A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy

Helen Rappaport. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-62105-6
In a sad portrayal of Queen Victoria, Rappaport shows her plunged into deep mourning after the death of Prince Albert in 1861 at age 42. The queen avoided public appearances for 10 years, wearing black for the remainder of her life, and building enormously expensive memorials—and, says independent historian Rappaport, dangerously diminished the monarchy’s popularity and enabled republicanism in the process. Her orgy of grief—which Rappaport interprets as indulgent but also a sign of clinical depression—came to an end when her heir, the rakish Bertie, almost died of typhoid fever. In their 21-year marriage, Victoria was besotted with Albert, who eclipsed her relationship with her nine children, undermined her self-confidence, and made her totally dependent as he effectively ruled as king. Offering strong circumstantial evidence against the official report that Albert died of typhoid fever, Rappaport (The Last Days of the Romanovs) suggests that an overworked, depressed Albert—disliked by a nation he devotedly served and trying to keep Britain from entering the American Civil War on the side of the South—died of Crohn’s disease complicated by pneumonia. Rappaport offers an absorbing, perceptive, and detailed picture of a constitutional monarchy in crisis. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent: Charlie Viney, the Vine Agency (U.K.) (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/09/2012
Release date: 03/13/2012
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