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Her Little Majesty: The Life of Queen Victoria

Her Little Majesty: The Life of Queen Victoria

by Carolly Erickson

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In this impeccably researched work, an award-winning historian sweeps away the puritanical myths surrounding Queen Victoria to provide a fresh portrait of a stalwart, passionate Victoria who remains one of history's most intriguing rulers. of photos.


In this impeccably researched work, an award-winning historian sweeps away the puritanical myths surrounding Queen Victoria to provide a fresh portrait of a stalwart, passionate Victoria who remains one of history's most intriguing rulers. of photos.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A brief biography written in gushy style, with clichs to match, Her Little Majesty-the title is apparently ironic in several senses-is a portrayal of the queen who, at the close of her reign, was "almost as broad as she was long." Erickson (Bloody Mary) has apparently put her book together from other books, with no new documentation and with errors emerging as early as the second page. One discovers there that Victoria was the only living legitimate heir to the throne in her generation, although she had two male cousins of her age, each a Prince George. Erickson also has a tendency to put thoughts-often total irrelevancies-into the heads of her characters: "But of course she could not go to [live in] Australia, for Albert would not have gone with her, and she needed Albert desperately." Fictional devices proliferate: "The baby slept on, and her mother, feeling safer than she had in months...." The biography is most striking in undoing the fawning portraiture of artistic flatterers ("Beneath her layers of fat, her lined face and heavy round cheeks") and in exploiting at length costume and fashion over the Victorian decades to exemplify social change. That strategy may also serve to keep some readers turning pages to learn about "lemon bosoms" and "bustle pads." Entire years escape the narrative, but Erickson has a knack for plucking pithy quotes, and the essentials of the queen's life are often deftly set out. Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC, QPB and History Book Club alternates. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Erickson (Great Catherine, LJ 6/1/94) has a vivid, engaging style that draws the reader into this biography as if it were a novel. Unfortunately, her central character is not believable. In one chapter, Victoria's marriage is faltering; in the next, she is prostrate with grief at Albert's death. While Albert is alive, Erickson indicates that Victoria relinquishes most of the governing to him. Yet after he dies we are told that she has good governing instincts from her years of experience as monarch. Real people are not as consistent as fictional characters, but as Erickson portrays Victoria, it is impossible to get a grasp on who she was. A longer treatment might have allowed a more nuanced, more accurate portrayal; as it stands, this latest biography is a marginal acquisition despite its readability.-Jean E.S. Storrs, Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Baltimore
School Library Journal
YAIn this entertaining biography of a central figure of the 19th century, YAs will discover many quirks and contradictions about the monarch's life. Her childhood was a sad, lonely affair, stifled by her overbearing mother. An affectionate, strong-willed girl, Victoria had to develop inner resources to survive. Inheriting the throne at age 18, she represented a new age to subjects thoroughly tired of her dissolute uncles and Regency excesses. She married her cousin, Albert, and they poured their considerable energies into raising a large family and running England. Following his death, and through the cataclysmic changes of the century, Victoria ruled steadily, personal strength carrying her through crisis after crisis. Her stodgy reputation is explained more as a phenomenon of the age than a true reflection of her complex personality. Given to romance and melodrama, she was also stubborn and hot tempered. Her life story will appeal to YAs, especially Victoria's difficult teen years, early years on the throne, and passion for Albert. Her strong and weak personality traits are sympathetically discussed and the opinions of her contemporaries give balanced views of the queen. The chronicles of the 19th century are nicely presented in a readable format, relating the great events of the age as they affected Victoria.Catherine Noonan, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A vivid biography of Britain's longest-reigning monarch, with an emphasis on the queen's personal life.

When the inexperienced, dowdy Princess Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, few people expected her to reign until 1901 or to give her name to an entire age. Reconstructing such homely matters as Victoria's daily routines with her dogs, her children, and her servants, veteran biographer Erickson (To the Scaffold: The Life of Marie Antoinette, 1991, etc.) overcomes the remoteness and abstraction of textbook history to demonstrate that Victoria was in some ways very un-Victorian. She had a passionate sex life with her husband, Albert. Although she believed that women had little place outside the home, she played an active, even aggressive role in public life, especially in foreign affairs. However, Erickson does not appear to recognize the dangers of identifying too closely with her subject. Victoria's attitude to her working-class subjects was a mixture of contempt, fear, and romantic idealization. She gloried in her elevation to the title of empress of India, but the Indian people were either unrealistically idealized for their spirituality or furiously vilified as the fiendish murderers of white women and children during the Mutiny of 1857. Victoria's narrow view of the world had important political consequences that Erickson ignores, notably in the case of Ireland. By her stubborn opposition to political rights for the Irish, Victoria helped to block the far-sighted attempt by her prime minister, William Gladstone, to grant them greater autonomy. The consequences of that failure have been tragic.

Although a useful introduction to the details of everyday life among the upper classes, this is an unreliable guide to the broader issues of 19th-century British and imperial history.

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Simon & Schuster
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0.71(w) x 6.00(h) x 9.00(d)

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