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Victoria: The Queen

by Julia Baird

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5702432,651 (4.19)15
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 Drawing on previously unpublished papers, 'Victoria: The Queen' is a stunning new portrait of the real woman behind the myth--a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength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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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
I’ve always loved Queen Victoria, but this book made me love her even more. Baird brings a more rounded picture of the Queen to the table that makes Victoria more human and more relatable. I highly recommend this as a read for anyone (and everyone). ( )
  historybookreads | Jul 26, 2021 |
Frankly, I picked this up after seeing two years of the T.V. series about her life. Of course, the series strayed significantly from her real life, which is unfortunate. Victoria, about whom I really knew nothing of substance, was a remarkable person/British monarch. Despite not being the nearly perfect, albeit tempestuous, person depicted in the television series, she was amazing in so many other ways. Possibly we have no stomach for heroines with noticeable and sometimes unsightly warts, but the real Victoria did not need excessive burnishing to make her story noteworthy, compelling, and attractive. She had many faults, but we gain nothing, and actually lose a true appreciation for all that she did, by erasing them from history. I now must find some other bios of Victoria to get some different perspectives on one of the most renowned British heads of state, male or female. ( )
  wildh2o | Jul 10, 2021 |
This lengthy tome is a thorough account of Queen Victoria’s private and public life. Excerpts from Victoria’s letters are particularly interesting.

Sometimes she comes across as selfish and self-pitying, while her low opinions of some of her children (usually because of their looks) is unnatural for a mother, though one must bear in mind her status and the period she lived through.

For me, the most engaging years of Victoria’s life are her childhood and her married life (1819–61). After Prince Albert’s death in 1861, the biography becomes less appealing, owing to Victoria all but giving up on life. Her love for Albert was infinite, and I do admire her devotion.

The parts that didn’t appeal to me were those that took me away from Victoria’s personal sphere. For instance, I didn’t like extended info about politics, or when there’re lengthy sections devoted to individuals like William Gladstone and Major-General Gordon. I like biographies to stay on topic.

Despite finding the subjects discussed in the period 1862–1901 to be less engaging, I feel this book deserves five stars because of the material covering the early part of Victoria’s life, plus the author writes in an engaging way throughout. ( )
  PhilSyphe | May 12, 2021 |
Really enjoyed this book, I learned a lot about Queen Victoria and her family, and I found it was presented in such a way that it gave great historical perspective. ( )
  Vividrogers | Dec 20, 2020 |
This was truly one of the best historical biographies that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Baird's thoroughly researched bio provides excellent details and insight into an extraordinary woman and her family, friends, and kingdom. It also gave me a deep appreciation for the brilliance of Prince Albert (a compassionate visionary).

I still haven't quite made my mind up about Victoria, while she was an incredible leader, it was shocking and horrifying to read of the millions of deaths caused by the reach of the British Empire.

I'm also still coming to terms with the fact that she was so very against the women's rights movement (this baffles me) she ruled an empire at eighteen years old and had to 'prove' herself on a daily basis to the men she was ruling, constantly battling with Prime Ministers and even with Albert.

It was enlightening to read about the living conditions for rich and poor, the women's rights movement, various wars, Victoria's children who were scattered throughout royal houses in Europe, Lord Melbourne, Disraeli, Gladstone, other British leaders and much more.

Something else I don't know, was the fact that most of Victoria's journals and papers were 'edited' by her daughter, Beatrice. It's one of the greatest acts of censorship of all time. Although Baird's biography was amazing, it does leave a lot of questions - especially Victoria's relationship with John Brown, due to the destruction of journals and the fact that major parts were re-written we will probably never know.

I learned a lot in an enjoyable way. If you're interested in learning about the Victorian era, I highly recommend this ❤️ ( )
  MandaTheStrange | Oct 7, 2020 |
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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
Dedication
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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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.

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