VICTORIA AND ALBERT by Joanna Richardson


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The marriage was made in Heaven--and contrived on earth by Uncle Leopold for whom the union of his niece and nephew was a consummation of Saxe-Coburg polity. Like Cecil Woodham-Smith's profusely domestic Victoria (1972), Richardson's heavily illustrated popularization uses a surfeit of diaries and intimate letters between the royal pair whose mutual adoration never faltered. To Victoria, newly crowned and liberated from the rigors of her upbringing, darling Albert was perfection itself; Albert, more Germanically reticent, was a model of devotion, having decided early on that duty demanded that he should ""entirely sink his own individual existence in that of his wife."" It was, Richardson opines, just what the monarchy needed to right itself from the scandal-ridden caprice of the Hanoverians. Albert's industry, humorlessness, and lack of social graces are readily acknowledged, but his rectitude--and dashing good looks--made up for his defects. It is not Richardson's purpose to analyze Albert's somewhat awesome high-mindedness and ""nobility""; enough to note that ""in its most marked characteristics the age was Albertian rather than Victorian."" It was the Prince Consort who involved himself in ""improvement"" schemes; Albert who refurbished Balmoral Castle and became a photographer and patron of the arts; Albert who lectured to the Society for Improvement of the Condition of the Working Class. One curious note is injected by Richardson's repeated references to his essential ""femininity""--a theme one wishes she had further developed. Still, in the words of the immortal 1066 and All That the marriage was A Good Thing.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Quadrangle/New York Times