After the untimely death of Prince Albert, the Queen and her nation were plunged into a state of grief so profound that this one event would dramatically alter the shape of the British monarchy. For Britain had not just lost a prince: during his 20-year marriage to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert had increasingly performed the function of King in all but name. The outpouring of grief after Albert's death was so extreme that its like would not be seen again until the death of Princess Diana 136 years later.
Drawing on many letters, diaries, and memoirs from the Royal Archives and other neglected sources, as well as the newspapers of the day, Helen Rappaport offers a new perspective on this compelling historical psychodrama - the crucial final months of the prince's life and the first long, dark 10 years of the Queen's retreat from public view. She draws a portrait of a queen obsessed with her husband and - after his death - with his enduring place in history.
A Magnificent Obsession also sheds new light on the true nature of the prince's chronic physical condition, overturning for good the 150-year-old myth that he died of typhoid fever.
©2011 Helen Rappaport (P)2012 Tantor
"Absorbing account of the making of a queen through her awful, protracted grief." (Kirkus)
This is an excellent detailed book on the relationship between Queen Victoria and Prince Consort Albert and the long aftermath of his death. Victoria was rapturously in love with her beloved Albert throughout their marriage. She was devastated when he passed away and stayed in mourning the rest of her life. Instead of finding comfort in her children, she made their lives more difficult. She blamed her son Bertie's behavior for giving Albert stress which led to his death. Princess Alice's wedding seemed more like a funeral. While she shirked her own responsibilities as monarch, she refused to let the heir Bertie take over or help at all. Her grief had economic implications as well. Suddenly, there was a giant boom for mourning clothes and jewelry made of jet, as all of England joined their queen in mourning.
But while England felt the queen's loss, eventually they grew tired of her seclusion. She went out in public rarely, and usually only to dedications of monuments to Albert. She preferred Scotland to being at Winsor, where Albert passed. She was didn't host social occasions (leaving it to other family members) or entertain official dignitaries. The queen didn't seem to be performing her duties while new spouses of the royal children had to be added to the budget taken from taxpayer money.
This book illuminates the far reaching implications of Queen Victoria's mourning. It also shines a light on the steadfast Princess Alice. She was the nurse to her father during his final days, she disobeyed her mother and informed Bertie of the seriousness of Albert's condition, and she was with her mother during the hardest days afterwards. The last part of the book is a discussion of Prince Albert's medical condition and some speculation as to the cause of his death
While I really enjoyed the book I also found that the Queen's behavior wore me out. She was quite self-centered and not as self-reliant as one might have thought. She was very dependent on Albert and after his death she tranferred that dependence onto her children and later onto John Brown, at least as far as this book goes in time. She didn't, however, take any comfort from her children. Sometimes I was left thinking, Oh Victoria get over yourself! Rappaport is an excellent historian but I thought this one contained just a bit too much coverage of how various ceremonies were decorated and too much information on which person designed which monument to Albert.
If you think you know what the Victorian Age was then this book will change your view. It was really the Age of Albert???both before and after his death. The endless details about Victoria???s life is not a pleasant listen because the truth is much harsher than you expect???and much too detailed for enjoyment. Apparently Victoria was very self centered, and uncaring by nature. Albert inevitably comes out a far superior human being to Victoria. Credibility and assumed accuracy is the book???s strongest point. What might have been if Albert had lived is the theme of the book.
Report Inappropriate Content