I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I have always enjoyed learning about 19th century England and reading books set in that era. It was a time of discovery, innovation, and empire building, and it centered around the monarch whose name became synonymous with (most of) the century: Victoria.

Julia Baird’s biography Victoria: The Queen is a masterpiece. Baird does a wonderful job of setting up the events that led to Victoria’s placement as heir to the throne; one can picture those dissolute younger sons of George III abandoning their mistresses and scrambling to find royal brides. Baird vividly portrays Victoria’s life, from her lonely childhood to her dynamic with the scheming Conroy, and her abject sorrow following Prince Albert’s untimely death.

The book is full of little details, some of which have little significance but are fascinating nonetheless. For example, I learned that royal wetnurses stood while nursing, out of deference for their exalted charges.

Baird does concede that a great deal of personal correspondence was destroyed after Victoria’s death due to the sensitive nature of the documents, but enough remains to piece together a cohesive narrative. We are treated to a very realistic portrait of the queen, one who complained bitterly about her many pregnancies and criticized her children for their faults (both real and imagined).

I would absolutely recommend Victoria: The Queen. Baird uses an engaging manner to present the material, and reading was never tiresome. I also appreciated her many footnotes, which provide even more detail than the main text. This is sure to become one of the definitive accounts of Victoria’s life.

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