by Richard Hough ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 19, 1996
A delightful and engaging joint biography of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, from prolific popular historian and British royals watcher Hough (Born Royal: The Lives and Loves of the Young Windsors, 1988, etc.). When the 20-year-old Queen Victoria married Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840, the United Kingdom was the richest and most powerful country in the world. Hough draws chiefly on Victoria's letters and extant journals to give us the story of these young people until Albert's premature death from typhoid in 1861. We read of Victoria's secluded upbringing and limited education, designed to shield her from the decadence and unpopularity of her predecessors on the throne, and of Albert's sense of moral duty and public service, in contrast with his own equally dissolute family. Despite occasional rows and misunderstandings, Victoria was totally devoted to her consort. Albert, at first unpopular in his adopted nation, provided invaluable emotional support to a frequently nervous and insecure Victoria. His greatest triumphs were probably his role in keeping Britain from entering the American Civil War on the side of the South and his promotion of the Great Exhibition, held in London in 1851 to celebrate the Industrial Revolution and promote peace in Europe. The couple had nine children (against popular sentiment, Victoria used chloroform to ease the pains of childbirth), and the queen later blamed their eldest son and heir, the future Edward VII, for his father's death, which followed the shocking news of Edward's first of many sexual misadventures. Hough avoids cheap sensationalism, but his narrative is at times maddeningly matter-of-fact: He offers few interpretive insights and gives the reader no explanations of Victoria's constitutional position and political views (e.g., why her refusal to dismiss certain ladies on her staff resulted in the collapse of the Tory government in 1839). Nonetheless, a fitting corrective to Victoria's often misunderstood popular image.
Pub Date: Nov. 19, 1996
Page Count: 240
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996
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