bereavement and killer diseases prevalent in the previous century, now almost unheard of today. Family grudges had a part in starting World War I; British empire building can be linked to the beginning of crises in the Middle East. Considering the years and years of intermarriage between royalty from different countries, Julia Baird's retelling of the facts sometimes seemed like the zany family history of misbehaving European monarchs, with actions that resonated eerily today. Prince Albert's mother met a fate so much like Princess Diana's, it gave me shivers. ***I admit that I skimmed through the most detailed passages set in government; the political infighting between Gladstone and Victoria became tiresome. I felt that the nitty gritty of his life and other politicians, in finite detail, bogged the book down in the middle. A large general audience might enjoy this biography if this section was pared down to a more basic focus, keeping its good anecdotes (eg., the ones about Disraeli). I could then confidently recommend Victoria: The Queen to fans of Downton Abbey because the majority of the biography otherwise is as fluid as good historical fiction. Victoria: The Queen is a bibliophile's pleasure. Part history, part personal story, the book transports the reader into Victoria's life to imagine the scenes, the trials and tribulations and splendour of her great life. NetGalley and RandomHouse Publishing provided the ARC for my unbiased review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ashley DiNorcia

    For me it's usually a gamble with long, historical biographies on whether or not they'll be dense and dull. Victoria: The Queen was definitely the opposite. Baird wrote an engaging, well researched and well rounded account of the woman who shaped an era. It's a shame that Victoria's journals and letters were censored so heavily, but I think Baird did an excellent job of uncovering the truth where she could, and making (clearly noted) educated speculation based on the information she had. I highl For me it's usually a gamble with long, historical biographies on whether or not they'll be dense and dull. Victoria: The Queen was definitely the opposite. Baird wrote an engaging, well researched and well rounded account of the woman who shaped an era. It's a shame that Victoria's journals and letters were censored so heavily, but I think Baird did an excellent job of uncovering the truth where she could, and making (clearly noted) educated speculation based on the information she had. I highly recommend this and will be keeping an eye out for Baird's writing in the future!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This book covers Victoria's entire life from childhood to death, revealing both personal details about her personality, her life and her family as well as her influence on British and international politics and history. There is a large amount of British history detailed. One might not guess this from the book's title. I particularly appreciate the simplicity and clarity by which, with just a minimum of detail, international and national controversies are summarized. Then, knowing the This book covers Victoria's entire life from childhood to death, revealing both personal details about her personality, her life and her family as well as her influence on British and international politics and history. There is a large amount of British history detailed. One might not guess this from the book's title. I particularly appreciate the simplicity and clarity by which, with just a minimum of detail, international and national controversies are summarized. Then, knowing the background situation, interesting details relate Victoria’s, her husband’s or perhaps a dignitary’s response to the situation. Secondly, the book brings to vivid life the deep bond that grew between Victoria and Albert. Together, historical events as well as personal family events unfold chronologically. The book concludes with a sweeping summary of the changes which took place during the Victorian era – industrialization, unionization, new technologies, rapid increase in the size of the British Empire, feminism and better social rights. After the death of her father, when Victoria was less than a year old, Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, aligned herself with Sir John Conroy, an ambitious comptroller and most probably her lover. Their domineering control led to Victoria’s isolation and a desire to be master of her own fate. This early conflict with her mother clearly shaped Victoria into a strong-willed queen, determined to hold on to the power that was rightly hers. It also left her a person in search of love and companionship. Even when surrounded by many, she felt alone. She became close to her trusted governess, and later advisor, Louise Lehzen. At eighteen years of age Victoria became queen. Her dependence and close friendship with Prime Minister Melbourne is discussed. In 1840, she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, this having long been planned by her close friend, father-figure and maternal uncle, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. It was he who later became in 1830 the first Belgian king. Victoria and Albert had nine children. Childbirth was of course physically and psychologically wearing and immensely time-consuming in the life of an active queen. But, she had a strong libido and did love her children too. Despite her strong bond with Albert, disagreements naturally arose and Victoria bluntly voiced what she thought. Their relationship is a marvel to observe. The love between Victoria and Albert was deep, but not friction free. Victoria became pregnant after only three months of marriage. During her childbearing years, Albert, the Prince Consort, stood in for many of her duties, but this was exactly what he desired. This was his life goal and what he had envisioned. He loved his role as “king”. Victoria and Albert pushed their desks together and worked side by side together as a team with both Prime Ministers Peel and Palmerston. After Albert’s untimely death in 1861, Victoria became immensely depressed. Slowly, after intense bereavement, she regained her sense of self. In the 1870s and 1880s she worked alongside Prime Ministers Disraeli, Gladstone and Salisbury. Both Victoria and Albert were born the same year, in 1819. Victoria lived forty years after his death! At Victoria’s death, her children and grandchildren were established in the courts of Germany, Russia, Spain, Norway, Greece, Romania and Portugal. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was her grandson. It is known today that she and her daughters carried the hemophilia gene into the royalty of many a European nation. Reigning for sixty-three years, seven months and two days she was the longest reigning British Monarch, only later surpassed by her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II. In 1901, the year of Victoria’s death, the British empire encompassed a quarter of the entire world and 400 million people. The industrial age was well established, women’s rights were being recognized, child labor restricted, the work day had fallen from twelve to eight hours and unionization was in progress. Victoria’s relationships with both John Brown and Hafiz Mohammed Abdul Karim are discussed and more importantly what these relationships reveal about Victoria herself. Was Victoria a prude? No, absolutely not. She was the opposite of ever being a racist and even if she did not support the suffragette movement, her actions showed what a woman could in fact do in the man dominated world of the 19th century. The book is also praiseworthy in that it draws a clear picture of where Europe stood before the First World War. The Crimean War, the coalition of German states, Germany’s occupation of Alsace and Lorraine, distrust of Russian expansionism, the Berlin Congress of 1878 regulating among other thing Bulgaria’s independence and borders and Turkey’s position as the “sick man of Europe” are all detailed. Small, interesting trivia about Victoria are revealed. Her friendships with the poet Tennyson and Florence Nightingale and how she fought against cruelty to animals are but