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.