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Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird

Victoria: The Queen

by Julia Baird

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4401939,494 (4.28)10
A magnificent biography of Queen Victoria by International New York Times columnist Julia Baird. Drawing on previously unpublished papers, 'Victoria: The Queen' is a stunning new portrait of the real woman behind the myth--a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience. When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would begin to threaten many of Europe's monarchies in the coming decades. In Britain, a generation of royals had indulged their whims at the public's expense, and republican sentiment was growing. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape, and the British Empire was commanding ever larger parts of the globe. Born into a world where woman were often powerless, during a century roiling with change, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand. Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother's meddling and an adviser's bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty , she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security--queen of a quarter of the world's population at the height of the British Empire's reach. Drawing on sources that include fresh revelations about Victoria's relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings vividly to life the fascinating story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning. This sweeping, page-turning biography gives us the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen--a Victoria for our times, a Victoria who endured.--Jacket.… (more)

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I appreciated the deft dance Julia Baird maintained in writing this biography. She manages to focus on this remarkable monarch, all the while placing her in her times without drowning in details. The books shines the most when centering on Victoria and her family, as well as the occasional glimpse into life in London during her times. Well researched, written, and a great way to meet this regal woman. ( )
  Oregonpoet | Jul 12, 2019 |
Baird's meticulous biography of the Grandmother of Europe helps distinguish the woman from the legend, revealing Victoria to be just as complicatedly human as the rest of us while providing immersive context of Victoria's world, how it shaped her, and how she shaped it. ( )
  Birdo82 | Sep 9, 2018 |
I had wanted to read a book about Victoria for quite some time. It was a gap in my knowledge so to speak. I really enjoyed this book. Baird writes very well, and in many places this read like a novel. I was a bit disappointed in Victoria the person and found myself thinking many times that she needed to get over herself. She also played much less of a role in administering the British Empire than I would have thought. The biography focused mostly on her personal life, and while it was very interesting, I would have liked to have seen more on the international relations of the time. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
A balanced biography, blending the personal and public sides of Queen Victoria in an insightful and interesting way. Particularly useful, the book’s front matter helped its reader by including Victoria’s Family Tree, illustrated maps of the changing European landscape during Victoria’s reign, plus a cast of characters (of which there are many). The introduction by the author sets up the bio’s theme perfectly, disclosing that some parts of Victoria’s diaries, parts destroyed (burned and thought gone) when edited in 1943 by Victoria’s youngest daughter, Beatrice, had been--unbeknownst to the 86 years-old Beatrice— photographed and secreted away in the Royal Archives. By whom, still remains unknown. Other editors, Arthur Benson and Lord Esher, likewise, practiced a form of “historical censorship” while culling Queen Victoria’s correspondence. Putting aside those intriguing details, what makes this such a praiseworthy book is its skillful presentation of Victoria’s private life, from cradle to grave, and how her public reign of the United Kingdom merges with 19th Century history.

After viewing three seasons of Victoria of Masterpiece Theater on PBS, I felt I wanted to know more. This well-researched account examines Victoria’s relationships, with her mother, her beloved prince/ husband, Albert, her feelings about motherhood and her children, while she was also dealing with the affairs of state, plus her -- sometimes prickly-- relationships with her prime ministers. Also explored, her over-powering grief after Albert’s death and Victoria’s late-in-life friendship with John Brown, revealing her burial wishes along with a few prior unknowns. Julia Baird, whose background is journalism, adroitly summarizes historical events and places them within the context of Queen Victoria’s life. It’s a piece of craftsmanship that helps boost the book’s pacing. So, even though I’ve admittedly only read one biography on Queen Victoria, this is the one I’m glad I decided on. I highly recommend. ( )
  PaperDollLady | Apr 5, 2018 |
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. ( )
  TheBibliophage | Mar 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
added by sgw160 | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Dec 20, 2016)
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[Queen Victoria did not] belong to any conceivable category of monarchs or of women, she bore no resemblance to an aristocratic English lady, she bore no resemblance to a wealthy middle-class Englishwoman, nor to any typical Princess of a German court. . . . She reigned longer than the other three Queens put together.  Never in her life could she be confused with anyone else, nor will she be in history.  Such expressions as "people like Queen Victoria," or "that sort of woman" could not be used about her. . . . For over sixty years she was simply without prefix or suffix "The Queen."
 - Arthur Ponsonby
We are all on the look-out for signs of illness in the Queen; but . . . the vein of iron that runs thro' her most extraordinary character enables her to bear up to the last minute, like nobody else.
 - Lady Lyttelton
For Poppy and Sam, my magical children
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(Introduction) She was ready.
Queen Victoria was born, roaring, at 4:15 A.M., in the hour before dawn on May 24, 1819.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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