QUEEN VICTORIA: A Portrait by Giles St. Aubyn

QUEEN VICTORIA: A Portrait

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Humanizing Victoria in a gossipy but respectful tale, St. Aubyn's affection for his subject, his familiarity with royal behavior (The Year of Three Kings, 1983; Edward VII, 1978), and his narrative skill--especially in anecdotes conveying the eccentricities of the royal household--distinguish this biography from both the briefer, feminist one by Dorothy Thompson (1990) and the more sweeping, worldly one by Elizabeth Longford (1964). Preoccupied with an evolutionary scenario, St. Aubyn traces the history of Victoria and the monarchy from her birth in 1819--as the only legitimate grandchild among the 57 produced by George III's dozen profligate children--to her status as Empress at her death in 1901, the dignity of the monarchy restored and the success of her own children ensured. A symbol of family life, Victoria in fact apparently hated her nine pregnancies and her newborn children; volatile, tyrannical, she quarreled with her adored husband even as she tried to empower him politically. Pampered, passionate, her whole life, according to St. Aubyn, was a history of battles, reconciliations, and submissions with courtiers, family, the many talented prime ministers who served her (including Gladstone and Disraeli), and even the arrogant and devoted John Brown, the former stableboy who, after Albert's death, became her companion--some (not St. Aubyn) say her lover. Nothing subtle here: Victoria's life is easily explained by the deprivations of her childhood, her insecurities, her shy but loving nature. There is not a sign of the warrior-queen who turned England into an empire and lived among the most impoverished people in the Western hemisphere. Scholarly apparatus, including a bibliographical essay and genealogical table, enhance the value of a study that, in disregarding the intellectual, political, and economic crises of the period, is most suitable as family entertainment.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
Page count: 669pp
Publisher: Atheneum