Monday, February 6, 2017

Queen Victoria & Prince Albert: Books & Series

Painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1846
I enjoy history and will read nearly anyone's biography. 

On a trip to Barnes and Noble I tried to buy Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey. I found the book on a shelf, read about 10 pages, but desiring to read the best bio on the subject, I waited a beat before heading to the cash register; instead, I went home to google some book reviews. After reading favorable reviews (one by The New York Times), I returned  to the store 3 hours later to buy it.

Surprise, somebody else bought my book! What are the odds? A manuscript published in 1921 about a 19th century British monarch, who died in 1901! Are those flying off the shelves? I couldn't believe my eyes. So I returned home empty handed. 

Not to be defeated, I looked online to find it as a free audiobook -- the publication is in the public domain. Nice! You can listen to it here.
A photograph of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, age 23 (1842). He eventually became  Prince Consort. Victoria wanted to make him King Consort, but the British Parliament said no.
Interesting bio on several levels. Queen Victoria was 3/4 German, born in England; Albert was her first cousin. Marriage is challenging, including happy ones. Ambition and power are fascinating, even if people who desire and acquire it, are virtuous and well-intended. Emigrating from Saxe-Coburg, Germany to England came with issues. Moreover, I can tell you this from a lifetime of personal experience: Germans are complicated, if seldom dull. You must be strong, well-informed and laser-focused to stand up to them!
Queen Victoria, age 25 with her oldest child, Vicky (Victoria, the Princess Royal)  in 1844
How fortunate to find the above, age-twenty-something photos of Albert and Victoria. We get to see the handsome face that won Victoria's heart, and have a glimpse of them as a young couple.
1854 - Married 14 years
Here they are in their mid-30s. I am fond of Victoria's directness and candor in manner. She was bright, a passionate person, who loved deeply ... hard with her whole heart. She recognized her husband's intellect and supported him in his efforts to champion the Industrial Revolution, public housing, the arts, anti-slavery and eventually politics in his adoptive country. Contrary to belief, she had a great sense of humor and laughed often. What's more, she had to function in a man's world. In her day women couldn't vote (nor own property!), yet prime ministers reported to her.
What I like about Albert was his desire to do good and live a life of purpose. He was high-minded and principled. No doubt, Albert was a man of the 19th century; but progressive for his time. He was somewhat of a Renaissance man, with multi-interests and talents. And naturally, I like that Albert was a hands-on, if demanding father, who was faithful to his wife and children. Unlike his own philandering father and brother, the Prince Consort famously did not flirt with the ladies, ever!

After marriage, Victoria lost a bit of her independence and perhaps herself. As Albert was a 19th century man, she was a 19th century woman, who deferred to her husband over their 21 years of marriage. They had nine children. But, the bottom line is: Queen Victoria adored Albert throughout her life; and despite the tensions and compromises of their marriage, they were in sync, and he made her happy. Overall, they seemed right for each other. It was a love match.
Victoria & Albert with their 9 children in 1961

Sadly, Prince Albert died at just 42 years of age, and as we all know, Victoria mourned him for the next 40 years of her life. No matter who you are, life is bittersweet.

After Albert's untimely death (the true cause perhaps from overwork, but recently said to be Crohn's disease), she did go on to have a life as Queen, mother, grandmother of Europe's dynasties and Empress of India. She was a friend to Highlander John Brown and Abdul Karim (the Munshi) from India; and her determination of character endured.
Prince Albert died on December 14, 1861 and Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901.

I recommend watching Queen Victoria, the miniseries. Season one was faithful to history; and the charismatic cast is brilliant at fleshing out the historical figures. 

By the way, I adore their plush, royal bed (below), where they have their talks and come to love and understand each other. 
The miniseries starring Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes.
Next I'm reading: Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird and Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert by Stanley Weintraub, while I wait for the television series to resume later this year. After these books I will probably have my literary fill of strong-willed Germans.😊

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  1. Oh, so much fun we are both reading Julia Baird's book, Debbie. I am enjoying it greatly, after seeing the mini series. Isn't Jenna Coleman a delight? I am loving the book and don't want it to finish and like you, look forward to the next series. You have found some great photos to share, thank you :)

    1. Trish, I just recieved the Baird book in the mail yesterday and will begin it today. Expertly researched, I notice and since it came out in 2016, hopefully, has a modern perspective.

      I do love Jenna Coleman in the role! As well as, Tom Hughes as Albert ... Rupert Sewell as her 1st PM and the fellow who plays Uncle Leopold, Alex Jennings. Without Uncle Leopold, where would that young couple be?

      When you watch actors play these historical characters so well, it brings home how time didn't begin (and doesn't end) with you!