cover image Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert

Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert

Stanley Weintraub. Free Press, $27.5 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-684-83486-3

Queen Victoria would doubtless have been delighted by this biography of her adored husband, after the implications of the title had evoked the royal scowl. Prolific biographer Weintraub writes that he learned to respect Victoria's prince consort so deeply while writing about the queen herself in Victoria that he now builds a strong case that Albert, far from being a minor German princeling, was in fact a conscientious, well-informed administrator who essentially acted as England's king while married to Victoria. On his early death at age 42 in 1861, Prime Minister Disraeli said, ""This German Prince has governed England for twenty-one years with a wisdom and energy such as none of our Kings have ever shown."" Albert's wife, after all, produced during those years an unprecedented nine children, who went on to repopulate the ranks of European royalty. While reviled by many of his wife's subjects as a foreigner and worse yet, a German, Albert fought valiantly to improve British education and single-handedly pulled together the Great Exhibition of 1851 with its magnificent Crystal Palace. He was involved in almost every aspect of Her Majesty's government, to the mixed reactions of prime ministers, and he met his match in Lord Palmerston, who ignored and thwarted Albert and Victoria at every turn. Drawing on his detailed knowledge of the protagonists, Weintraub's persuasive argument that Albert was certainly the power behind the throne should cause a reevaluation. The 40 years of Victoria's reign after her husband's death and the dynastic web she spun across the Continent by marrying off her many children have tended to obscure Albert's role. Weintraub sets the record straight, leaving the reader with new admiration for this underestimated man. Photos not seen by PW. (June)