QUEEN VICTORIA AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE RIVIERA

Michael Nelson, Author, Lord Asa Briggs, Foreword by, Asa Briggs, Foreword by , with a foreword by Lord Asa Briggs. I.B. Tauris $35 (192p) ISBN 978-1-86064-646-1

As head of a worldwide empire and as someone who maintained close lifelong ties with high-born relatives all over Europe, "[t]he Queen has to be placed in more than a British setting," declares noted Victorianist Briggs in his foreword. Nelson, a 19th-century historian, follows Victoria from London to the French Riviera, where she spent several extended vacations during her last 20 years. Apart from this geographic repositioning, however, he provides few truly new insights on Victoria as a monarch or an individual. Though he purports to focus on how Victoria's patronage stimulated the tourist economy in the Riviera, Nelson doesn't conclusively explore that topic or explain why it merits book-length treatment. Yet despite its thin, lackluster central premise, this is quite a charming read. Nelson peppers his narrative with amusing anecdotes and rambling tangential stories about the Queen and her retinue that afford a wide-ranging, slice-of-life perspective on Victoria and her milieu. Six days worth of journal entries about the death of Elizabeth Reynolds, her personal maid, reveal her sympathy and devotion for her entourage. In a letter, maid of honor Marie Adeane describes "some very good fireworks... which the Queen enjoyed like a child." At times breathlessly gossipy (on various royal sex scandals), at other times astutely analytical (of the Queen's negotiations of foreign policy crises), this is an enjoyable portrait of one of the modern era's most important monarchs. 16 pages of photos. (June 11)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
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