three examples. That the book at the end shifts away from Victoria, the person, to the societal changes transforming her era is on one hand an appropriate conclusion, but it also makes the focus of the book unwieldly. The audiobook is narrated by Clare Frankel. It is very well done. Pauses and an altered intonation make it easy to identify quotes, of which there are many. Most of the book is read clearly and at a speed that allows one time to absorb the dense information packed into the lines. However, near the end, the tempo becomes much faster than it had been before. This portion is almost impossible to follow. I chose to decrease the speed to 75%. At the lower speed, the lines are lethargically slow, which is in turn also annoying but better than listening to a jumble of words! Since the normal tempo does return after about a quarter of an hour, I did not lower my four star rating. This book is equal parts history and biography. It is clear, engaging and well researched, revealing facts which previously had been removed by Victoria’s daughter Beatrice. In this volume, both Victoria’s attributes and weaknesses are presented. I really enjoyed the reading experience, and so therefore I must give it four stars. ***************** If this book interests you, I believe these will too: We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals 4* (Unfortunately, this book concludes with the death of Albert!) George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I 4* Charlotte And Leopold: The True Story Of The Original People's Princess 3*

  7. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    It’s not often I’m able to read a nonfiction book in one sitting, much less a historical biography, but that’s just what happened with Julia Baird’s new biography of Queen Victoria. Baird writes beautifully, crafting a careful narrative around Britain’s second-longest reigning monarch. Her research is thorough, and she really provides the reader with a sense of what Victoria the woman and Victoria the queen were like. But most of all, this book is compulsively readable. Don’t let the 500+ pages It’s not often I’m able to read a nonfiction book in one sitting, much less a historical biography, but that’s just what happened with Julia Baird’s new biography of Queen Victoria. Baird writes beautifully, crafting a careful narrative around Britain’s second-longest reigning monarch. Her research is thorough, and she really provides the reader with a sense of what Victoria the woman and Victoria the queen were like. But most of all, this book is compulsively readable. Don’t let the 500+ pages of this biography intimidate you: you’ll breeze through this enjoyable biography as easily as the first season of Netflix’s The Crown. -Swapna Krishna from The Best Books We Read In November 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/12/01/the-be...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Overall, Victoria: The Queen is very well researched and has a flowing narrative style that makes it easy to engage with. We are treated to Victoria's own life chronologically, from an infant fifth in line to the throne to a passionate teenager thrust into rule, from the swooning love and contentment of her marriage to Albert, to her consuming grief and seclusion after his death, from the Widow of Windsor to her reemergence in politics and foreign policy. Above all, Julia Baird is able to refute the Overall, Victoria: The Queen is very well researched and has a flowing narrative style that makes it easy to engage with. We are treated to Victoria's own life chronologically, from an infant fifth in line to the throne to a passionate teenager thrust into rule, from the swooning love and contentment of her marriage to Albert, to her consuming grief and seclusion after his death, from the Widow of Windsor to her reemergence in politics and foreign policy. Above all, Julia Baird is able to refute the popular notion (one that Victoria herself propagated) that Albert was the true power behind the throne, as even when pregnant and caring for young children, Victoria's strength and fiery personality are ever present and assertive in terms of dealing with foreign policy and thinking of how best to care for her subjects. She also is able to draw a strong hypothesis as to the nature of the relationship between John Brown and the Queen, one that has always elicited interest and controversy even from contemporary Victorian sources. And she does what she can to set the record straight so to speak from the heavily censored version of Victoria's diaries that her daughter Beatrice edited after her mother's death, to present a true, well-rounded portrait of a powerful, feisty woman and ruler, showcasing her strengths and flaws of character to equal effect. Besides being an exhaustive portrait of Victoria herself, Julia Baird also does a wonderful job giving very strong portraits of major figures in British and European history as well, notably Prince Albert, Gladstone and Disraeli and their political battles, and Kaiser Wilhelm II, Victoria's grandson (who comes off distinctly poorly). Baird is also very well able to situate some of the European political crises of the Victorian era, and show the connecting threads from Victoria's family and personal and political decision making to various critical events in the 20th century like World War I, and even some that still reverberate today, like conflicts in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East. I do wish there was a bit more discussion about the Empire that greatly expanded under her reign, and given a bit more insight into the positive and even more so negative impacts of the British colonial policy and how they did or did not affect Victoria: those parts are definitely minimized, which perhaps speaks to the ministers leaving the Queen in a bit of ignorance about atrocities and famine and hunger in the name of the Empire. The Victorian era of England and Britain is very well captured, and we absorb the fast changing social, industrial, and economic conditions as Victoria, Albert, and the government's reforms and laws are implemented. One really got a well rounded sense of what it meant to be living in the transforming Victorian Britain, from the early days of Victoria's reign to the end at the dawn of the 20th century, and how progress and change in fashion, medicine, and cultural mores occurred. I particularly liked the connective tissue between Victoria- who perpetuated the idea that women should be subservient to their husbands and even she was lesser than Albert though her rule, importance, and assertiveness were undiminished and unchallenged in his lifetime - and the women's suffrage movement, something that she herself was ambivalent about and yet her longevity and dominance and strength came to be embraced and the symbol of Victoria adopted in some ways by early suffragettes. I highly recommend this read for people interested in Queen Victoria and the Victorian era in British politics and British life, and also for most readers of biographies who'd like to see the long life of a dynamic and powerful, emotional and courageous Queen.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rhi

