The year 2019 marks the bicentenary of Queen Victoria, and although plenty of new books are being released for the occasion, there is also a steady stream of books being reprinted; like Victoria, Portrait of a Queen, which was first published in 2015.
Victoria was born on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace in London as the only child of Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn. When her uncle King William IV came to the throne in 1830, Victoria was his heiress presumptive. Victoria grew up at Kensington Palace, under the so-called Kensington System. Victoria’s accession on 20 June 1837 broke the personal union with the Kingdom of Hanover, which was under Salic law, preventing her from becoming Hanover’s Queen. Instead, her uncle became Ernest Augustus I of Hanover.
In her early reign, she was quite popular, though her reputation suffered when she believed the rumours of her mother’s lady-in-waiting Lady Flora Hastings’ pregnancy. Lady Flora died, and the autopsy revealed a large tumour on her liver that had distended into her abdomen, thus explaining her appearance. Her popularity was revived when she married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840. They would go on to have nine children.
The majority of her reign was blighted by the death of her husband. He died in 1861, possibly of typhoid fever, though his long-term complaints could suggest something else. She dressed in mourning for the rest of her life and even had his clothes laid out every day. Her self-isolation caused her popularity to plummet. By 1872, this had recovered slightly as her son recovered from the same illness that had killed her husband. On 23 September 1896, Victoria surpassed her grandfather George III as the longest-reigning monarch in English, Scottish, and British history, though this record was broken by Queen Elizabeth II last year.
By Christmas 1900, Victoria was rendered lame by rheumatism in her legs, and she had cataracts. By January, she felt weak and unwell. She died on 22 January 1901 at the age of 81. She was succeeded by her eldest son, King Edward VII.
Victoria, Portrait of a Queen by Richard Mullen & James Munson tells Queen Victoria’s story, but I had trouble concentrating on the narrative. I’ve read plenty of biographies on Queen Victoria, but for some reason, I just found this rather boring. The story doesn’t bring Queen Victoria to life and seems to drone on and on. I received this as an e-book which also had two pages in one, making the text extremely small and difficult to read (my e-reader does have the option to zoom in, but it makes the whole thing very slow!). Overall, the book is well-researched and factual, but I just wish it had more life.