Victoria: Biography of a Queen by Stanley Weintraub - review by Alastair Forbes

Alastair Forbes

Heading To Come Later

Victoria: Biography of a Queen


Unwin Hyman 700 pp £17.50

For most of the spring and early summer months, the Royal Standard flies from the Round Tower of Windsor Castle, the Queen's favourite residence ever since her girlhood immurement there for the long wartime years when her future Poet Laureate's black-humoured prayer 'Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough ' remained night after night unanswered. How unlike in this her taste to that of her great-great- grandmother Victoria who would wax 'almost angry' to read her eldest daughter's homesick references to 'dear, dear Windsor '.

'I cannot,' she wrote in 1859, 'ever feel the slightest affection or tendre (sic) for this fine, old dull place which please God shall never hold my bones.' Another prayer gone unanswered, for after the death there two years later of her beloved Consort, it had become 'this dreary, gloomy old place … poor, sad old Windsor … which is now associated with so much that is precious to me … everything reminds one of my Angel's last weeks …  truly melancholy and painful and yet I love being here and reliving everything in my thoughts.'

In due course she came to enjoy her walks from the Castle 'down to the dear peaceful Mausoleum' at Frogmore where her old bones now lie beneath Baron Marochetti's full-length marble likeness of herself (at her side her Consort already petrified by the same Italian hand) as she was when she lost a husband who, as she proclaimed with pride, was 'at the end of 21 years not only full of the friendship, kindness and affection which a truly happy marriage brings with it, but the same tender love of the very first days of our marriage.’

The Mausoleum is indeed a most wonderful curiosity and it is sad that it is open to the public only three days a year. I was lucky to revisit it this year on almost the only sunny day of what that truly Schubertian lieder-composer Albert (of whom Disraeli not more

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