“To survey the political history of the world’s most powerful empire while also doing justice to the inner life of a short, stout mother and grandmother is a tall order. That Wilson succeeds testifies to an ability he shares with Victorian writers like Dickens and George Eliot: to make readers sympathize with the heroine despite, or even because of, her very human foibles.”
The Washington Post:
“Wilson’s [biography of Queen Victoria] may be the best I have read…This volume is surely the capstone of his career so far as that particular subject is concerned, not merely a persuasive, unsentimental but admiring and engaging portrait of the great woman herself, but a vivid account of the world in which she lived and to which she contributed so much.”
The Wall Street Journal:
“[An] engaging biography…Mr. Wilson takes on the long journey of the queen’s life with an assured, affectionate portrait written in accessible prose. His Victoria is a vivid personality, kindly, combative and impetuous by turns, deeply conscious of the dignity of her office and, for all her faults, ‘loveable.'"
“Masterful…Wilson has crafted a thoughtful… often deliciously entertaining tale of a unique monarch and a woman of unexpected quirk and charm…Wilson, one of those rare biographers who knows something of wit…smoothly takes us through Victoria’s long journey: her love match with her beloved Prince Albert, her ‘operatic’ mourning after his early death, her up-and-down relationships with a caravan of prime ministers, her transformation in her later years into a figure whose influence was felt far beyond Britain, her complex feelings toward her children, her ultimate embrace by her subjects.”
“One of Mr. Wilson’s most remarkable achievements in this biography is to deconstruct — or in some places to destroy — the mythologizing of Victoria by herself and others…[Wilson] has put a lot into this biography, with the result that there is an obvious intimacy between author and subject rarely seen. He is by turns censorious and understanding, gossipy and respectful, consistently able to distinguish between fact and speculation, but not afraid to plunge into the latter while separating their validities. He makes no bones about Victoria’s ability as a human being, not just as a queen, to fascinate…Compelling.”
“What to call [A. N. Wilson] now? 'Eminent Victorianist' seems appropriate. Lytton Strachey, the acerbic author of Eminent Victorians as well as a biography of Victoria far less good than this, is never far away when Wilson writes about a period that, in several books, he has made very much his own... Wilson is an excellent history teacher. He orders and narrates the hugely complex socio-political events and party infighting of the 19th century with a rare clarity... Wilson sums up his feelings about Victoria in a single word: 'Awe'. His own achievement, sustained by a lifetime’s scholarly fascination with the Victorian era, is also, in its way, awesome.”
Christian Science Monitor:
“[Wilson’s] ability to manage both length of manuscript and depth of analysis serve him well as he chronicles the life and times of Victoria…[Victoria’s] initially clumsy and eventually masterful political tightrope-walking between passive figurehead and royal dictator gives the book a clean and dramatic throughline, and the reader often feels the political vertigo that at times afflicted the monarch…An observant reader will find the book’s meditation on the queen’s influence and iconic prominence a useful case study of those moments when individuals transcend their systems and assume historically unusual amounts of power.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
“Stately…[Wilson is] a superb biographer… [It is his] great achievement is that he has liberated Victoria from the protective raiment of her family and the British establishment.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred):
“A shimmering portrait of a tempestuous monarch…[Wilson] lends a lively expertise to his portrayal of the forthright, formidable, still-enigmatic sovereign…During her long reign, Victoria had come to embody the experience of an entire age, overseeing great reform and the strengthening of ties between India and the British Empire. A robust, immensely entertaining portrait from a master biographer.”
“Few if any previous biographers have viewed [Queen Victoria] as incisively and absorbingly as Wilson does in his lengthy but smoothly flowing treatment of the queen’s long life. The considerable detail he brings to his greatly balanced portrait not only strengthens his estimation of the significance of the queen in British governmental history but also successfully conveys for the general reader all the nuances of character that Wilson so carefully shares.”
Library Journal (starred):
“[A] comprehensive, highly accessible work…rooted in the complex political and international details of the era… Wilson is most successful in identifying and highlighting the monarch’s paradoxes: the contrasts between the ‘little woman in a bonnet’ and the queen who proudly controlled the British empire. Highly recommended for readers fascinated by the lives of notable individuals and British royalty.”
“More than a Victoria biography, Wilson skillfully weaves the vast narrative of the Victorian landscape.”
The Guardian (UK):
“Subtle, thoughtful…Wilson picks up the pieces and puts the jigsaw back together again, creating in the process a Victoria for our own times…[A] shimmering and rather wonderful biography.”
The Spectator (UK):
“Superb…The book that [Wilson] was born to write…Wilson clearly loves and admires his subject, but this is a critical biography—funny, insightful, original, and authoritative. At last Victoria has been rescued from her widow’s weeds.”
The Sunday Times (UK):
“A.N. Wilson brings his novelist’s perception and immense knowledge of the era to his effervescent biography of the tiny woman (4ft 11in) who ruled Britain for 61 years...This won’t be the last biography of Victoria but it is certainly the most interesting and original in a long time.”
The Times (UK):
"A.N. Wilson has written a sympathetic but by no means hagiographic biography of her that will probably overturn many people’s prejudiced conception of her... Wilson’s picture of her is a rounded one, with her vices and virtues."
The Evening Standard (UK):
“[A] splendid biography–this book is a gem: thoughtful, witty, insightful, striking a balance between political commentary and personal gossip ... As this terrific biography shows, there really was a human being behind the gloomy portraits.”
The Daily Telegraph (UK):
“As Hamlet is to actors, Victoria is to writers. The Queen Empress is the ultimate biographical challenge, a role to be taken on only at the apex of a literary career. Ninety-five years ago, the standard was set by Lytton Strachey’s lucid and moving Queen Victoria, but A. N. Wilson has now raised the bar…What a pity [Victoria] never met A. N. Wilson: she shines in his company…[An] expansive and victorious book.”
When Queen Victoria died in 1901, she had ruled for nearly sixty-four years. She was the mother of nine and grandmother of forty-two and the matriarch of royal Europe through her children’s marriages. To many, Queen Victoria is a ruler shrouded in myth and mystique, an aging, stiff widow paraded as the figurehead to an all-male imperial enterprise. But in truth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch was one of the most passionate, expressive, humorous, and unconventional women who ever lived, and the story of her life continues to fascinate.
A. N. Wilson’s exhaustively researched and definitive biography includes a wealth of new material from previously unseen sources to show us Queen Victoria as she’s never been seen before. Wilson explores the curious set of circumstances that led to Victoria’s coronation, her strange and isolated childhood, her passionate marriage to Prince Albert and his pivotal influence even after death, and her widowhood and subsequent intimate friendship with her Highland servant John Brown, all set against the backdrop of this momentous epoch in Britain’s history—and the world’s.
Born at the very moment of the expansion of British political and commercial power across the globe, Victoria went on to chart a unique course for her country even as she became the matriarch of nearly every great dynasty of Europe. Her destiny was thus interwoven with those of millions of people—not just in Europe but in the ever-expanding empire that Britain was becoming throughout the nineteenth century. The famed queen had a face that adorned postage stamps, banners, statues, and busts all over the known world.
Wilson’s Victoria is a towering achievement, a masterpiece of biography by a writer at the height of his powers.
*Read the book, then watch the PBS series "Victoria," starring Jenna Coleman (Dr. Who), Rufus Sewell (Pillars of the Earth), Dame Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones), and Tom Hughes (About Time).*