The British monarchy is experiencing a rise in pop culture this winter with two new literary releases about Queen Victoria, a new television series, Victoria on PBS, and the Netflix program, The Crown. In Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird we get a broad investigation into the reign of Britain’s, second longest ruling monarch.
Queen Victoria had many qualities and Baird makes note to point out a few, such as caustic, selfish, dismissive, demanding, but loyal and kind. She sounds like a lot of women I know, myself included. However, her career, while long and prosperous, was not without its critics and strife. Victoria: The Queen differs from another recent release Victoria by Daisy Goodwin. This telling is not so dishy or gushy. For romance fans, there is a noted difference from the fictionalized version in the character description of the men in Queen Victoria’s life. One of Queen Victoria’s first crushes, Lord Melbourne, is less the charmer in Baird’s telling than in other books, but the young queen remains a stage five clinger. She was more than her infatuations, although they played a remarkable role in her rule. She wielded great power but was not unlike most women. She was a wife and mother, had family drama, and had a tough job. However, the emphasis Baird places on Queen Victoria’s exhaustion as a young working mother falls flat. News flash, every mother feels that way and to suggest that Queen Victoria was somehow more unique because of it is off-putting. However, you cannot deny her sense of responsibility and hard work.
Victoria: The Queen stumbles when it drifts too far from the monarch. Numerous soliloquies about European royalty and political wrangling, at times, seem out-of-place. Though thorough, they are often dull and flat, which bogs down the narrative. Yes these happenings were historically significant they come across as tedious and repetitious, making this less a biography and more an overview of the 19th century. When Queen Victoria is front and center the story shines best.
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