    A big thank you to Random House & NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for an honest review! The publication of a new biography of Queen Victoria is very timely, considering that her record as the longest-reigning British sovereign was broken only last year by her great-great-granddaughter, Elizabeth II. It reflects on Victoria's entire life, highlighting the tumultuous events and debates that preceded her ascension to the throne, her disastrous first year A big thank you to Random House & NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for an honest review! The publication of a new biography of Queen Victoria is very timely, considering that her record as the longest-reigning British sovereign was broken only last year by her great-great-granddaughter, Elizabeth II. It reflects on Victoria's entire life, highlighting the tumultuous events and debates that preceded her ascension to the throne, her disastrous first year as monarch, the famous marriage to Prince Albert, and the long period of widowhood during which she had to redefine herself in the wake of immeasurable loss. Julia Baird states in her introduction that "We forget, now, how long Victoria ruled alone ... the great volume of Victoria's grief meant that a myth sprang up almost immediately, which many still believe today: that she stopped ruling when Albert died, and that she had abdicated almost all her authority and power to her clever husband when he was alive." She sets out in this biography to debunk that myth, bringing new emphasis to the years Victoria ruled without a husband at her side. Baird's mission in re-framing preconceptions about Queen Victoria is ambitious and has worth both as an historical and feminist project. However, her thesis is hardly original. Victoria's reign has been considered and reconsidered by many historians since her death. The argument that she was inhibited by Albert while they were married and that his early death set her free to reclaim the power he'd confiscated during her many pregnancies has been tossed around frequently. For a recent example, we can look to Gillian Gill's 2009 publication, We Two: Victoria & Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals. She, too, poses a challenge to the "Widow of Windsor" mythology. Baird brings very little new material to the table in Victoria, The Queen. Something that continuously bothered me while reading Baird's work was the chaotic organization within each chapter. There were many "Squirrel!!" moments peppered throughout that distracted from the points the chapters were meant to make. She got bogged down in peripheral detail, losing her train of thought regularly. The sub-sections of each chapter were only loosely connected rhetorically, and she crammed anecdotal asides in the midst of sentences. She also makes a habit of including "cinematic"-like scenes in which she presents Victoria as a character in a novel, describing thoughts, emotions, and judgments that are completely unexplained. If these details came from journals, letters, or some other documentation, Baird should have shared the information. Without it, these little vignettes are just a cute little distraction that make it seem like Baird really wanted to write a novel rather than a biography. All in all, I found Baird to be a very frustrating author, though her voice is very clear and even occasionally elegant. Frustrations aside, Baird's biography of Victoria is informative of a life that was long, saw much, and influenced the course of British, European, and world history. It would be a good read for anyone who is casually curious about Victoria's life.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    The current airing of PBS’ Masterpiece Theater of VICTORIA and its popularity has created great interest in the British monarch who ruled her kingdom and the world’s largest empire between her accession to the throne in 1837 and her death in 1901. The program is written by Daisy Goodwin who has recently published her novel VICTORIA a fictional account of the early years of Victoria’s reign. For a full and intimate biography Julia Baird has filled that void with VICTORIA: THE QUEEN which is an in The current airing of PBS’ Masterpiece Theater of VICTORIA and its popularity has created great interest in the British monarch who ruled her kingdom and the world’s largest empire between her accession to the throne in 1837 and her death in 1901. The program is written by Daisy Goodwin who has recently published her novel VICTORIA a fictional account of the early years of Victoria’s reign. For a full and intimate biography Julia Baird has filled that void with VICTORIA: THE QUEEN which is an in depth study of the queen focusing on what it was like to be a female monarch in a world dominated by men. Baird takes a somewhat feminist approach to her subject and based on years of research and mastery of primary and secondary material, the reader will learn what it was like for the teenage girl to suddenly assume the throne in 1837, her views on Parliament, Prime Ministers, attitudes toward the poor, foreign policy ranging from the Crimean War to the Boer War, but also the effect of her reign on society and women in particular. The approach Baird takes is informative, well thought out, provides impeccable analysis, but at times she takes her intimate approach a bit too far. I understand the importance of Victoria’s multiple pregnancies that produced nine children, but I do not need to know the details of her menstrual cycle and her reproductive anatomy. Details about her life with Prince Alfred are fascinating, but at times, here too, she goes overboard. However, despite some flaws the book is beautifully written and an important contribution to the historiography of the Queen. During her reign Victoria steered her people through the social and economic changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution, and oversaw her kingdom as the European balance of power was radically altered through nationalism and imperialism. The Queen’s reign was the longest in British history until it was recently surpassed in 2015 by Queen Elizabeth II. Baird points to the many myths associated with Victoria relating to her marriage to Prince Albert, her use of power as queen, her treatment of her subjects, and her personality traits. Baird accurately concludes that “Victoria is the women under whose auspices the modern world was made.” Further, Baird does an exceptional job analyzing her subject in the context of mid to late 19th century socio-economic change and her impact on European society and the larger world especially for the role of women. In a sense Baird has created an ode to the development of the women’s movement with Victoria’s situation seen as a primary motivator behind it. Baird correctly argues that Victoria fought for her independence, prestige, and respect for her reign from the time she was a teenager, and did so mostly on her own. For the author, she “worked until her eyes wore out, that she advised, and argued with, ten prime ministers, populated the royal courts of Europe, and kept the British monarchy stable during the political upheavals that shook Europe in the nineteenth century.” Baird gives Victoria a great deal of credit but then she backtracks as she discusses the queen’s relationship with Lord Melbourne, who she leaned on for support in dealing with her mother, John Conroy, certain members of her family, Parliament, and policy decisions. Baird describes a young woman infatuated with an older man, who thankfully does not seem to take advantage of his positon. According to Baird, Victoria will eventually concede powers to Prince Albert in most major social, political, and foreign policy areas. Granted, Victoria was pregnant a great deal of the time during her marriage to Albert, and suffered from postpartum depression and other ills that made her involvement in decision making less of an issue, but Baird herself points out the differences in approach between Victoria and Albert. The Prince was more of an intellectual than his spouse and was greatly interested in the problems of the poor and working classes. Albert was a cultured and well educated person who did not want to crush public dissent like Victoria and it appeared he wanted to bring about reform in order to lessen that dissent. According to Baird, “the role of the monarchy under Albert’s leadership, then, was a forceful influence, which urged the government to exercise restraint in foreign policy and democratization, to erode the authority of the aristocracy and exert influence through a web of royal connections that spanned Europe in a network of carefully planned and delicate backdoor diplomacy.” Victoria on the other hand was not as empathetic toward her subjects. A case in point is her approach to the Irish famine where she started out criticizing tyrannical landlords, but once a few landlords that she knew were murdered, her sympathy for Irish tenant farmers waned. Baird argues that it was a stretch to blame Victoria for the famine, but there was a great deal she could have done to mitigate their effects. It is clear that from the time of her marriage to Prince Albert