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Old 09-24-2013, 02:44 PM   #16
Hamlet53
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So I really can't add much to the existing comments about this book as related to it as a work of literature. The writing was excellent and designed to keep the reader interested, if not a page turner than at least a book one would be loath to put down. Obviously a lot of historical fact had to be omitted in a relatively short book that covered a lifetime of almost 82 years and almost 64 of those years as queen. That and at least the middle third of the book was more a biography of Prince Albert. Still I came away feeling that the author had left me well informed about Victoria the person throughout her lifetime. So I will confine my comments to observations about Victoria and Strachey's take on her.

It was certainly not new to me, but the first portion of the book certainly reminded me of how inbred royals all across Europe had become by the 19th Century. It is impossible to say how big an impact this produced on history, but it must have had some significance. If Prince Albert's sympathy for his native Germany could have had an effect on the foreign policy of Great Britain, how much more so must similar feelings of allegiance to family or to birth nation have had in countries where monarchs still retained significant power? Then there is the significance of Victoria's being so prolific in producing offspring. Victoria was a carrier of the gene for hemophilia, and through her children and grandchildren transmitted this genetic disorder though out European royal families (attached figure 1). This gained historical significance for sure in at least one case with the fact that Alexis the son and would have been heir of Nicholas II of Russia was afflicted through his mother Alexandra, a granddaughter of Victoria. Speaking of which I was reminded of a photograph that was included in the book Nicholas and Alexandra that I read many years ago (attached figure 2). Talk about inbreeding! The photo shows Nicholas II of Russia and George V of England, both grandsons of Victoria, posing together in similar attire. That's Nicholas on the left..



I found that while Strachey was willing to be honest about some of Victoria's limitations as a person and as a queen, there was still a “God Save the Queen” attitude underlying the book. Certainly both Victoria and Albert would be examined more critically in a biography written today than one written in 1921. Victoria was the perfect Queen of England for her day though with an attitude of pompous superiority that was a reflection of how the British viewed themselves with respect to the rest of the world.

In Strachey's recount of Victoria's behavior in the last couple decades of her life I was reminded of the comic observation that what would be referred to as insane among ordinary people is called eccentric among the upper class.
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Old 09-25-2013, 07:30 AM   #17
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I found that while Strachey was willing to be honest about some of Victoria's limitations as a person and as a queen, there was still a “God Save the Queen” attitude underlying the book. Certainly both Victoria and Albert would be examined more critically in a biography written today than one written in 1921. Victoria was the perfect Queen of England for her day though with an attitude of pompous superiority that was a reflection of how the British viewed themselves with respect to the rest of the world.

In Strachey's recount of Victoria's behavior in the last couple decades of her life I was reminded of the comic observation that what would be referred to as insane among ordinary people is called eccentric among the upper class.
I think this "God Save the Queen" attitude is partly behind the reason that Lytton Strachey rather skates over the relationship between the very rough Scotsman John Brown and the Queen.

There isn't any doubt but that Brown was more than just a servant to Victoria; others were appalled at the familiarity that seemed to exist between the two and Victoria's eldest son absolutely hated him. When he became Edward VI he made a point of destroying most of the mementos of Brown left by his mother and had the life-sized statue Victoria had raised to the memory of her "servant" moved to a nearly inaccessible place on the Balmoral estate. It is still possible to visit it but one is advised to get local help to find the spot.

There are two prominent theories regarding the Victoria-Brown relationship. One is that they were secretly united in a morganatic marriage. The prime source of this is an alleged death-bed confession by the clergyman who united them. Here's a short article from the Telegraph about the theory:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/l...owns-wife.html

There is another--probably more likely theory {IMO} which holds that Brown's influence over the Queen arose from the fact that he was a psychic who put her in touch with her dead husband. Here's a link to a review of a book which makes this claim:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...t-s-shade.html

This is, of course, only an opinion and I would have my suspicions about a book which seems to be tied to spiritualist ideas, but the psychic links Brown's apparent psychic powers have been mentioned in other sources. Considering Victoria's obsession with Albert it isn't unlikely that she might grasp at the possibility of psychic communication.
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Old 09-26-2013, 04:55 AM   #18
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It seems to me most likely that Victoria valued John Brown because Albert had thought highly of him, and his informality with her probably made an enjoyable change from the formalities of Court. Clearly she really enjoyed being in the Highlands and mixing with the locals. I must say I find it pretty unlikely that she married him or had any sort of sexual relationship with him - she was Albert's wife to the day she died.

Hamlet, they were certainly getting pretty inbred, weren't they - not at all a good idea. Not meaning to be picky, but actually I think you will find that Nicholas II of Russia was George V's cousin because their mothers were sisters, both from Denmark - Nicholas wasn't a grandson of Victoria, although his wife Alexandra was a granddaughter, and Kaiser Wilhelm was another grandson.
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Old 09-27-2013, 12:32 AM   #19
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And, there was also the unusual and close relationship that she developed with her Indian servant Abdul Karim. I bought the book Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu last year but haven't read it yet.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12670110

I find it interesting that she was so fascinated with India yet never visited there. She added a wing to Osborne in 1890 which contained the Durbar Room intended for state functions. She commissioned John Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard's father) who then enlisted the architect Bhai Ram Singh to design the interior. It now contains items celebrating her jubilees in display cases. A quick Google search brings up loads of photos if you want to see how intricate and beautiful this room was.

Osborne House also has on display a collection of paintings which Queen Victoria commissioned from Rudolf Swoboda. These paintings are of Indians resident or visiting Britain in the 19th Century and other Indian scenes observed during the artist's travels. While in India he stayed with Kipling.

