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

There are biographies and then there are biographies – Victoria The Queen – An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird is one of the best. Julia Baird became interested in “women in power” and realized that Queen Victoria was certainly that. She was a woman in power for a very long time, and Julia Baird felt that a fresh investigation of Victoria’s life as in order.

It is astounding, really, to think that this woman, born in 1819 - almost 200 years ago – became the Queen of England and all of her colonies, when she was only 18 years old, and ruled until her death in 1901.

This biography follows the life of Victoria from her childhood, raised by her mother after the early death of her father. She lived a rather insular life, and not one that prepared her to be Queen – it was entirely unexpected that she would be the heir to the throne.

When Victoria became Queen, all of those around her expected that she would rule in name only, that until she married the Prime Minister would “rule” and that when she did marry her husband would “rule”. Women were expected to be submissive. Well, Victoria was not, she was Queen and she would rule as Queen. She was fortunate that her first Prime Minister recognized her intelligence. He became her mentor, and assisted her in stepping into the role of Monarch, helping her become sure in her abilities and confident in her role.

Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert brought her happiness and children – many children. And there were certainly times when Prince Albert took on more of the role of monarch than Victoria was completely happy with. Between them they ruled their country and their Empire with sympathy and concern for their subjects.

Victoria and Albert were constant companions and constantly communicated in writing, leaving a huge archive, though unfortunately much was destroyed. Victoria herself destroyed anything that she felt was too personal or cast anyone she loved in less than a perfect light. After the death of Victoria her daughter, Beatrice, destroyed even more. What is left still provides an immense amount of material for research, and a fascinating insight in the life of Victoria and the world in which she lived.

Victoria ruled an Empire – a quarter of the world as she knew it. She saw the rise of the suffrage movement and some improvement in the lives of women and children. She lived through the industrial revolution, the Crimean War, the Boer War. Some of her contemporaries were Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Florence Nightingale, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde.

This biography tells not only the story of Victoria’s life but also that of her children. The inter-connectedness of the royal family in England and across Europe was extensive before Victoria’s monarchy – and became even more so after Victoria started placing her children in strategic marriages across Europe and in Russia.

The generation of leaders to follow Victoria included Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill, who were still boys or very young men at the time of Victoria’s death.

Victoria the Queen is an entirely fascinating book – full of details of her life both public and personal and those of her family, friends and associates. No dry biography this but a thoroughly captivating book about a woman who literally ruled most of the world for almost a century of great change.

At the very end, I bet (as I was) that you will be giving serious consideration to what you want placed, with you body, in your coffin. No kidding. I know my husband was relieved when I finished reading this book and he no longer had to listen to me say “this is just amazing”, as I read one bit or another.

 

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