in 1839 until his death in 1861 England may have gone through an Albertine Age as Baird suggests, and it took until the Prince died for Victoria to seize the reigns and create the Victorian Age. For Victoria until Albert’s passing life was a balancing act; how to be a good mother, wife, and reign over her kingdom. Baird does her best to show the Queen as a loving and doting mother, but then in the next sentence she will point out that she was rarely involved in certain aspects of her children’s care. Victoria possessed a quiet stubbornness that forced many who opposed her wishes to underestimate her, particularly when she ruled by herself. Lord Melbourne did school her well on how to be an effective Queen, and she learned from Albert certain sensibilities that a monarch needed to possess. Baird does an effective job dealing with Victoria’s views and impact on events. Her role in the Crimean War debate is discussed in full, her fears of revolution in 1848 and why the social upheaval throughout Europe did not cross the English Channel, her distaste for the Russians in the Eastern crisis that led to war and the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, and her opposition to Home Rule for the Irish. Further, Baird’s discussion and analysis of Victoria relationship with her Prime Ministers is top drawer particularly her negative relationship with Lord Palmerston when he was Foreign and Prime Minister, and her up and down relationships with certain Prime Ministers, particularly William Gladstone, Lord Derby and Lord Russell. Her relationship with Lord Salisbury was excellent but nothing compared to her relationship with Benjamin Disraeli as he was the only Prime Minister to realize that the lonely queen wanted to be “fettered, flattered, and adored.” As Victoria aged she moved on from her Whiggish liberalism under the influence of Melbourne to outright conservativism due to her close relationship with the Tory, Disraeli. The last twenty years of her reign Victoria, who never acted as an impartial monarch, became greatly involved in politics, especially when the man she loathed, William Gladstone had defeated Disraeli in parliamentary elections in 1881. It can be argued that 1861 was a watershed year for Europe and the world because of its impact on the United States and across Europe. It witnessed the outbreak of the Civil War in the United States, the supposed emancipation of serfs in Russia, and the death of Prince Albert. Her husband’s death became the greatest test for Victoria’s reign. She seemed to succumb to an extreme depression and many wondered if mental illness would overtake her as it did George III. Her depression would last for a number of years where she had doubts about how to proceed with policies and felt extremely alone. During that time a number of major events in Europe would draw the attention of the British Foreign Office. The Polish Revolt against Russia and the controversy over Schleswig-Holstein would lead to the Danish War between Denmark and Prussia. English influence in this 1863 crisis was marked and if Albert had been alive he might have influenced events more than his mourning widow. By the late 1860s it appeared that Victoria was emerging from her depressive state, and as she overcame her loss she would go on to be a strong monarch in her own right making a deep impact on her kingdom as well as Europe. The key individual in Victoria’s emergence from her widowed state was John Brown, a Scottish Highlander who had been Albert’s outdoor attendant at Balmoral who became her most intimate friend. Her children despised him and nicknamed him the “Queen’s Stallion.” There are many rumors and myths about their relationship that Baird addresses, whether they were lovers and what impact he may have had on policies, as one writer referred to him as “Rasputin with a kilt.” No matter what the truth may be, one thing is certain is that the Queen came to rely on him and he helped fill the void created by Albert’s death. In fact, Victoria would spend eighteen years in his company, almost as long as she spent with her beloved Albert. Baird spends a great deal of time discussing royal genealogy and its impact on Victoria’s life and policy decisions. Using the marriage of her children for diplomatic need had been a tradition of European and English monarchies for centuries, but in her case the result can be considered quite disastrous as her lineage connects her to Wilhelm II of Germany, and Nicholas II of Russia who both bear a great deal of the blame for the outbreak of World War I and the carnage that followed. Her children were placed throughout Europe as a means of extending English influence, but in reality that goal was rarely met. There is no doubt that no one person dominated her kingdom the way Victoria had, particularly from the 1870s onward as she applied the political lessons learned over the decades, especially working in the shadows to achieve her goals while her subjects thought she was romping in Scotland as any monarch would do. Baird creates an absorbing picture of a fascinating life. Despite a few flaws Baird should be commended for producing the most comprehensive analysis of Victoria and her importance in history, and it should remain the most important secondary source on Victoria’s life for years to come.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    "Victoria's story is one of unmatched prestige and immense privilege, of defiance and crumbling, of meddling and mettle, of devotion and overwhelming grief and then, finally, a powerful resilience that defined the tiny woman at the heart of an empire. It is a surprising story of strength. What we have truly forgotten today is that Victoria is the woman under whose auspices the modern world was made." There are not enough stars . . . FIVE is simply not enough. This is a biographical/history tome "Victoria's story is one of unmatched prestige and immense privilege, of defiance and crumbling, of meddling and mettle, of devotion and overwhelming grief and then, finally, a powerful resilience that defined the tiny woman at the heart of an empire. It is a surprising story of strength. What we have truly forgotten today is that Victoria is the woman under whose auspices the modern world was made." There are not enough stars . . . FIVE is simply not enough. This is a biographical/history tome of EXCELLENCE, in a class all its own! Such attention to detail - but without ever bogging down in the unnecessary or inane. Richly told, in a voice that beckons and enthralls. Conversational, in a way, but yet authoritative. It's also culturally and atmospherically transporting. Baird made Victoria and the crown come alive. Researched in great swathing breadth. I can only imagine the vast amount of time that entailed. "They wished to treat me like a girl, but I will show them that I am Queen of England." The pages are exceptional numerous and the scope is broad, but don't let that dissuade you from reading this if you have any interest whatsoever in England and/or its rich history, the Regents, Women of Notoriety, or Leaders who influenced the course of history and the times. Julia Baird - standing ovation, round of applause!!!! FIVE ***** Readably Engaging and Excitedly Enlightening - Biographical-History Brought Alive Through a Mastery Wordsmith Pen ***** STARS

