genre: historical nonfiction
synopsis: the lives of queen victoria and prince albert, their marriage, and partnership in reigning over great britain
setting: london, england, 1819-1861
what i liked: learning more about prince albert’s childhood, his contributions to the british government during his time as prince consort, and the general dynamics in 1800s europe
what i did not like: a lot.
i got my degree in english and history, and while most people would and do expect the english department to have disciplined me in the ways of academic writing, it was actually the history department. history is often accused of being written dryly because historians are trained to get straight to the point.
gill writes well enough, but her first few chapters meandered from point to point, rather than following in a logical order. the book as a whole seemed to do the same; at one point gill spends two chapters in focus on the couple’s two eldest children (one on the princess royal, the next on the prince of wales), drops a cliffhanger regarding the prince, then without segue begins the next chapter by talking about the entire family again. gill’s intention seemed to be to point out that queen victoria and prince albert spent their entire marriage in shrouded competition for power, at home and at throne, and while i have no doubt that’s true, she portrayed it as a simple power struggle rather than a deeply complex, simultaneously mutual and individual wrestling through what it meant, for victoria, to balance being the queen regnant of a world power with being a submissive wife and devoted mother, and for albert, to balance being a minor prince of germany in a xenophobic london and having to seek his wife’s approval for government policy while yet maintaining his place as head of his household.
one of the reviews on amazon says this book is “impressively researched,” which is true, and which i appreciated. but gill is also quick to pass judgment where she should analyze with nuance, and quick to conjecture where there is no hard evidence to point to her conclusions.
trigger warning: in detailing the sexual licentiousness of some of the minor characters, there are references to attempted rape
final thoughts: it’s a good read if you’re looking for an overview of the lives of queen victoria and prince albert, and more than my usual interest in the royal family, now i want to read everything about them and their descendants. but while i enjoyed it for that, i’ll be looking for another book on queen victoria and prince albert for a (hopefully) more nuanced glimpse of their life together.