Queen Victoria: A Personal History

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9780002558266: Queen Victoria: A Personal History

A major new biography to mark the centenary of Queen Victoria’s death, by the uncrowned king of historical biographers, Christopher Hibbert.

In 1837 Victoria came to the throne at the age of eighteen, a pretty girl not five feet tall, to preside over what was, perhaps, the most momentous period in British history. During the 64 years of her reign she saw thrones fall, empires crumble, new continents explored and mapped, while her own country became the most powerful, richest and most highly developed nation in the world. For generations the stubborn, vital woman who was seen as the epitome of this time has fascinated all who read of her.

Christopher Hibbert’s biography deals with all aspects of the Queen’s life, personality and times, her relations with her large and widespread family, her ‘wicked uncles’ and their wives and mistresses, and with the politicians, prime ministers and foreign statesmen and monarchs of her day – from her opinionated grandson, the Kaiser, to the Emperor Napoleon III with whom she fell rather in love. The book describes her married life and her failings as a mother, her love of food and gossip, her strange relationships with her Indian and Scottish servants, and her influence on the manners, morals and outlook of the age to which she gave her name.

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Review:

Heir to the throne at the age of 11, queen at 18, mothering her own heirs at 21, and both a widow and a grandmother by the time she was 42, Queen Victoria's was an extraordinary life, even for a British monarch. Centuries collided in her life and times. She was a quaint survival of a medieval age--preserving the dynasty by marrying off her children and observing court ritual to the letter. But she was a thoroughly modern monarch too--she loved rail travel at high speed, had an unusually insouciant attitude towards religion, and despite her reputation for not being amused, she was, at least until Prince Albert's death, a woman to whom gaiety and mischief came naturally. Christopher Hibbert, the biographer and popular historian, has already produced a selection from Victoria's journals and letters. Now he has written a full biography, which is a light and enjoyable tour through a familiar landscape. But with 66 chapters in 500 pages there is not much space for depth. The world beyond Victoria's court and family life does not feature very much. And on the outstanding questions of her reign--for example, her relationship with John Brown, her unrealistic sense of her own constitutional position, or the remaking of the image of the monarchy which took place after 1870--the author's verdict is either missing or inconclusive. -- Miles Taylor

Review:

‘This book is, I think, his masterpiece...he has portrayed her as physically and imaginatively passionate, a loveable monster who, for all her extreme oddness, came to embody the aspirations and character not only of a nation, but of an Empire which embraced half the globe.’ A. N. Wilson, Daily Mail

‘A splendid book in every respect.’ Simon Heffer, Country Life

‘[Hibbert] succeeds in weaving a vast tangle of sources into a driving story. It is a testimony to his skill that he manages to make his 557-page book feel, If anything, a tad too short... it meticulously fleshes out the little butterball of a woman who came to dominate not only her own time, but ours as well.’ Kathryn Hughes, Daily Telegraph

‘Full of scholarly references and splendidly produced.’ Robert Blake, Sunday Telegraph

‘A deliciously gossipy but thoughtful biography...an exceptional portrait of a homely, formidably strong-willed woman who used her power both admirably and abominably.’ Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times

‘A lively, episodic account of a remarkable woman's life...particularly strong on the stifling dullness of court life, Victoria's extraordinary relations with her Scottish and Indian servants, and her absolute domination of her children.’ Evening Standard

‘An unrivalled portrait of a marriage...she emerges from his compelling narrative a more real, complex and fascinating figure than ever before.’ Financial Times

‘This personal history provides as much food for thought as it does narrative energy and excitement.’ Scotsman

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