"AN UNCOMMON WOMAN: Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm" by Hannah Pakula

"AN UNCOMMON WOMAN: Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm"

Email this review


In a prodigiously researched biography of Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Pakula (The Last Romantic, 1985) draws a portrait of an intelligent and progressive Englishwoman at odds with the chauvinist imperial court of Bismarckian Germany. Drawing on over 5,000 letters between Queen Victoria and Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa (""Vicky""), Pakula traces the princess's life from her birth in 1840 to her 1858 marriage to handsome Hohenzollern prince Friedrich (""Fritz"") and through her long and ultimately unhappy career at the Prussian court. A pampered and willful, though gifted child, she grew into a strong and politically aware woman whose predilection for constitutionalism conflicted with the absolutism of the Prussian court, and whose inclination to meddle in state affairs was ill received in a country in which women were supposed to limit their concerns to home and hearth. Vicky's marriage to Fritz was a political idea that arose from the hope, felt by both Englishmen and Prussians, that the nascent German state would remain closely allied to Great Britain. However, the machinations of Otto von Bismarck put an end to these dreams, as Germany swiftly replaced France as continental Europe's preeminent military power. In Pakula's portrait Vicky, a committed democrat, felt estranged in her adopted country, as Bismarck moved to prevent her and her husband from exercising a decisive influence at court. Finally her son Wilhelm rejected her influence upon becoming kaiser, moving Germany more firmly in the imperialist and militarist direction pointed by Bismarck. Through the gradually worsening ties between Britain and Germany, Vicky maintained a close correspondence with her mother and emotional ties with the country and ideals of her birth. At first blush, Pakula's vast study of an obscure royal seems to make too much of too little, but she tells an absorbing story of a gifted woman, draws valuably intimate portraits of Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm II, and shows how Anglo-Prussian relations degenerated rapidly from warm friendship into world war.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 720pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster