Staff Picks: Queen Victoria and Her Descendants

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Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with all things British, especially Queen Victoria. I come by it honestly, since I was named for a great-great-aunt whose parents emigrated to the U.S. during Queen Victoria’s reign.

If you are also fascinated by Queen Victoria, you probably eagerly tuned in to the premier of Victoria, a miniseries which premiered on most PBS stations Sunday, January 15. Now is a good time to brush up on your Queen Victoria knowledge.

Victoria became queen in 1837 at the age of 18, married Arthur of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, had nine children, and died in 1901 at the age of 81. The empire Victoria ruled over included around 13 million square miles of territory and more than 400 million people. Until last year, she was the longest reigning British monarch, at 63 years. Queen Elizabeth II, Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter, is now the longest reigning British monarch.

The library has many biographies of Queen Victoria. The most recent, Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird, was published in November 2016. It is an entertaining, well-written account of Victoria’s life. With 120 pages of end notes and a 25-page bibliography, it’s also well researched.

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill chronicles the love affair between Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert, and how the two strong personalities worked together.

Stanley Weintraub’s Victoria, An Intimate Biography is another good read. Elizabeth Longford’s Queen Victoria, Born to Succeed, was published in 1964. It may seem a little bit dated to today’s audience, but Lady Longford was able to use sources from the Royal Archives that had not previously been available to researchers, and her book is still considered one of the standard biographies of Queen Victoria.

Royal Descendants

Victoria’s descendants married into several of the ruling monarchies of Europe. Many, many books have been written about them. Here are just a few:

Victoria’s eldest son ruled Great Britain after her, as King Edward VII (reigned 1901-1910). The library has two books on Edward: Edward VII: Prince & King by Giles St. Aubyn and The Life and Times of Edward VII by Keith Middlemas.

Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria (Vicky), married Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia. For more information on her, check out the biography An Uncommon Woman: The Empress Frederick by Hannah Pakula, which used more than 7,000 letters between Vicky and her mother.

Vicky’s eldest son became Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. The book King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War by Catrine Clay profiles the three royal cousins, George V of England (grandson of Queen Victoria), Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (married to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria), who ruled during World War I. It’s an excellent and educational book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Five of Victoria and Albert’s granddaughters married reigning monarchs of Russia, Spain, Norway, Greece and Romania.  The book Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria by Julia P. Gelardi is a fascinating biography of all five women.

Related Reading

Now that you know a little about the British monarchy during the Victorian era, you may be wondering how the rest of the people lived – from other aristocrats to the working class.  Here are two books that might help. Daily Life in Victorian England by Sally Mitchell has chapters on education, health & medicine, private and official life, class and many other subjects. Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders focuses on life in the home, room by room, from the bedroom to the parlor and rooms in between.

Happy reading!

∼ Vicky, Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library

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