24 May 2015

Royal Reads: Victorian Biographies

Time to delve into my ever-growing pile of royal books, dear readers! Today we've got two biographies of key figures from the nineteenth century on tap...

A.N. Wilson
Penguin, 2014

I received a copy of the latest biography of Queen Victoria more than six months ago, and I have been working through it slowly ever since. The length of this one is not for the faint of heart: it's more than 650 pages long! But a long, complicated, important life like Victoria's takes a lot of time to discuss in depth, and I've enjoyed the book immensely. A.N. Wilson sorts through the various stereotypical portraits of the monarch -- abused child, naive young queen, besotted wife, endlessly grieving widow -- and picks away the veneer to reveal the more complex woman beneath. There were times when I wished for a bit less of some of the men in Victoria's life (Melbourne, Albert, etc.) and more about Victoria herself, but that's a minor quibble, really. If you're fascinated by Victoria and the era she lived in, you'll love Wilson's book. [Available at Amazon and other retailers]

Jane Ridley
Random House, 2013

Now in paperback, Jane Ridley's biography of King Edward VII -- son of the aforementioned Victoria -- was one of the most fascinating additions to my bookshelf this year. Bertie was king for less than a decade, which meant that he spent the majority of his adult life in the shadow of his mother. Ridley deftly brings her subject out of the background, painting an intriguing picture of a complicated man. I especially loved that the book also spent a great deal of time on the life of Bertie's wife, Queen Alexandra. The story of their marriage is not nearly as well known as the saga of Bertie's parents, and I really liked getting more background on a relationship that was less familiar to me. The book is a great companion to the Wilson biography -- the portrayals of mother and son are an extremely interesting pairing. [Available at Amazon and other retailers]

Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of Wilson's book for review. (I purchased Ridley's book with my own money.) All opinions contained in this review are my own. Links to books within this post are Amazon affiliate links; I use the proceeds to purchase more materials for review on this blog.