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Julia Baird undertook an enormous task in researching and writing this extensive and highly detailed biography of England's second-longest ruling monarch. Queen Victoria's long reign was just eclipsed last year by her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II. Baird masterfully mixes stories of Queen Victoria's family life, relationships, political ambitions, failures, and triumphs. We learn the details of how Britain's system of government works, as the author explains how the Queen negotiat Julia Baird undertook an enormous task in researching and writing this extensive and highly detailed biography of England's second-longest ruling monarch. Queen Victoria's long reign was just eclipsed last year by her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II. Baird masterfully mixes stories of Queen Victoria's family life, relationships, political ambitions, failures, and triumphs. We learn the details of how Britain's system of government works, as the author explains how the Queen negotiated with and bullied 19 Prime Ministers during her reign. But Victoria wasn't just a ruler, she was a woman, a wife, and mother of nine. This aspect of her life is covered in detail as well. Imagine having to get comfortable with a new husband who had his own desire for power while also learning to rule a country. The 19th century was ripe with prejudice against women, and Victoria barreled through most of it with strength, diplomatic negotiation, and humor. Victoria and Albert's relationship, including their power struggles, was interesting within the context of the times. I found it both depressing and captivating to see how they balanced their public and private lives, with Victoria taking the back seat to Albert in so many things. In terms of writing style, isn't at all dry. Parts of it are even fascinating, although my personal lack of interest made descriptions of military campaigns seem interminable. This is the first biography of Queen Victoria I've read, and I'm quite sure I've received a comprehensive perspective. Thanks to the author, publisher Random House, and NetGalley for a digital advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Silvana

    I have yet to read another biography on Queen Victoria but this one is really satisfying. A tad bit longer than my taste but it was really comprehensive as it also told the story of the Victorian age, not just the namesake. The only William Gladstone I know was the magician in the Bartimaeus trilogy (hehe) so I am glad for the opportunity of reading about the real chap, the Grand Old Man in British politics. There were a lot of political debacles, changes in prime ministers and cabinets, politic I have yet to read another biography on Queen Victoria but this one is really satisfying. A tad bit longer than my taste but it was really comprehensive as it also told the story of the Victorian age, not just the namesake. The only William Gladstone I know was the magician in the Bartimaeus trilogy (hehe) so I am glad for the opportunity of reading about the real chap, the Grand Old Man in British politics. There were a lot of political debacles, changes in prime ministers and cabinets, political turmoils and regime shifts in Europe, it was really a history lesson of the 19th century. As for Victoria herself, the author focused on both her strengths and flaws, and most of all, her ambivalence on certain issues. While she was queen with power, she disdained the women's suffrage movement, for example. I did sympathize with her a lot in regards her being incapacitated with multiple pregnancy and childbirth in one decade and also the tolls it took until later days. Women and childbearing at that time were a tragic combination. And sad to think that Victoria did not have/was not well informed on access to (already existing form of) contraception at that time. Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive, right now! Her reign with Albert was also not as rosy as portrayed in some movies. She was known as a willful child and teen but marriage changed her. No matter how good Albert was to her, he still undermined his wife, he did not lift her up, encourage her, since he wanted to be King in all but name. He even belittled her for her physical suffering from bearing children (for me, he crossed that line there). Victoria was not blameless of course as she deified her husband and continued to do so. I think Albert's death was a blessing in disguise for Vic to fully unleash her power as she lost her powerful shadow. Anyway, rant finished. Go read this book, it was quite amazing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Very good biography of Queen Victoria. Informative, well written narrative. For the most part even handed I thought. Recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Livingston

    Maybe 3.5 To be honest, I'd never have picked up a ~800 page bio of Queen Victoria if it hadn't made the Stella Prize longlist. Am I glad that I did? I'm not sure. It's eminently readable and meticulously researched, but I think my enthusiasm for the royals is so lacking that even the perfect bio was going to leave me a bit cold. I learned a lot that I didn't know - especially what an awful person Albert was - but I still felt like I came away a bit lacking in a real understanding of Maybe 3.5 To be honest, I'd never have picked up a ~800 page bio of Queen Victoria if it hadn't made the Stella Prize longlist. Am I glad that I did? I'm not sure. It's eminently readable and meticulously researched, but I think my enthusiasm for the royals is so lacking that even the perfect bio was going to leave me a bit cold. I learned a lot that I didn't know - especially what an awful person Albert was - but I still felt like I came away a bit lacking in a real understanding of the person Victoria. How did she go from fierce and self-sufficient 18 year old to someone completely manipulated by her husband into feelings of helplessness and incompetence? What did she really believe in, beyond supporting Prime Ministers who she got along well with? What power did she actually have over this period? I felt a few things could have been better fleshed out, although the royal family's gutting of her diaries and letters no doubt make a lot of this hard for even the most thorough researcher. It's a long commitment and, while I found it a lot more entertaining that I expected to, I'd really only recommend it to someone with an existing interest in the British royal family.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    Another biography of Queen Victoria. It’s very good, but can there be anything new to say? This book has the agenda of dispelling the “myth” that Victoria “stopped ruling when Albert died, and that she had abdicated almost all of her authority and power to her clever husband when he was alive.” The author asserts that “Queen Victoria was a decisive ruler who complained of the weight of her work while simultaneously bossing prime ministers about daily, if not hourly.” Most b Another biography of Queen Victoria. It’s very good, but can there be anything new to say? This book has the agenda of dispelling the “myth” that Victoria “stopped ruling when Albert died, and that she had abdicated almost all of her authority and power to her clever husband when he was alive.” The author asserts that “Queen Victoria was a decisive ruler who complained of the weight of her work while simultaneously bossing prime ministers about daily, if not hourly.” Most biographies focus on her life with Albert, and while this certainly covers that period, it gives full weight to the 40 years Victoria lived and ruled after his death. During this time she was a “robust and interventionist ruler”, often crossing constitutional lines. She “carefully cultivated the image of a compliant, reclusive, and domesticated queen… Her subjects pictured her ambling around Scotland, not shoving a popularly elected minister from his perch.” The book also emphasizes Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, showing evidence that she was in deeply in love with him. There’s no proof of sexual intimacy, but a few tantalizing hints survived the family’s attempt to purge all evidence of his influence. Overall this is a highly readable, well-organized, fascinating view of Victoria.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘Few would have bet Victoria would become queen of the British Isles.’ Sub-titled an intimate biography of the woman who ruled an empire, this book seeks to portray the person of Victoria behind the myth that has arisen since her death. Myth? Many of Queen Victoria’s papers were destroyed or censored after her death, to preserve a particular image of her. In preparing this biography, Ms Baird has had access to previously unpublished papers. In a general note, at the end of the book Ms ‘Few would have bet Victoria would become queen of the British Isles.’ Sub-titled an intimate biography of the woman who ruled an empire, this book seeks to portray the person of Victoria behind the myth that has arisen since her death. Myth? Many of Queen Victoria’s papers were destroyed or censored after her death, to preserve a particular image of her. In preparing this biography, Ms Baird has had access to previously unpublished papers. In a general note, at the end of the book Ms Baird states: ‘All passages that discuss what Victoria was thinking, feeling or wearing are based directly on journal entries, letters and other contemporary evidence referenced below.’ A lot has been written about Queen Victoria. Born in 1819, she was fifth in the line to the throne and was never expected to become queen. When Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, she was aged just eighteen. She lived through a period of great change and by the time of her death in 1901, aged eighty-one, the world had changed significantly. This was the era of great technological change, of disastrous wars, and colonial expansion. It was also the era of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, and Florence Nightingale. But what of the woman herself? Victoria was aged twenty when she fell in love with her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. They had nine children. In Ms Baird’s words: ‘The marriage between Victoria and Albert is one of the greatest romances of modern history. It was genuine, devoted and fruitful. Together, they ushered in an era when the monarchy would shift from direct power to indirect influence, and from being the fruit of the aristocracy to becoming the symbol of the middle class.’ Victoria was no cipher: when dealing with her ministers, she was outspoken and asserted her opinions. She also survived eight assassination attempts. After Albert died, aged only forty-two, she had a close relationship with her servant John Brown. A passionate woman who needed intimacy and closeness. The image I’d previously formed was quite different. I kept reading, interested to find out more about this woman who was still Queen when two of my grandparents were born towards the end of the nineteenth century. I was fascinated, too, that the adjective ‘Victorian’ had come to mean stuffy, prudish or hypocritical when Victoria herself seemed more broad-minded. ‘What is more startling today is to discover what a robust and interventionist ruler Victoria was.’ This is one of the most accessible and interesting biographies I have read recently. There are pages and pages of notes for those interested in sources, but the notes themselves do not interrupt the flow of the book. The picture of Victoria that emerges is of a complicated woman, a successful and strong woman who negotiated her path in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. I was interested in how closely she worked with her prime ministers, especially Disraeli, and how she disliked Gladstone. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in the life and reign of Queen Victoria. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This is worthy of the life that gave the name to an Era. One that covered nearly an entire century. What a superb depth to every age and condition. And the woman too, quite as much as The Queen. Others have said it well. But I had to add that I loved the colored portrait plates and many pages of photographs. And the quotes and the conversational witness or letter segments too. Well done! So many assumptions about this life, this era, this marriage, this European This is worthy of the life that gave the name to an Era. One that covered nearly an entire century. What a superb depth to every age and condition. And the woman too, quite as much as The Queen. Others have said it well. But I had to add that I loved the colored portrait plates and many pages of photographs. And the quotes and the conversational witness or letter segments too. Well done! So many assumptions about this life, this era, this marriage, this European aftereffects in politics and in monarchy situation / health or karma! Also I would feel negligent if I didn't add an opinion about Albert. So many current readers seem to either vilify or denigrate his belief system and/or his influence or social filters within the duo's acting power structures. Because he often dominated a persuasion or an order of priority? Regardless. He was actually FAR ahead of his time in social ambiance. Especially in the economic sense and scientific overview. Men had a significantly different "husband" model then. As did wife or "woman". Self-identity and marriage bond identity. He enabled Victoria to curb her impulsive explosive tendencies and grew her to become the "structure" to the role she played for 4 decades after his death. Albert "hate" is not deserved. Julia Baird has done research to bring this woman and her compatriots alive. Excellent. The length becomes burdensome to lose a star for so many tangents. But I can only imagine how many sorrows it was for Victoria to have to say as many "good-byes" as she did. Recommend this for anyone who wants to core themselves into the changing century which enabled incredible growth of knowledge and method. By providing a solvent soil structure in place to set the seed. She WAS a core of iron.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    An engaging biography of Queen Victoria, which captures her personality and wide range of interests. Baird places Victoria in the context of her times, highlighting the social issues and changing attitudes toward women over the course of the 19th century. As a female Head of State, Victoria inspired other women interested in achieving a greater role in public life, even though she was personally opposed to women's suffrage and women joining a number of the professions. This focus on Victoria's i An engaging biography of Queen Victoria, which captures her personality and wide range of interests. Baird places Victoria in the context of her times, highlighting the social issues and changing attitudes toward women over the course of the 19th century. As a female Head of State, Victoria inspired other women interested in achieving a greater role in public life, even though she was personally opposed to women's suffrage and women joining a number of the professions. This focus on Victoria's influence as a woman in power makes this biography stand out from many others about the Queen. The contradictions within Victoria's character and relationships are also well illustrated here. There are a few points where I disagree with Baird's analysis. Like A.N. Wilson, she argues that Victoria had romantic feelings toward Lord Melbourne while I agree with Kate Williams that she viewed him more as a father figure and "favorite tutor." It's also disappointing to see some of the speculation about Princess Louise from Lucinda Hawksley's recent bio of the Princess repeated as though they are facts. Overall, I enjoyed Baird's biography of Queen Victoria, which demonstrates that more than a century after the Queen's death, there are still fresh perspectives and interpretations of her long life.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Diem

    Entirely readable. I dipped into this one because of the BBC series which I admit with only the slightest sheepishness because it really doesn't matter where you get your appetite for knowledge. Well, that's not entirely true but it's the sort of saying that will be great as a meme with the text superimposed over the hazy image of a beautiful woman sipping from a porcelain tea cup and looking dreamily out the panes of a rain flecked café window. The saying invites more questions than it could ev Entirely readable. I dipped into this one because of the BBC series which I admit with only the slightest sheepishness because it really doesn't matter where you get your appetite for knowledge. Well, that's not entirely true but it's the sort of saying that will be great as a meme with the text superimposed over the hazy image of a beautiful woman sipping from a porcelain tea cup and looking dreamily out the panes of a rain flecked café window. The saying invites more questions than it could ever answer but no one will ask them so it's okay. Inviting more questions that it could answer is a thing this book did. No fault of the author. There are just huge gaps in our knowledge of Victoria because her children were pretty heavy handed with the editing of her legacy. But it was a very interesting and enjoyable read and I'd pursue other writings by Baird.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nicole N. (A Myriad of Books)

