Pages: 752 pages
Published: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Random House Trade
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography
The extraordinary story of the world’s most influential, intriguing and surprising ruler, Queen Victoria.
When Alexandrina Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 20 June 1837, she was 18 years old and barely five feet tall. Her subjects were fascinated and intrigued; some felt sorry for her. Writer Thomas Carlyle, watching her gilded coach draw away from the coronation, said: ‘Poor little Queen, she is at an age at which a girl can hardly be trusted to choose a bonnet for herself; yet a task is laid upon her from which an archangel might shrink.’
Queen Victoria is long dead, but in truth she has shaped us from the grave. She was a tiny, powerful woman who reigned for an astonishing 64 years. By the time of her Diamond Jubilee Procession in 1897, she reigned over a fourth of the inhabitable part of the world, had 400 million subjects, and had given birth to nine children. Suffrage, anti-poverty and anti-slavery movements can all be traced to her monumental reign, along with a profound rethinking of family life and the rise of religious doubt. When she died, in 1901, she was the longest reigning monarch in English history. Victoria is truly the woman who made the modern world.
A fascinating, provocative and authoritative new biography of Queen Victoria which will make us see her in a new light, from one of Australia’s most admired and respected journalists and commentators, Julia Baird.
Starting off March of a biography about Queen Victoria is the right way to begin Woman’s History Month. I have always found Queen Victoria to be a fascinating figure. Not only am I in love with the television show, but I have also found Victoria’s life and legacy such an intriguing thing to learn more about. And Julia Baird’s latest biography on the monarch does not disappoint.
Julia Baird’s book makes Victoria’s story come to life. While reading this, there were times I forgot I was reading a biography. The flowing of the language, the amount of detail…sometimes it felt like I was reading a fiction novel. I feel that in order to write a good biography, you not only need to understand the subject, but you also need to appreciate the person and acknowledge the person for what they are, with or without flaws.
Baird is not afraid to call out Victoria’s imperfections. It is Victoria’s faults that made her so unique. She didn’t back down from a challenge but her stubbornness did at times prevent her from doing the right thing. However, she never shirked from the word duty. Her duty was to reign over her country, something she continued to do, even after the abrupt death of her husband, Prince Albert. Even with this extensive biography, Baird concedes that there is still a lot we do not about the legendary queen. But that does not prevent the surprising and fascinating facts that we meet a lot the way. The questions lead to answers, which lead readers to want to learn more, exploring to learn more about Victoria.
During the 19th century, it was odd for a woman to hold a high position, to have rights, just to have any type of power, similar to a man’s. So when Victoria became Queen, she became a symbol of the Women’s Rights Movement. Women saw her reign as a representation of the enormous possibilities women can achieve. The funny thing is Victoria did not believe that women should have certain rights, like the right to vote or hold political office. Victoria became this icon for them, a sign that it was possible for a woman to have it all. But in reality, their icon didn’t believe in the same ideals they did. These are just one of the many things you learn in this amazing biography.
I have read other biographies about Queen Victoria, but this is by far the best I have ever read. Baird doesn’t only depict Queen Victoria’s life but takes her readers on whirlwind journey that really digs in what she was truly like. Her detailed research and unique narrative style beautifully illustrates why Queen Victoria is considered to be one Britain’s greatest monarch’s.
Overall rating 5 out of 5 stars.