By Christopher Hibbert
"Mein Gott! That is a woman!" exclaimed the Iron Chancellor, Count Bismarck, as he emerged, shaken and mopping his brow, from an interview with Queen Victoria. The unearthing of such lively, telling anecdotes is the special province of Christopher Hibbert, who delights in forcing readers, in the most entertaining way, to radically reassess all their received notions about some of the world's most famous, intriguing historical figures. His biography of Victoria is no exception. We will learn in these pages that not only was she the formidable, demanding, capricious Queen of popular imagination, but she was also often shy and vulnerable, prone to giggling fits and crying jags. Often puritanical and censorious when confronted with her mother's moral lapses, she herself could be passionately sensual, emotional, and deeply sentimental. Ascending to the throne at eighteen, her sixty-four year reign saw thrones fall, empires crumble, new continents explored, and England's rise to global and industrial dominance. Hibbert's account of Victoria's life and times is just as sweeping as he reveals to us the real Victoria in all her complexity: failed mother and imperious monarch, irrepressible woman and icon of a repressive age.