    Actual rating: 4.5 stars It's no joke that I'm an Anglophile and huge fan of the current royal family. I love reading about royal families because they're quirky and sometimes downright crazy, but I find myself most intrigued by the British royal family, and Queen Victoria is one of my favorite queens to read about. I've read a handful of small biographies about her life but each time, I learn something about her that I didn't know before and this was no exception. I haven't read all biog Actual rating: 4.5 stars It's no joke that I'm an Anglophile and huge fan of the current royal family. I love reading about royal families because they're quirky and sometimes downright crazy, but I find myself most intrigued by the British royal family, and Queen Victoria is one of my favorite queens to read about. I've read a handful of small biographies about her life but each time, I learn something about her that I didn't know before and this was no exception. I haven't read all biographies about her but I can say that this one was the most all-encompassing, and that was a challenge. Baird wrote a biography about the whole of Victoria's reign, including bits about her childhood as well. While that's a feat in itself, as Victoria's reign was only recently broken by her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, writing such an expansive life about this monarch is also a feat as well. One of my only complaint about this book is that if very often jumped around, which is only mildly understandable as there were certain events from previous years that affected Victoria's viewpoint of a certain subject. The amount of censorship of her diaries and letters is one thing I didn't realize happened so violently. Trying to understand the relationship between Victoria and Albert can also be very trying, despite the queen's many, many letters and diary entries. One thing is obvious though--she loved him very much and, I believe, he loved her equally in return, though he also appeared to adhere to many of the hypocritical ideals of the time (though I did cheer that he stayed with Victoria through many of her childbirths). Their love for one another is infamous and one can see how heavily they leaned on one another. I also think their love was due to the fact that Victoria grew up without a father and Albert without a mother (though he actually remembered her). But I also believe that they pushed many ideas onto each other until they believed it to be a reality. It wasn't as if she tossed the reins to Albert. He actively sought things to do--politics, reforms, ideas, etc. He wanted to be involved. He had an incredibly sharp mind and it would have gone to waste had it not done anything. Of course, that doesn't mean I agree with the fact that he and Victoria both did not support the suffrage moment, or that he tried to influence the government on his own. He did it because he saw it as something for the good of the people and the good of Victoria. What I liked about this biography than I do above others is that mention of John Brown and Abdul Karim. Many biographies mostly ignore these two people in her life but these two men did to Victoria what she had always wanted: they preened, flattered, and charmed her--all to the abhorrence of her family. Overall, this is an expansive biography and if you do not mind a bit of backtracking in relation to many events, you'll enjoy this well-researched biography of Queen Victoria.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cynda

    The depth of research, the intuitive understanding of Victoria, the style of writing all charm. So worth a re-read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Judy Lesley

    I received a print ARC of this book through the Amazon Vine Voices program. I received an e-ARC of this book through NetGalley and Random House Publishing. I have read many biographies of the life of Queen Victoria. What sets this one apart from all the others for me is the sense of intimacy Julia Baird has created between the subject and the reader. Some biographers seem to set out to only reveal the best sides of Victoria, some go in the opposite direction and focus on the nega I received a print ARC of this book through the Amazon Vine Voices program. I received an e-ARC of this book through NetGalley and Random House Publishing. I have read many biographies of the life of Queen Victoria. What sets this one apart from all the others for me is the sense of intimacy Julia Baird has created between the subject and the reader. Some biographers seem to set out to only reveal the best sides of Victoria, some go in the opposite direction and focus on the negative aspects of her personality. And there are certainly negative traits aplenty if you want to portray this woman from a single viewpoint. Thankfully Julia Baird has been fair, not making any effort to sway the reader in one direction or another. Probably the best compliment I can give Ms. Baird is that I don't know if she has any bias either for or against Queen Victoria after reading this very detailed book. This book goes into much depth regarding the day by day, year by year life of Victoria while being weighted most heavily toward the time she was married to Albert. He was the driving force behind all the changes which took place in her realm while they were married and this book does a wonderful job of showing that Victoria understood that she was not the intellectual equal of Albert, but she was the Queen and she would never waver from that fact. He could suggest, she would listen, but the decisions always came from the Queen. If you enjoy finding out what the truth was behind some of the rumors surrounding Victoria, Albert, their children, John Brown and Abdul Karim there is evidence and documentation here to allow you to make up your own mind. Ms. Baird spent many years of research on this work and the list of those people and institutions she mentions in her Acknowledgements section is impressive. Inside this book you will find information to help you enjoy the book; a family tree, maps, a list of characters, copious Notes, a bibliography and an index. This author was given a great deal of access to archived information regarding Victoria, some of it newly released. All of it gives us insight into this very private woman who occupied such a public stage. The reign of Victoria, the Queen saw incredible changes worldwide. Many of those changes can be directly attributed to this very complex woman and I found it fascinating to follow along in this book while the best and worst of Victoria was detailed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    As long as this book was, at about 500 pages of text and another hundred or so of notes, bibliography, and index, I was sorry to come to the end. It's a comprehensive biography of Queen Victoria, from childhood to her death, told chronologically, encompassing her actions as queen, and her personal life. It sounds completely conventional and yet I enjoyed every page. Julia Baird, a historian, had access to some previously unexamined documents of Victoria and those around her, so there As long as this book was, at about 500 pages of text and another hundred or so of notes, bibliography, and index, I was sorry to come to the end. It's a comprehensive biography of Queen Victoria, from childhood to her death, told chronologically, encompassing her actions as queen, and her personal life. It sounds completely conventional and yet I enjoyed every page. Julia Baird, a historian, had access to some previously unexamined documents of Victoria and those around her, so there may be some new information, but this is the first bio of Victoria I have read, so it's all new to me. There was some buzz that some proof was revealed that Victoria and John Brown had had a sexual relationship, but there was no more than what amounts to hearsay or circumstantial evidence. More interesting to me was how engaged she was with her children, both as children and as adults. I've recently read biographies about her son Bertie (King Edward VII) and her daughter Louise, both of which made the case that Victoria was a critical and distant mother. She was certainly critical, but Baird provides overwhelming evidence that she loved her children deeply and enjoyed spending time with them and with her grandchildren. It was also fascinating to learn how involved she was with matters of state, sometimes to the point of overreaching her constitutional duties. She stayed on top of events and worked to keep Britain on the right side of all the conflicts that were popping up in the Empire and in Europe. I read a review copy of Victoria provided by Amazon Vine program and am looking forward to the finished edition when it comes out to see the photos, maps, and family trees, which were not included in the review edition.