Absorbing account of the making of a queen through her awful, protracted grief.
To Queen Victoria (1819–1901), her beloved husband Albert was counsel, teacher, co-ruler and more—“King in all but name,” as British historian and Russian expert Rappaport (Conspirator: Lenin in Exile, 2010, etc.) depicts in this readable narrative. Twenty happy years of marriage had produced nine healthy children—unheard of in that era of common infant mortality—and a solid sovereign partnership by 1861. Yet within the year, the unthinkable happened: A mysterious debilitating illness seized her husband, and he died on Dec. 15. Victoria’s all-consuming grief stemmed partly from a deliberate denial of the seriousness of Albert’s disease, both on the part of the doctors and her own willful intractability. A man of regular habits, excellent education, incorruptible rectitude, absolute loyalty and finest culture, Prince Albert had instructed his wife over the years on how to be a proper queen, ironically bolstering her enormous popularity to the detriment of his own. Essentially for the next 10 years she devoted herself to preserving his memory. She erected monuments (a regular “Albertopolis”), banished all pleasures at court, supported an entire industry of black fabrics and jet jewelry and published his speeches and memoir of their life together in Scotland. Eventually the public and the government grew tired of her “luxury of woe” and by year three she was being roundly criticized for her seclusion. Thanks to the loyalty of her favored Highland attendant, John Brown, her fondness for Benjamin Disraeli and her distaste for her profligate heir, Bertie, Queen Victoria got back in the saddle—though Rappaport skates over her transformation in one concluding page, keeping readers wanting more.
Fluid reading by the knowledgeable author of Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion.