Queen Victoria: A Personal History

Queen Victoria: A Personal History

Queen Victoria: A Personal History

Queen Victoria: A Personal History


"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.



'God damme! D'ye know what his sisters call him? By God! They call him Joseph Surface!'

SITTING AT HIS BREAKFAST TABLE in his rented house in Brussels in December 1817, Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George III, carelessly threw across the Morning Chronicle to his attractive mistress, Julie de St Laurent, and began to open his letters. 'I had not done so but a very short time,' he told Thomas Creevey, the witty, gossipy politician who was then also living in Brussels for reasons of economy, 'when my attention was called to an extraordinary noise and a strong convulsive movement in Madame St Laurent's throat. For a short time I entertained serious apprehensions for her safety; and when, upon her recovery, I enquired into the occasion of this attack, she pointed to [an] article in the Morning Chronicle.'

This article -- adverting to the death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate child of his eldest brother, the Prince Regent -- called upon the Duke of Kent and the other bachelor royal dukes to marry for the sake of the family succession. For, although it was later calculated that King George III had no fewer than fifty-six grandchildren, at this time not one of these grandchildren was legitimate.

The Prince Regent, who was to become King George IV on his father's death in 1820, was now fifty-five years old, separated from a detested wife and living languorously in sumptuous grandeur at Carlton House in London and the exotic Marine Pavilion at Brighton. The King's second son, the Duke of York, was also married and also separated from a wife who, childless, lived an eccentric life at Oatlands House in Surrey where . . .

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