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Old 09-27-2013, 01:40 AM   #20
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Thanks for that, Bookwork_Girl - very interesting about the Durbar Room and Kipling senior's involvement.
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Old 09-27-2013, 01:36 PM   #21
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Hamlet, they were certainly getting pretty inbred, weren't they - not at all a good idea. Not meaning to be picky, but actually I think you will find that Nicholas II of Russia was George V's cousin because their mothers were sisters, both from Denmark - Nicholas wasn't a grandson of Victoria, although his wife Alexandra was a granddaughter, and Kaiser Wilhelm was another grandson.
You're right. Thanks for the correction.

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And, there was also the unusual and close relationship that she developed with her Indian servant Abdul Karim. I bought the book Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu last year but haven't read it yet.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12670110

I find it interesting that she was so fascinated with India yet never visited there. She added a wing to Osborne in 1890 which contained the Durbar Room intended for state functions. She commissioned John Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard's father) who then enlisted the architect Bhai Ram Singh to design the interior. It now contains items celebrating her jubilees in display cases. A quick Google search brings up loads of photos if you want to see how intricate and beautiful this room was.

Osborne House also has on display a collection of paintings which Queen Victoria commissioned from Rudolf Swoboda. These paintings are of Indians resident or visiting Britain in the 19th Century and other Indian scenes observed during the artist's travels. While in India he stayed with Kipling.
Thanks for that information. Those photos are amazing.
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Old 09-28-2013, 02:41 PM   #22
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And, there was also the unusual and close relationship that she developed with her Indian servant Abdul Karim. I bought the book Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu last year but haven't read it yet.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12670110

I find it interesting that she was so fascinated with India yet never visited there. She added a wing to Osborne in 1890 which contained the Durbar Room intended for state functions. She commissioned John Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard's father) who then enlisted the architect Bhai Ram Singh to design the interior. It now contains items celebrating her jubilees in display cases. A quick Google search brings up loads of photos if you want to see how intricate and beautiful this room was.

Osborne House also has on display a collection of paintings which Queen Victoria commissioned from Rudolf Swoboda. These paintings are of Indians resident or visiting Britain in the 19th Century and other Indian scenes observed during the artist's travels. While in India he stayed with Kipling.
Thank you Bookworm_Girl for the information about Queen Victoria and her fascination with India. I think I'll try to get the book 'Victoria and Abdul'.
Overall...I didn't get to finish this book, but I read and appreciate all of your excellent and insightful posts about it. Thanks for that.

I try to keep up with all the selections of the bookclub, but I am somewhat pressed for time at work and beyond right now.
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Old 10-01-2013, 05:41 PM   #23
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I am coming late to the party, and have not much to add, save for the fact that this seems to me a very effective pro-republic pamphplet
In Strachey's portrait Victoria's education does not prepare her for high office, she is voluble, obviously lacks judgment, and appears mostly intent in making sure her will is translated by others into deeds. She stamps her feet like a child in tantrums, and if she does not get her way it is the world who just don't understand her.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book very much, and Strachey's irony had me laugh out loud many times.
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Old 10-10-2013, 03:29 PM   #24
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Yay, finished at last! I have nothing to add to the comments so far, except to say that I found this almost as laborious as The Satanic Verses!
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Old 10-10-2013, 05:41 PM   #25
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Yay, finished at last! I have nothing to add to the comments so far, except to say that I found this almost as laborious as The Satanic Verses!
But at least you finished it and didn't give up! I would be curious to hear why you found it laborious. I don't mind reading dissenting opinions for different viewpoints.
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Old 10-11-2013, 03:30 AM   #26
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But at least you finished it and didn't give up! I would be curious to hear why you found it laborious. I don't mind reading dissenting opinions for different viewpoints.
I've only ever given up on a book once and that was this summer!

The book wasn't really what I expected, not enough information about Victoria for me, there seemed to be far more about the people around her (which I suppose is fair as they did influence her).

I like to get a real feel for a person when I read a biography but didn't get that from this book so it was a bit of a disappointment for me.

Maybe I've read too many modern biographies/autobiographies where it seems much easier to know a person due to media attention etc.
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Old 10-17-2013, 01:15 PM   #27
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And, there was also the unusual and close relationship that she developed with her Indian servant Abdul Karim. I bought the book Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu last year but haven't read it yet.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12670110

I find it interesting that she was so fascinated with India yet never visited there. She added a wing to Osborne in 1890 which contained the Durbar Room intended for state functions. She commissioned John Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard's father) who then enlisted the architect Bhai Ram Singh to design the interior. It now contains items celebrating her jubilees in display cases. A quick Google search brings up loads of photos if you want to see how intricate and beautiful this room was.

Osborne House also has on display a collection of paintings which Queen Victoria commissioned from Rudolf Swoboda. These paintings are of Indians resident or visiting Briain in the 19th Century and other Indian scenes observed during the artist's travels. While in India he stayed with Kipling.
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I've only ever given up on a book once and that was this summer!

The book wasn't really what I expected, not enough information about Victoria for me, there seemed to be far more about the people around her (which I suppose is fair as they did influence her).

I like to get a real feel for a person when I read a biography but didn't get that from this book so it was a bit of a disappointment for me.

Maybe I've read too many modern biographies/autobiographies where it seems much easier to know a person due to media attention etc.
I am reading Victoria and Abdul now and am quite liking the book.(thanks Bookworm_girl)
It is quite fascinating to read about this relationship, which is documented in Queen Victoria's journals and the paintings she commissioned of Abdul Karim.
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