Queen Victoria can be a distressing figure to anyone who chooses to write the history of her age. As A N Wilson correctly points out towards the end of his book, part of the challenge for her biographers is to write about the person, because apart from being queen she did so little. Indeed, even as queen she did so little. The first third of her reign was largely spent in child-bearing; the next third in prostrate grief after the death of her husband; and in the final third she slowly re-emerged to create the ‘dear old Queen’ of popular legend – the brooding late-Hanoverian image still to be seen on statues and in pictures all over the country and beyond. Wilson says several times in his biography, which is extensively researched, that he finds Victoria ‘loveable’. She could certainly display charm and even, on occasions, wit; she was also susceptible to the normal human emotions in a life that royalty made intensely lonely. Loveable, though, is another matter.
More than a decade ago Wilson published his highly acclaimed history of the Victorian period; anyone who has had the pleasure of reading that book will find a lot of this one quite familiar. Context is important in writing a life, and often this book seems as much a history