Acclaimed historian A. N. Wilson gives a sweeping, definitive biography of one of the most recognizable yet enigmatic monarchs of all time.
Both the longest reigning British monarch and female sovereign in history, Queen Victoria was a figure of profound paradox who has mystified historians for over a century. Now in this magisterial biography, A. N. Wilson rebukes the conventional wisdom about her life—that she was merely a “funny little woman in a bonnet” who did next to nothing—to show she was in fact intensely involved in state affairs despite a public façade of inaction. More than just the stock image of a stuffy, unsmiling widow in mourning, Wilson’s complete immersion in Victoria’s countless letters and journals reveals a carefully nuanced portrait of a monarch possessed by family immigrant insecurities, a reluctant public figure who learned to exploit public display, a mother who hated pregnancy, and above all, a political luminary who created and controlled the story of her life, true or otherwise.
Victoria brings to life its subject in all her many moods and phases: her so-called “miserable childhood,” her early years of political inexperience as a pawn to advisers and statesmen, her passionate marriage to Prince Albert and the incessant public criticism, her famed mourning period after Albert’s early death, and finally, the captivating last decades of her rule as Empress of India. After nearly two decades as an eccentric, reclusive mourner, she emerged self-confident and robust, as an out and out imperialist who harnessed royalty with British foreign policy, as the figurehead of military and economic world domination.
Wilson tells a story of victory against painful odds and gives the portrait of a woman battling with demons and overcoming them, largely alone. Despite everything, she came to embody the British people’s experience of their own lives. For those hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world, Queen Victoria transcended autocracy. She became the model for all future constitutional monarchies, a beloved leader who reflected back to the people their own experiences of passing time, their own values, and their own sense of the world. With dramatic sweep and novelistic style, Victoria: A Life is an accomplished work from one of our greatest biographers.
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- Penguin Press