Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: QUEEN VICTORIA by Giles Lytton Strachey

As a student of history, Queen Victoria has always fascinated me, because with her long reign, the leader of Britain at its largest point, her nine children and multitudes of grand and great-grand children, it is difficult to find a corner of the world which she didn’t influence. 

Victoria was conceived specifically for political purposes.  Her father, the Duke of Kent, married a young widow for the express purpose of producing an heir before his brothers could do so.  Growing up, she knew that she was of aristocratic birth, but her mother, in an attempt to keep her from being spoiled, hid from her how close she was to the throne.  By the time the truth was revealed to her in her early teens, Victoria was well on her way to becoming an intelligent, pious and poised young woman.  In 1837, at the age of eighteen, Victoria inherited the throne, which she held until her death in 1901.  During her reign, the British Empire was in its Golden Age.  British innovation and technology ushered the world into the modern era.   

One of the most interesting things that I learned in this book was Albert’s role, not just as Victoria’s husband, but also as a co-ruler.  The pair perfectly complimented each other.  Where Victoria was social, a natural diplomat, Albert was detail oriented and serious.  For twenty years, Albert, an intelligent and brilliant strategist, dedicated himself morning to night in the work of running a kingdom.  He literally worked himself to an early death (he died at age 42), but the British people of the time never truly accepted him.  As a German prince, he was a foreigner.  His anti-social ways did not ingratiate him to the aristocracy.  But for as much as the people didn’t care for him, Albert made his mark on the empire by putting its needs and its people before himself.

I view the “love story” of Victoria and Albert as a tragic one.  Although it basically had been an arranged marriage (they had a choice, but it was limited), Victoria loved him with her whole heart—so much so that after his death, she mourned him for the rest of her long life.  They had nine children together and had a perfect partnership.  Even so, while Albert cared for her as a dear friend and respected her for her mind, he never truly loved her.  In fact, Albert never really achieved any sort of personal happiness.  His death had as much to do with his melancholy attitude as it did with illness. 

As biographies go, I really enjoyed this one.  It made me think.  My biggest problem with the book is that I was reading it in electronic format and as it is with many public domain books, there were a lot of formatting errors.  While I was able to figure out what the author was trying to say, it was visually annoying. 

Overall, I give Queen Victoria

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks (while interesting, it was a bit slow in spots)
Love Story – 4 bookmarks (although tragic)
Historical Relevance – 5 bookmarks (to understand Victoria & the Victorian Age is to understand the world we live in today)
Dream Cast (Otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – I saw the movie Young Victoria a while back, starring Emily Blunt as Victoria and Rupert Friend as Albert.  These are who I had in mind for the first half of the book.  After Albert’s death I pictured the actually Queen Victoria with her heavy black mourning clothes.

1 comment:

  1. Hello!

    I'm actually reading this book right now and I love it. I have also watched the young Victoria movie and it's my 2nd favorite movie of all time.