Victoria: The Queen

Victoria: The Queen is an overview of Victoria’s life, meant for non-academics. I picked it up from one of the Free Little Libraries in my neighborhood on a whim, because I know very little about Victoria, other than she was Queen for a very long time.

It was very readable, and you get the idea that she was a very passionate and ambitious women who had nonetheless fully digested the idea that women were inferior to men and that to be a wife and mother was the highest calling for a woman (in marked contrast to Germaine de Staël, the other historical woman I’ve read about recently). So when she marries Albert and he decides he wants to be king in all but name, she supports that. It leads, of course, to a crisis of self-confidence – she becomes less and less convinced that she knows what she’s doing as queen, even though they are co-rulers for much of the time, because her attention is taken up by their nine children.

After Albert dies, she does slowly regain her confidence in herself and her abilities, and her lifelong quest is for love and friendship. As Queen of England she has very few people she can be friends with, and she relies on her children and their families for that companionship.

In fact, I wonder if her reliance on a domestic image – she never stopped wearing mourning-wear after Albert died – was a way of undercutting the image of an all-powerful queen. “You can trust me! I’m just like you: raising my children, spending time with the grandkids! Pay no attention to the power behind the curtain.” Her age was not one that allowed women to be powerful leaders. She both loved her family and used them, to my mind, to allow her to stay on the throne. (She could have abdicated in favor of her son Bertie at any time, and never did.)

I quite liked Victoria: The Queen, even though I spent the Albert years railing against his overreach of his position, his manipulation of Victoria to get what he wanted, and Victoria allowing him to accrue power because she loved him. I would recommend it if you want to learn about her and have little idea of who she was.

So… that women in history thing? What happened to that?

At the beginning of the year, I promised to write about women in history, and I was starting it off with Cleopatra. Because Cleopatra is awesome, I have a small obsession with ancient Rome, and she figures heavily in that.

But the long and short of it is: I didn’t carve out enough time. I was able to scramble it in for four posts, getting through her childhood to the death of her first lover, Julius Caesar. And that was it. Then books were due at the library and a rush of other things happened and it fell by the wayside.

So this is me, setting aside time. It will still be slow-going, I suspect, and maybe a little bursty. A handful of posts one week, none the next. I have another post drafted and ideas in my head for two more about Cleopatra. Those should come fairly quickly. The plan after that is to finish up her life and then move on to Elizabeth I.

Why Elizabeth I? Because she ruled ably over a very stable England for a very long time. And, in Wolf Hall, when Damien Lewis’ Henry VIII gets all angry about how “useless” Anne Boleyn’s child was because she was a girl… well. It got my dander up.

To summarize: I’m finishing up Cleopatra and then moving on to Elizabeth I. More soon.