cover image Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe

Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe

Deborah Cadbury. Public Affairs, $27 (416p) ISBN 978-1-61039-846-6

British historian and documentarian Cadbury (Princes at War) energetically reveals the extent of Queen Victoria’s meddling in the marriage arrangements of her grandchildren in order to create the family’s ideal British-German alliance. The diminutive and aging Victoria remained an imposing figure to her numerous offspring, but some among them—notably within her favored German branch—defied her and instead married for love. In one case, her own Russian grandson, the future Nicholas II, had to essentially woo her in order to marry her favorite granddaughter, and his own cousin, Alix of Hesse. Victoria’s concerns about Russia’s unstable monarchy and political violence proved well-founded, as Nicholas II and Alexandra Romanov became Russia’s last imperial couple. While high-stakes matchmaking is Cadbury’s central theme, she delves into the fruits of that optimistic enterprise while navigating the religious and personality pitfalls into which the sometimes petulant Victoria drew herself. Cadbury notes that it was Victoria’s own grand plan to reshape Europe that bore unfortunate results; her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II rebelled and his own instability partially led to the events that caused WWI. While royal matchmaking implies spectacular weddings and the enhancement of power, Cadbury’s engrossing family history proves that it was a deadly serious proposition. (Nov.)