Saturday, November 26, 2016

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

Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire.  Julia Baird. Random House Publishing Group. November 2016. 752 pp.  ISBN#: 9781400069880.

Victoria the Queen, from the moment she was born, defied tradition.  She lived during an age when women were possessions of their husbands and thought to be dim-witted enough to need a man’s decisions, protection and directions in order to survive, let alone be called successful.  But Victoria also grew up to live in an age when warfare took away men and women began to envision a future of meaning and interesting living.  So Julia Baird’s biography of this intriguing young woman, devoted wife and lover, and formidable Queen is riveting reading indeed!

To begin with, Victoria’s mother is a domineering creature whose eye is on the prize of royalty but who believes she will be Regent who will control all of England.  Through those frustrating years, Victoria sets to learn all she can about the kingdom she knows she will eventually inherit.  This provides some rowdy, contentious scenes but as we later learn, Victoria is built of sturdier mettle than even her mother realizes. 

Upon marriage, Victoria turns into a workhorse but one who is perhaps overly amenable to her counselor, the Prime Minister, who is really more of a father figure than subject of the Queen.  This troublesome relationship ends with her marriage to Prince Albert, who little by little assumes Victoria’s duties as she is so busy carrying, birthing and raising nine of her children.  Yet somehow Victoria keeps hold on a certain amount of ruling until that becomes total upon Prince Albert’s death.  Victoria seems to have suffered from recurring bouts of melancholia, aggravated immensely by her husband and some of her children’s deaths. 

The remaining, many years of Victoria’s rule are rife with friction and deep love from other men, Disraeli on the positive side and Gladstone a fearsome opponent, just two examples.  Victoria had very strong opinions and this at times led her to support conflicts with gruesome consequences and ignore events that turned out to be momentous, history-changing conflicts. Her determination to control her children produced both love and discord that literally also affected the future course of European history. As Victoria’s kingdom expands into India and Africa, so does her responsibility and love for these lands.

More than all the above, this is the life story of a very down to earth, proud, strong and weak, faithful, loyal, dependent and independent enigma of a woman who ruled the Kingdom of England for almost as long as the present Queen Elizabeth.  You will experience all possible thoughts and emotions while experiencing all of the vicissitudes of this remarkable and worthy Queen of a magnificent empire!  Julia Baird has crafted an exceedingly well-researched (notes, glossary and bibliography are included), intriguing biography that tells the truth in all its failures, successes and in-between moments that constitute the life of royalty.  Highly recommended historical biography!!! Wonderful!

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