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    Whenever I read stuff about Queen Victoria, I am mostly reminded about how much I loathe Prince Albert. This is a man who essentially gaslit his wife into believing she was incompetent. Sure, he was a good pseudo king (besides the prudery, etc.), but instead of building his wife up and helping her be a better monarch, he just patted her on the head and went there there, women are stupid. Albert sucks. Regarding the rest of it, though, this is definitely a more complete pict Whenever I read stuff about Queen Victoria, I am mostly reminded about how much I loathe Prince Albert. This is a man who essentially gaslit his wife into believing she was incompetent. Sure, he was a good pseudo king (besides the prudery, etc.), but instead of building his wife up and helping her be a better monarch, he just patted her on the head and went there there, women are stupid. Albert sucks. Regarding the rest of it, though, this is definitely a more complete picture of Victoria than I feel we normally get from biographies. I am forever bitter at her children for allowing and for performing such a wholesale hack job on her papers. They have ultimately done their mother a grave disservice, and history suffers for it as well. She would have left behind an incredibly primary text regarding most of the 19th century, and so much of it is just gone.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Book received from NetGalley This was a wonderful book about a very well-known, Queen of Britain. Victoria was a unique monarch who had quite a bit of tragedy in her life. Since she was so well-known it is difficult to find a biography with any new information on her. This one did have a bit, which is the main reason I gave it 4 stars. It is a wonderful read and I would have liked it even without the new material. It's very well written and researched, with a few items that could be c Book received from NetGalley This was a wonderful book about a very well-known, Queen of Britain. Victoria was a unique monarch who had quite a bit of tragedy in her life. Since she was so well-known it is difficult to find a biography with any new information on her. This one did have a bit, which is the main reason I gave it 4 stars. It is a wonderful read and I would have liked it even without the new material. It's very well written and researched, with a few items that could be considered speculation. I do not believe we will ever definitively know the true status of her manservant John Brown. I especially enjoyed it due to the fact I was able to tour her rooms in Kensington Palace, so I had a reference when they were discussing her life there.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    It's a very good and detailed biography which accentuates the vulnerability of a woman beneath the strength she showed to the world. I most enjoyed reading about her relationships with her family and the other people in her life. As with any biography of a monarch, there's a lot of politics, which I never fully understand. Therefore I got a bit bored with the complicated relationships between countries and the wars that ensued. Mostly though it centered on her "feelings" about these situations a It's a very good and detailed biography which accentuates the vulnerability of a woman beneath the strength she showed to the world. I most enjoyed reading about her relationships with her family and the other people in her life. As with any biography of a monarch, there's a lot of politics, which I never fully understand. Therefore I got a bit bored with the complicated relationships between countries and the wars that ensued. Mostly though it centered on her "feelings" about these situations and her relationships with the other people in her government and life. Toward the end I just got anxious to finish it so I could get on to something lighter. There was a lot to take in, but well put together and worth reading.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chantel McCray

    This was a pretty incredible biography. Did you know Queen Victoria’s teenage crush and first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, had a predilection for spanking his kids, servants, and lovers? He was an all around spanker, for discipline and foreplay, and pretty freely recommended it to all his friends. Oh yeah, AND his crazy wife left him for Lord Byron! The poet! Turns out Prince Albert was kind of an asshole who tried to steal the throne from his wife, but Victoria loved him anyway because he wa This was a pretty incredible biography. Did you know Queen Victoria’s teenage crush and first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, had a predilection for spanking his kids, servants, and lovers? He was an all around spanker, for discipline and foreplay, and pretty freely recommended it to all his friends. Oh yeah, AND his crazy wife left him for Lord Byron! The poet! Turns out Prince Albert was kind of an asshole who tried to steal the throne from his wife, but Victoria loved him anyway because he was hot, faithful, sort of brilliant, and a great dad.🤷🏻‍♀️I mean, she basically spent all of her childbearing years pregnant because she couldn’t get enough of Albert. And despite most of the men around her at one time or another treating her like she was too weak or crazy to make decisions, she outlived all of them and had one of the longest reigns in British history. So she was kind of a badass. These are just some of the juicy tidbits from the book. Highly recommend.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    So good. More than good, amazing. Extremely comprehensive without being dull.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Feisty Harriet

    4.5 stars, excellent read, although it dragged a bit for me towards the end. Victoria was a contradiction in so many ways and an absolute monarch in others, a queen who thought rights for women was ridiculous, a mother of nine who mothered according to the standoff-ish Victorian norms of her generation, devoted to her husband before and after his death, yet probably had lovers later in her life, although her children destroyed all her private papers that might allude to such a thing. One quibble 4.5 stars, excellent read, although it dragged a bit for me towards the end. Victoria was a contradiction in so many ways and an absolute monarch in others, a queen who thought rights for women was ridiculous, a mother of nine who mothered according to the standoff-ish Victorian norms of her generation, devoted to her husband before and after his death, yet probably had lovers later in her life, although her children destroyed all her private papers that might allude to such a thing. One quibble: the author describes "Britain at peace" while Britain was actively expanding her empire...which isn't exactly a peaceful process. The details about colonialism really made my blood boil, not because Baird handled it poorly (outside of the quibble mentioned above), but because colonialism is such a bastard move for a powerful country to employ, to just, assume the geography and humanity of another place and then try and bend it to your will!? It gets me ragey every time.

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